April 1, 2015

Rosemary Lamb Chops with Grits and Roasted Garlic

This is honestly one of my favorite recipes, so get your taste buds ready for an Easter feast (or just a fancy weeknight dinner) with a touch of Southern flair. These lamb chops are restaurant-ready and cooked to perfection, and I've picked out some amazing accompaniments. I've discovered how to make the creamiest grits ever with a fraction of the calories, and roasted garlic and a rosemary au jus complete the dish. I want to leave all my stuff at home and fill my suitcase up with just this dish when I go back to college because it is seriously that good.

My favorite cut of lamb is the loin chops. They have plenty of meat without too much fat (unlike regular lamb chops), and I've also mastered the art of cooking them to the perfect medium-rare. But first I'll start with the marinade. It's pretty simple--just some spices and brown sugar mixed in some oil and rosemary and slathered on the lamb. It only has to sit for a few hours because it's really a spice rub mixed with some oil.

After the lamb marinates for however long you have time for, it's time to sear and roast it. I heat some oil in a big skillet (preferably cast iron) and sear the lamb on all sides until it's a deep brown. From there, the chops go into a hot oven for about 10 minutes or until they are done to your liking. In my opinion, all lamb should be medium-rare, but if you prefer another temperature then I won't stop you. Just keep in mind that that gorgeous pink color in these pictures is completely real, not enhanced or photoshopped at all.

While the lamb is in the oven, you can start on the grits. If you don't know what grits are, let me begin by saying that you have been missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. Grits are a creamy, velvety cornmeal concoction, sometimes with cheese or other ingredients. This generally involves copious amounts of butter and cream, but mine just have milk and a few pats of butter. The main thing is to make sure you don't buy quick or instant grits. Stoneground grits are great, but this recipe isn't designed for them. I whisk regular grits into simmering milk, chicken broth, and water and cook them until thick, then I whisk in some butter. They end up incredibly creamy and rich, the perfect form of carbs to sop up the lamb drippings.

I enhance the lamb flavor with a rosemary au jus. After searing the lamb chops, the skillet should have plenty of drippings left in it. I deglaze it with a bit of red wine and stir in some chicken broth and rosemary. That reduces for a few minutes while everything finishes cooking, and then I stir in some butter for a velvety mouthfeel.

The finishing touch on this dish is the roasted garlic. I like to spread some on the lamb, mash some into the grits, and generally just eat bites of it with everything. It does take some time, so I start it before I cook the rest of the meal, though you can do it as far in advance as you want. Just separate the heads of garlic into cloves, toss in some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to an hour. You should be able to squeeze the cloves out of the papery skins and basically eat them as candy, though I highly recommend saving some for the lamb since the sweetness really adds to the dish.

Easter dinners deserve something elegant, tasty, and reminiscent of spring. Lamb is a quintessential main dish, and this is a wonderful alternative to an often too-fancy crown roast. The grits add a subtle taste of the south, and the whole dish pairs well with some spring vegetables like asparagus or peas. I also suggest some spring-y desserts for a post-dinner treat, perhaps lemon cookies or a blueberry almond tart. I guarantee this is a meal you'll want to serve over and over again, so let me know if you agree in the comments. Happy Easter y'all!

3-4 lbs Bone-In Lamb Chops
1/3 Cup Oil
3 T Brown Sugar
1 T Garlic Powder
1 T Onion Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Season Salt
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Sprigs Rosemary
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
2 T Butter

Heat oven to 425F.

Trim any large pieces of fat from the lamb chops.

Whisk the oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, season salt, and sea salt together. Add pepper and/or cayenne to taste. Pour the marinade into a large plastic bag and add a sprig of rosemary (separated into leaves) and lamb chops. Let sit for at least one hour and up to six hours.

Heat a little bit of oil in a skillet. Sear the lamb chops until browned on each side, then transfer to a large baking dish. Roast in the oven for 10-14 minutes or until medium rare.

Meanwhile, deglaze the drippings in the skillet with the wine. Whisk in the chicken broth and remaining rosemary and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes to reduce. Stir in the butter and serve over the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

1 Cup Chicken Broth
2 Cups Milk
1 Cup Grits
3 T Butter

Heat the chicken broth, milk, and 1 cup water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in the grits and season with salt. Cover with a tilted lid and cook, stirring often, until thick, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the butter and season with additional salt if necessary.

Roasted Garlic:
Separate 2-3 heads of garlic into cloves, leaving some of the papery skins on. Toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 325F oven for 45 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Remove the skins.

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