Roasted Garlic Lamb Chops with Israeli Couscous, Zucchini, Jerusalem Red Pepper Sauce, and Mint Gremolata

“The fondest memories are made in the kitchen.”

I’d like to apologize for neglecting my blog this past week, and for not posting anything sushi-related in a while. I promise there is reason for that.  Right now, as I am transitioning to a new place in life, everything is a little hectic and displaced. I had job interviews and meetings all week which all seemed promising.

As I get ready to move, I reflect back on the fond food memories I’ve had here for the last 4 years, and there is one in particular that sticks out.

Bowling Green is a college town. It is not exactly a foodie town, though there are a few gems known to the locals. While Myles Pizza is quite possibly the best pizza I have ever had,  South Side 6 is the most surprising food location (with amazing gyros) that I’ve ever seen, and Cookie Jar is just plain heaven, my fondest food memory actually stems from a dish that I made in our little dumpy kitchen over a year ago.

I don’t normally like to toot my own horn, but these lamb chops were the best that I ever ate, and probably will ever eat. It was actually the first time I have ever tried to cook lamb chops, and have since tried to re-create them several times, all without being as successful. My roommate and I experienced about 6 food-gasms that night. Out loud. And our mouths got fatigued from how good it tasted.

As I am getting ready to say bye-bye to BG, I wanted to re-create those lovely little chops with a little more finesse. When I originally made these, I made a creamy, rich sunchoke puree to go with them. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are little tubers similar to potatoes, but with a bright nutty flavor. This time I used them in a puree that serves as a sauce, and chose Israeli pearl couscous as the starch instead, which pairs beautifully with lamb.

The first thing I do is roast 2 heads of garlic. I cut off the tops, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, wrap in tin foil, and roast at 350 degrees for at least 15 minutes. I also roast the sunchokes at this time. You can peel them before or after. I like to peel them before because it’s less messy, but it’s also a little more work since they are small in size. Come to think of it, since the sauce was pureed, you could probably just leave the skins on and strain them out of the sauce.

After the garlic is cool enough to handle, I make a paste in a mortar and pestle with salt and butter. I use this to baste the lamb throughout the cooking process, but do not use all of it for this purpose. The cooking is best suited to a grill, but since I don’t have one, I just use a cast iron skillet and the oven. If you try these on the grill, it may be a good idea to cook the chops separately instead of the whole rack at once. I season the lamb with salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander, and then sear on a hot cast iron. After a nice crust has formed, I brush it with the garlic butter paste, and add it to a 400 degree oven. The lamb will take about 12 minutes, adding more of the butter and basting every 3 minutes. Make sure to let the rack of lamb rest for at least 10 minutes to retain its juices. It needs beauty rest.

To make the sauce, I combined roasted red peppers, roasted sunchokes, roasted garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin, and coriander in a blender. This mixture should yield a smooth, velvety sauce (unless your blender is being uncooperative like mine). Make sure to taste, and adjust ratios accordingly. To make the gremolata that tops off the lamb, you just add chopped fresh mint to the reserved garlic paste, and add lemon zest.

To cook the pearl couscous, you could follow the box directions, but I found another way to cook these. Instead of letting them absorb all the cooking liquid like regular couscous, I cook these in a lot of salted water like pasta, and then drain off the water when they are cooked. Rinse them gently with cold water. They take about 10-12 minutes. The zucchini ring is cooked very simply. Shave a thin slice of zucchini using a cheese peeler or mandolin, and cook in a lightly greased pan. Alternatively, these might be great grilled, but I think you would need thicker slices.

This was the closest I have come to re-creating that wonderful food memory. Everything was really delicious and paired well together. Now that I am ready to say goodbye to the last four years of my life, I am ready to welcome new challenges, ventures, and lots and lots of sushi.

I promise the next series of posts will all be sushi-related 🙂

Until then,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)