Lamb Chops on the Grill

When a dear friend calls and says, ‘Would you cook for me? I really feel like lamb. I’ll even pick up the lamb.’ How can you say no?

The original plan was for rack of lamb, but we finally had a day with a break in the heat. The grill and eating outside was really the way to go. Change plans. Racks out. Chops in. Good thing I really am an adaptable gal.

Now comes the agonizing part … at least for me … marinade. I needed a theme for the meal, at least a direction. I mean, how can you decide what to serve with all of this without picking a marinade flavor profile. Everything else has to follow suit.

Pouring through the books on my bookshelves, I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for lamb kabobs in the Barefoot Contessa at Home. The recipe had a decidedly Mediterranean slant, Greek even, so it was off to the races!

I modified the recipe from kabobs to chops and it was fabulous … if I do say so myself!

  • 16 loin lamb chops
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 T minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 t minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 C mild olive oil
  • 1/2 C dry red wine
  • 4 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 t Kosher salt

NOTE: Use whatever amount of lamb chops you’d like. This fed 3 hungry people with leftovers! I would think 2 or 3 chops per person … they’re so tiny!

Place the chops in a glass dish – I used a 9×11 Pyrex.  Season the chops with salt and pepper. Whisk together the garlic, rosemary, thyme, olive oil, red wine, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Pour over the chops. Cover with saran wrap and let marinate for a few hours or over night.

You can either – heat a charcoal grill with coals and spread the coals in 1 tight layer on the grill.  Or use a gas BBQ. Whichever way you go, make sure not to over cook these little beauties. They go from almost done to over done in seconds.

I served this with hummus and pita chips to start, lemony potatoes, fatoush salad and tzatziki. YUM! The rest of the recipes to follow!

Shepherd’s Pie

When I was a kid, as we drove up through Brewster, we would get to a certain point and my father would point to the top of the hill and say, “I have a friend who lives up there. Blankety Blank lives up there.” (Names omitted to protect the innocent). It came to the point that as those words came out of his mouth, my sister and I sighed, rolled our eyes in that way only little girls can, and finished the statement. And this went on for years, decades even.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. One of the people nearest and dearest to me in this life has my father’s habit of repeating the same story when certain touchstones are passed or smelled or said. Such is the case with this little hole in the wall restaurant that I keep being told makes the BEST Shepherd’s Pie any place. HA! My answer to this ridiculous statement – and you would agree if you ever saw this place! – always is the same “I make the best Shepherd’s Pie any place.”

Truth be told, I had NEVER made Shepherd’s Pie. I have always wanted to, have been in search for a great recipe for ages, but just never quite gotten there. The last pass by this “restaurant” and that silly statement being uttered, yet again, was juts the push I needed to get moving on this challenge!

And then I watched Lucinda Scala Quinn make Shepherd’s Pie on Mad Hungry, I knew this was the had-to-make recipe. This wasn’t just any old Shepherd’s Pie, but Keith Richards’ Shepherd Pie. I printed it and forgot it.

Desperately looking for something to read, I picked a book from Tom’s unending ‘to be read’ pile. Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, caught my eye. If nothing else, it should be wildly entertaining. And while reading, I came across the fact that Shepherd’s Pie is Keith’s favorite thing to eat. And then the light bulb went off and I remembered that Lucinda Scala Quinn had adapted this recipe from his autobiography.

It was a sign from above – no, not God, Julia Child.

  • 8 T butter (1 stick), divided
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3 T milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped, divided in half
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire
  • 1/2 C chicken or beef stock
  • 2 t cornstarch dissolved in 4 t water
  • coarse salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • 1 C frozen peas, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and saute 1/2 of chopped onion, carrots and celery until softened. Add the meat and salt and cook on high, stirring occasionally until the moisture is evaporated and the meat is browning in fat, about 15 minutes.

When meat is browned, stir in Worcestershire and cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and cornstarch-water mixture and simmer for additional minute to thicken.

Peel and halve potatoes. Place in pot and cover with cold water to 2 inches above potatoes. Add generous amount of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot (or transfer to bowl). Mash the potatoes with 4 tablespoons butter, white pepper and a few tablespoons of milk until smooth. Add more milk if needed to make potatoes creamy.

In a 2-quart casserole dish, evenly distribute the cooked meat, top with peas and remaining chopped onion and dollop mashed potatoes on top.

Dot top of potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until warmed through and potatoes are golden on top, and pie is bubbling.

This was so good! The entire thing was gone. Take that little hole in the wall restaurant! I shake my fist in your general direction. No way YOUR Shepherd’s Pie is better than mine! And dear friend, come over any time and I’ll school ya on great Shepherd’s Pie! Thanks Keith and Lucinda!

Rapid Ragu

While I am quite fond of all Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks, Nigella Express is a busy cook’s best friend! So many recipes for a quick meal, recipes ranging for family and a quick dinner with friends. One of my favorites is Rapid Ragu – minced lamb, caramelized onions, diced tomatoes, all together and tasting as though it had simmered for hours. I ended up with extra folks for dinner and served this over egg noodles to stretch it a little farther.

Rapid Ragu

  • 2 tablespoons garlic oil
  • 1 cup cubed pancetta
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup caramelized onions *available at gourmet and specialty stores
  • 1/3 cup Marsala
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup green lentils
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup grated red Leicester or Cheddar, optional

NOTE: Sigh. No garlic oil, Trader Joe’s was out. I minced garlic, in the olive oil, and when it became fragrant I added the pancetta, which, was chopped up slices as opposed to the cubes. The larger pieces of pancetta give this a much hearty flavor than the dice I usually keep on hand for pancetta emergencies.

Heat the oil in a wide, medium-sized saucepan, and fry the pancetta until beginning to crisp.

Add the lamb breaking it up with a fork in the bacony pan as it browns.

Tip in the caramelized onions, Marsala, tomatoes, lentils and water and bring the pan to the boil.

NOTE:  I received a jar of caramelized onions from friends in the UK that I was dying to open. Normally I have a batch in the freezer that I make in my crock pot in large amounts. So easy.

Simmer the ragu for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Sprinkle over the cheese before serving, if using.