St. Patrick’s Day, aka the Feast of St. Patrick, is devoted not only to “the wearing o’ the green,” but the eating of the green. Both customs nod to the colour of the shamrock, one of the great totems of Ireland, of which Patrick is the patron saint.
Like the shamrock, mint is green, which helps to explain why recipes for lamb with a sweet-and-sour mint sauce abound in Ireland (and throughout the British Isles). My version of the sauce isn’t sweet I’m no fan of sweet in my savory ‚Äî but it is bright green, deeply flavourful and refreshing, a tangy complement to some thin and crispy lamb chops.
The lamb chops available in our supermarkets usually come from America or New Zealand. American chops tend to be larger and milder in flavour, but either kind would be delicious here. I call for these rib chops to be pounded, which creates more surface area, which means a more delicious crust on the chops once they’ve been seared in the skillet. The easiest way to pound them (or any thin piece of meat) is to sprinkle the chops liberally with water on both sides, put them into a ziplock bag or between two pieces of plastic wrap, and then pound them with a meat pounder or rolling pin until they’re uniformly 1/4-inch thick. (The water keeps them from sticking to the plastic and shredding.)
If you don’t want to spring for rib chops ‚Äî they can be a tad pricey ‚Äî use shoulder chops instead. Shoulder chops are tasty, but the bone in the centre of the chop will prevent you from pounding them. Because they’re thicker than the pounded rib chops, they require a little more cooking time.
What to serve with these chops? Irish tradition calls for potatoes. Just slice some Yukon Golds about 1/4-inch thick, toss them with oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in a 400 F oven until golden.
Seared Lamb Chops with Mint Herb Sauce
Start to finish: 40 minutes.
For the sauce:1/2 cup finely chopped mint
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Eight trimmed, Frenched rib chops (about 2 ounces each)
In a small bowl combine the mint, parsley, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, shallot, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and salt; set aside.
Working with one chop at a time, sprinkle it generously on both sides with water. Place the chop in a large re-sealable bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound the chop using either a meat pounder or a rolling pin until it is 1/4-inch thick. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chops. Pat them all dry.
In a large skillet heat half the remaining oil over high heat. Season half the chops with salt and pepper on both sides and add them to the pan. Saute until nicely browned, about 1 minute a side. Transfer to a platter and keep covered loosely with foil. Pour off the fat, add 1/4 cup water and simmer to clean the pan. Dump off the water and wipe out the skillet. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chops and the remaining oil. Transfer the chops to the platter and let them rest for 3 minutes before serving. Add any juices from the platter to the herb mixture.
To serve, transfer two chops to each of four plates and top each portion with a heaping spoonful of the mint herb sauce.