Originally created 03/16/05

Lamb chops and the magic of marinade



HYDE PARK, N.Y. - An increase in lamb's popularity suggests that American cooks have discovered its remarkable versatility. A vast selection of herbs, spices and condiments complement its distinct flavor and provide infinite opportunities for creating new and exciting dishes.

The CIA's Broiled Lamb Chops With White Bean and Rosemary Ragout uses robust seasonings to make the most of this lean and tender meat, in an ample dish that would make a fine centerpiece for a festive dinner.

Building the flavor profile for any lamb dish begins with selecting the proper cut. Look for chops that are cut from the rib and loin section, as they yield the most succulent results. The color of the meat is also important. Select lamb that is light pink with little fat. As lamb ages, it becomes stronger in taste and firmer in texture.

Keep in mind that lamb chops are more expensive than pork or steak chops. When properly marinated and broiled to perfection, they're worth every penny. Marinades (wet and dry) are used often to enhance lamb. In addition to adding flavor, marinades allow the meat to sear without drying it.

Marinades generally contain one or more of the following ingredients: oil, acid and aromatics (spices, herbs and vegetables). The oil protects food from intense heat during cooking (necessary for broiled lamb chops) and helps the seasonings cling to the marinated item. The acids flavor the food and change its texture. In some cases, acids firm or stiffen foods; in others, they break down connective fibers to make tough cuts of meat more tender. Aromatics, such as garlic, provide very specific flavors.

"With marinades, timing is everything," says Olivier Andreini, associate professor in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America. "A food's texture determines how long it should marinate. Tender or delicate foods require less time than tougher cuts of meat."

Broiled lamb chops should marinate for 30 minutes. Since the marinade in this recipe does not contain an acid, you can leave the lamb in the mixture for a longer period. The more time it spends in the marinade, the more flavorful it will be. Remove excess marinade from the chops before broiling to help prevent the herbs and bones from burning under the broiler.

The recipe is from The Culinary Institute of America's "Gourmet Meals in Minutes" cookbook (Lebhar-Freidman 2004, $40.

Broiled Lamb Chops With White Bean and Rosemary Ragout

6 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

4 teaspoons thyme, chopped

4 teaspoons sage, chopped

16 double lamb chops (rib or loin), frenched (see note)

1¾ cups canned cannellini beans, drained, juices reserved

1 tablespoon demi-glace concentrate (see note)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the soy sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon rosemary and the thyme and sage in a zip-lock bag; add the lamb. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag; turn to coat the lamb with the marinade ingredients. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the lamb is marinating, prepare the white bean ragout. Combine the cannellini beans, ½ cup of their reserved juices, 1 tablespoon rosemary, the demi-glace concentrate and the lemon zest in a saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer the ragout for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the ragout becomes too thick, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved juices from the beans to restore consistency. Keep warm.

Spray the broiler rack with nonstick cooking spray; preheat the broiler.

Remove the lamb chops from the marinade. Discard the marinade and brush off any excess herbs that may have stuck to the lamb. Be sure to wipe any excess marinade off the bones or else they will burn under the broiler. Season the chops with salt and pepper. Broil the lamb chops 5 inches from the heat until done to taste, 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium.

Spoon about ¼ cup of the white bean ragout onto each warm plate and nestle 2 of the lamb chops in the sauce.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per 4-ounce serving using lean lamb chops: 390 cal., 51 g pro., 11 g carbo., 14 g fat, 950 mg sodium, 180 mg chol., 3 g fiber.

Note: The term "frenched" refers to meat that has been cut away from the end of a rib or chop. This exposes part of the bone and makes for an attractive presentation. Grocery stores typically sell lamb chops that are already frenched. If not, it is a free service that most stores' butchers provide. Demi-glace concentrate, a thick sauce-like glaze, is a product available jarred in many grocery and specialty food stores.

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(This recipe is among more than 200 in The Culinary Institute of America's "Gourmet Meals in Minutes" cookbook, Lebhar-Freidman, 2004, $40, available at bookstores nationwide or at:

http://www.prochef.com/fbi/textbooks.html