Thursday, September 4, 2008
I had one of those idyllic sounding childhoods with lots of fresh air, exercise, and pets. My mom stayed home with us and baked bread often. My sister and I enjoyed making our own forts in the woods on our 10 acres of land. We picked blackberries in summer time and watched the deer silently sneak up to my mom's plants after a light snow. We bought live Christmas trees, planting them near the house each winter after the holidays. Scrambled eggs were a gift from our own hens. And it seemed that we had a kitten factory some years (much to my dad's chagrin). Some neighbors owned a horse or two.
To get to the bus stop each day, we walked down a gravel road roughly a quarter of a mile long, passing a field of sheep along the way. Mr. Williams raised sheep the whole time that I was growing up. Occasionally, he had a ram or two. Once, as my friend and I made our way to the bus for afternoon kindergarten, one of the rams began butting the fence with his horns. We were sure that he was going to knock it down and trample us to death. Never have two girls run a quarter mile that fast! Unfortunately, my aunt (who was babysitting that day) thought we were just playing hooky and refused to wake up her sleeping baby to take us to school. Imagine skipping school in kindergarten! I still remember the paddling I got! (thanks a lot auntie!)
For me, lambs were the animals down the road born in the spring near a muddy field. They grew up to be dirty, wooly sheep given a yearly haircut. We certainly didn't eat them! Easter dinner was usually ham, never lamb. And shouldn't lamb be a traditional fall food--surely no one is eating newborn spring lamb! (Sorry, Gretchen, you probably aren't liking this post).
A couple of year back I decided to be more hip and serve a lamb roast for Easter instead of a ham. I had found a recipe that served lamb with an Argentine chimichuri sauce. I can't say that it was very popular except with my husband. I found myself actually afraid to take a bite--like a kid who just knows they aren't going to like it and will probably gag. But it seemed that every time we went out, my husband ordered lamb if it was available--lamb in mole sauce at Mexican restaurants, and especially those brilliant lamb chops at the Dahlia Lounge in Seattle. He always offered me a bite or two and I began to actually like it!
Finally, I ripped out a recipe from one of my food magazines for lamb chops marinated in cumin, honey, and mint. By golly, I was determined to try this myself. During my grocery trip to my favorite natural food store P.C.C., I shyly inquired if they carried lamb chops in the meat department. See, I was afraid that lamb might be under the same frowned-upon umbrella as veal (what I can only refer to as Tortured Baby Cow thanks to the one Southpark episode I've seen). But, as it turns out, lamb is an acceptable meat at P.C.C. and, dare I say, the preferred protein of every Top Chef-type cooking competition.
These chops turned out fabulous! I found myself truly enjoying their rich flavor and texture. My kids were totally convinced that we were eating steak, so similar was it, but more tender and flavorful to my adult palate. So, even if you're scared of or new to the world of lamb chops, this recipe will surely win you over. Try it, you might just like it Sam I Am.
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 TB balsamic vinegar
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 (4 oz.) lamb loin chops, about an inch thick, trimmed
Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Place lamb in a single layer in a shallow dish; rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of lamb. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Prepare grill. Place lamb on a grill rack coated with oil or cooking spray. Grill 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately (4 servings).