Tue Jul 9, 2013
Lamb is a constant point of contention in my house, the reasons I love it—its richness, unique flavor, and delicious abundance of fat—are all the same reasons my wife often passes it up. This means I don't end up cooking it as often as I would like, but I think I'm finally starting to sway her from lamb hater to lover, and these simple grilled lamb chops paired with a yogurt mint sauce were a crucial step in this slow transformation.
If you're trying to convince someone to like lamb, thick-cut rib chops are a good place to start. Unlike other cuts—like shoulder or shank—that push the distinct flavor of lamb, the rib chops are more mild with a fine texture somewhat akin to beef tenderloin. These desirable characteristics come with a price though, as the rib chops, which are cut from the center (rib) section of the lamb and often have the long rib bone still attached, tend to be the most costly of the cuts.
If I'm paying top dollar, I usually like to eat the meat on its own to taste the superior quality I'm shelling out for. Still, it's hard to deny that there's something special about that mint and lamb combo that only seems to enhance the natural flavor of the meat. I thought it would be worthwhile to mix up an accompanying yogurt mint sauce to go with these to make the final product even more enticing to the wife (and myself).
With increased cost, also comes increased consideration in cooking. I wanted to be sure these lamb chops were perfectly grilled, so I started with a little research and came across a neat little trick in Cook's Illustrated. It starts with a standard two-zone fire—where all the coals are on one side of the charcoal grate—but instead of searing the lamb first over the hot side of the grill, they're put on the cool side and covered with a disposable aluminum tray. This delivers a gentle, even heat that slowly cooks the lamb.
The lamb is kept cooking this way until it reaches about ten degrees shy of the final desired temperature. For me, I wouldn't go beyond medium-rare for lamb chops—further than that and they start to dry out and you lose that luscious quality that makes them so good. So that means when they hit the 110-115 degree range, the chops are ready to be finished over high heat.
Since the exterior of the chops lose moisture and start to brown even over indirect heat, it makes searing a much quicker proposition than if it were the first step. It only took a couple minutes per side to get a beautifully browned crust on these chops, at which point they were exactly medium-rare.
Like most all freshly grilled meat, the lamb then needs ten to fifteen minutes to rest. During this time the juices that became concentrated in the center of the meat while cooking redistribute back throughout the entire chop.
That careful attention to grilling technique rewards you with this, perfectly medium-rare, juicy, and flavorful lamb chops. The tender meat and softened fat have a nice hint of lamb flavor without being overpowering—it's smooth, but still provides much more character than a beef tenderloin. I ate most of mine on their own, but you could find me sneaking in a bit of the yogurt mint sauce here there, since its cool flavor not only paired nicely with the lamb, but also made it seasonally refreshing in a way the lamb couldn't be on its own. I'm proud to say that the wife enjoyed these, and hopefully they're just one of many future lamb creations I make she'll eat without pause, and finally understand the full pleasure of lamb.
Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 40 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour 10 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Yogurt Mint Sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 bone-in lamb rib or loin chops, cut 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inches thick
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Large disposable aluminum pan
- For the yogurt mint sauce: Place yogurt, mint, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes prior to use. Can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Salt lamb on both sides and let sit at room temperature for 40 minutes while preparing grill
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to high. Cover and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Oil and pepper lamb chops and place on cool side of grill. Cover with an aluminum pan and let cook until instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chops registers 110 degrees for rare or 120 degrees for medium-rare.
- Move lamb to hot side of grill and cook until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side and instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chops registers 120 degrees for rare or 130 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve immediately with yogurt mint sauce.