Of all the cuts of meat available to modern man, lamb chops reign supreme. The intense wild flavor is a reminder of a time when man had to take to the woods to find dinner, the bone an invitation to eat in a kingly manner, with no cutting implements but your teeth. To maximize this traditional spring ingredient we turned to José Andrés, chef-owner of Jaleo and other lauded restaurants and host of PBS’s Made in Spain, to give us his best Iberian spin on lamb. “Lamb ribs can be both juicy and crispy if you do it right,” he says. Andrés slow roasts them in his restaurants; here we offer a quicker alternative. Serve the ribs with his Catalonian romesco sauce and it’s game on.
Makes two cups
½ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper
6 plum tomatoes
1 head garlic, halved
1 Spanish onion
3 dried ancho chili peppers
½ cup almonds
1 slice white bread
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. pimentón dulce (Spanish sweet paprika)
Salt to taste
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a thin film of olive oil over the bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Roast for 40 minutes in a medium-size roasting pan. Remove from oven and allow to cool before peeling off skins of the pepper, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Seed the pepper and tomatoes.
2. While the vegetables roast, soak ancho chilies in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain and remove seeds. Puree chilies in a blender until smooth; pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
3. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over a low flame; add almonds and toast about one minute. Remove almonds and set aside.
4. Raise heat to medium; place bread slice in pan. Toast about 30 seconds on each side or until brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
5. Pour ancho puree into frying pan and cook for 30 seconds; remove from heat. 6. Place roasted vegetables in blender, along with almonds, bread, ancho puree, vinegar, pimentón and the remaining oil. Blend into a thick sauce; add salt to taste. Serve with lamb chops.
CRISPY LAMB CHOPS
1 rack of lamb, ribs cut into individual chops*
2 tbsp. olive oil
1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil; it should smoke.
2. Pat chops dry, sprinkle with salt and sear until well browned, crisp and medium rare (two to three minutes per side).
3. Serve with romesco sauce.
*Lamb rib racks are sold whole, so you’ll have to play butcher. A classic cleaver is hefty enough to cut through bone and connective tissue.