OMG, every once and awhile you hit a homerun or a hole-in-one or so I have heard. It has never happened to me. From a recipe standpoint, this counts. If I were a professional chef, this would be my new signature dish. I seriously considered not sharing it, but I will be able to prove that I published it first. This is a new personal best.
I recently saw an episode of Guy’s Big Bite where Guy Fieri made Grilled Lamb Chops with Olive Tapenade. The lamb chops looked good, but I didn’t care for the direction of the Mediterranean theme. Grilled Moroccan Lamb Chops with Mint Za’atar Aioli was quickly conceived. Now I’ll admit the Espresso is not Moroccan or even a traditional meat spice, but it did give it a rich, earthy overtone and is a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the lamb.
Toasting the coriander, cumin and cinnamon brings out the essential oils. I much prefer to toast and grind the spices than rely on pre-ground spices. Whether you consider this a dry rub, a dry brine or curing is up to you. The salt draws the moisture out of the lamb. The moisture mixes with the spices and is re-absorbed into the meat. This technique works great on your Thanksgiving Turkey and works just as well on the lamb chops.
Za’atar is a Mediterranean spice mix of dried herbs, sesame seeds and sumac (no, not the poison variety). You can make your own, pick some up at the international section of some supermarkets or buy it at a Mediterranean market or on the Internet. I can buy it at the local Wegman’s. The Mint Za’atar Aioli balances the richness of the lamb. You could do something similar with mint, za’atar and Greek yogurt. You could also omit the Za’atar if securing it proves too difficult. You will want to make the Aioli in advance to give the flavors a chance to meld.
The easy route is to use store bought ground spices and a spiced mayonnaise or Greek yogurt, but doing the prep is worth the effort.
I paired the lamb with Farro and Herb Stuffed Mushroom (that’s a recipe for another day) and a side salad straight from the garden for a tasty, healthy dinner.
Grilled Moroccan Lamb Chops
4 Lamb Loin Chops (approx. 1 lb.)
1/2 Tbsp Whole Coriander Seeds
1/2 Tbsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1/2 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Tbsp Ground Espresso Beans
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1. Gently toast the Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds and Cinnamon stick in a hot, dry pan until fragrant. Grind the toasted spices in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle. Thoroughly mix the spice mixture, ground Espresso Beans and Kosher Salt in a small bowl.
2. Place Lamb Loin Chops in a one Quart freezer storage bag. Generously coat Lamb Chops with the spice mixture. Seal the bag removing most of the air. Place into the refrigerator turning occasionally for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Remove the chops from the refrigerator one hour before grilling. Remove the chops from the bag. Brush off any excess spices, blot dry with paper towels and let air dry until ready to grill.
4. Set up your grill for both direct and indirect grilling. Over direct heat, quickly sear the Lamb Chops on both sides and then move them to indirect heat. Continue to grill until the internal temperature reaches 130 for medium-rare. Remove to a serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. The internal temperature should continue to rise to 135-140. Serve with Mint Za’atar Aioli (recipe below).
Mint Za’atar Aioli
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp Fresh Mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. Place all ingredients into a mason jar or similar vessel except for the oil, salt and pepper.
2. Insert an immersion blender into the bottom of the jar and blend for a minute to two.
3. Drizzle in the oil while contining to blend until thick and smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Refrigerate for several hours before serving to enhance the flavor.
5. Remove from refrigerator 1/2 before serving.
In the end, it’s just a couple of cleaned bones and a clean plate.