Monday, June 18, 2007

I Had a Little Lamb: Chops with Ras el-hanout & Mango Salsa

I grew up on a farm and even though my dad was a school teacher, we kept a few animals. Mostly sheep, as they are fairly low maintenance.

The sheep were named and loved by us kids. The matriarch of the herd was a ewe named Endora. There's a reason real farmers don't name the food that they are eventually going to eat. One night Dame Judi served mutton stew and we all cried when we realized who it was.

After those days, I was not a big fan of lamb. I never cooked it myself, never ordered it in restaurants. And then I met The Spouse. He is a big fan of big meat. We started serving leg of lamb at our annual Carnevale dinner and while I can't say it moved lamb into my top 10 list, it did get me over the hump. (Oh, the things that man can do with rosemary and garlic).

This year at Carnevale we mixed things up with rack of lamb, cooked with ras-el-hanout and served with an utterly spectacular shiraz-honey sauce. The other night I put lamb on the menu and at the last minute decided to keep things simple and use some of the ras-el-hanout as a rub for the chops and just grill them.

Ras-el-hanout can be purchased in ethnic shops or you can make your own. There are myriad recipes for the stuff but I put together a combination that uses some of the most common and accessible ingredients:

Ras el-hanout

2 cinnamon sticks, broken into several pieces
1 T. cloves
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. fenugreek
1 T. fennel seeds
1 T. mustard seeds
1 ¾ oz. dried rose petals (or substitute 1 T. dried rose hips, just make sure the roses are pesticide free)

Place all the ingredients in a metal frying pan and place over gentle heat. Cook until the seeds begin to pop in the pan. Toss as they start to pop and cook for a couple more minutes, taking care not to let them burn.

Remove from pan and grind the mixture in a spice grinder while still warm.

Store in an airtight container.

Lamb Chops

With this gorgeous rub on hand a plate of delicious lamb chops is the work of seconds. Simply pat the chops dry, lightly salt & pepper them and then rub both sides of each chop with the ras-el-hanout. Grill the chops until done. Voila!

I served them on a bed of spinach with mangos. A little bite of mango with the lamb was just heaven. Maybe next time I'll go so far as to make the mango into salsa. That would be superfantastic as well.

Mango Salsa

2 ripe mangos, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
3 T. fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
dash of salt
dash of red chili flakes

The quickest way to prepare the mango is to slice in half, lengthwise, on either side of the pit. Cross-hatch the fruit with a sharp knife and scoop out of the peel.

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Can be served immediately or allowed to sit in the fridge for a few hours until you are ready to use it.


Anonymous said...

yum. I adore savory sweet combinations. could you use it in burgers as well? that's about the extent of my meat cooking skills.

Lorraine said...

Hat, mango salsa goes on just about anything, with the possible exception of oatmeal.

Lorraine said...

Oh, and btw, if you can grill a burger, you can grill a lamb chop. Just sayin'.

Seattle Coffee Girl said...

YUMMERS. I anticipate Kathi will soon stop in for a visit to your new spot, as I recently passed along the url for this place. And she keeps asking me what a blog is, isn't that cute?

Our neighors growing up went one better...they named their lamb "Dinner."

I, like you, was not a huge fan of lamb until Your Spouse introduced me to the wonderful, roasted variety he makes for Carnivale. And now it's the only kind of lamb I ever want to eat.

Oooh, this recipe does look like a little bit of heaven. I think I may even have to try it.

Kathi says lamb from the US is far less game-y tasting than their Australian counterparts. So I'll look for some US cuts when I make this. 'Cause you know my mama don't lie. :)

Lorraine said...

SCG: Make sure to tell Kathi to leave a comment if she stops in! And for the record, I'm a fan of Australian lamb BUT the stuff coming out of the Umpqua valley is delish and of course, has a smaller carbon footprint.

Sling said...

I've only had lamb once in my life,and it was to die for!
So many people say that they don't like it for one reason or another,that I don't know if they just don't get it,or if I had it prepared to perfection on my very first try...

Lorraine said...

I don't know, Sling. The famed gaminess of lamb has never been my issue...what with the emotional childhood trauma and all. I do think that it's one of those meats that is easy to mess up...too rare or too done and you're screwed. Kinda like pork chops in that respect.

I'll betcha you could make these lamb chops and be very happy.

Red7Eric said...

I try not to think about cute little baby sheep when eating lamb. However, I have no problem eating chicken -- have you ever looked into the eyes of a chicken? Scary, primordial life forms, those birds. Cook 'em all, says I.

Lorraine said...

Cook 'em, stew 'em, grill 'em, saute 'em...

TWISI said...

Not a big lamb fan here, but those look yummy!


Jon said...

That dish looks and sounds WONderful. I had forgotten about mango salsa and I love the stuff.

BTW - if you ever eat at one of the Brazilian restaurants where the waiters walk around and serve all kinds of grilled meat on skewers, the baby-lamb-chop guy HIDES! You really have to flush him out. Just saying.