Nobody hates lamb blade chops. People either love them, or they’ve never heard of them. Viewed from a diner’s perspective, lamb blade chops are to loin chops as pork ribs are to pork loin. There’s fat, gristle and bone, and you need to work a bit more to get the good stuff. The reward is heaps of flavor.
If you fall into the never-heard-of-’em group, then Grilled Lamb Blade Chops with Hot Mint Chutney is your opportunity to step-away from the fancy-dress dinner party of loin chops, leave your champagne flute of civilisation on the veranda, and stride across the lawn through the baffled croquet players as you peel off your tuxedo and enter the forest.
Two types of chops come from the lamb shoulder–blade and arm. They’re easy to tell apart. The latter have a circular bone right in the middle, like a steak in a New Yorker cartoon. Blade chops have a long thin bone running through them, a cross-sectional slice of lamb scapula. Both are full of flavor; both are half the price of loin chops, and for my money (as a card-carrying forest-dweller) a lot tastier.
I prefer blade over arm chops because they’re smaller and they tend not to curl on the grill. And they’re fun, in the way that ribs are fun, except that with ribs people know right off the bat you’re supposed to use your fingers. Watching newcomers deal with blade chops is a bit like watching civilisation, or at least table manners, devolve. A lot of frustrated surgery takes place, a round robin of glances circulates among the diners, and after moment or two all the bipeds at the table utter a collective hell-with-it and just pick the chops up and begin gnawing.
Given the variability in the size of shoulder chops, it’s preferable to think in terms of amount of bone-in meat per person than numbers of chops per serving. Count on 8 ounces of bone-in chop per serving. There were between two and three blade chops per pound in the lamb we bought at a our local farmers’ market from the folks at Stillman’s at the Turkey Farm.
Worried that we might be a few chops short, I bought some additional ones from the meat department at Whole Foods, sourced from a farm in Maine. When I got home I realized that the butcher had given me arm chops, as you can see from the pictures. Each arm chop was over ¾ of a pound, a bit more lamb than I’d want unless I’d just finished a 90-mile bike ride.
We’ve doubled down on the flavor by throwing in a great, nearly instant recipe for a spicy mint chutney and our standard house garlic yogurt. The Stillman’s peppers also looked great so I bought a bag of them to grill with the lamb.
Okay, now it’s time to eat. Make a polite effort to use your knife and fork, then put them down. Don’t be ashamed. Civilisation is two steps forward, one step back. So step back. Eat with your fingers and slip into the forest. Enjoy. Ken
Grilled Lamb Blade Chops with
Hot Mint Chutney
- 4-8 lamb blade chops, depending on size, about 8 ounces of bone-in chops per serving
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ lime
- 1 cup garlic yogurt (1 cup Greek yogurt mixed with 2 teaspoons grated garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper)
- Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Rub with oil. Cover and refrigerate. Allow to rest 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the lamb from the fridge and bring to room temperature while you prepare the grill.
- Preheat a grill. Grill the lamb over medium-high flame for about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a rack to rest. Squeeze the juice from the lime half over the lamb.
- Serve with mint chutney and garlic yogurt.
* For this version of Garlic Yogurt I used twice as much garlic as I did in our Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas back in June. If you take a close look at the head of garlic in the picture you will note it has a long hard neck. Ken brought these beautiful babies home from the Farmers Market. They’re new garlic–that is, uncured and therefore sweeter than supermarket garlic. I used 2 teaspoons of grated garlic, double the amount listed in the recipe above, knowing I could still keep my friends close and the vampires far away. FYI, the recipe above assumes you’re using regular supermarket garlic.
Hot Mint Chutney
Makes ¾ cup
- 1½ cups firmly packed washed and dried fresh mint leaves
- 2-4 scallions, depending on their size, thinly sliced, about ½ cup
- 2 small fresh hot green chilis, thinly sliced, seeds and all
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons garum (or 1½ teaspooons Asian fish sauce)
- Zest and juice of half a lime + more if needed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- Combine all the ingredients, reserving ½ cup mint, in a blender and process until smooth. You will have to stop and scrape down the sides frequently to be sure it’s pureed evenly. It should be a pesto-like consistency. Then add the remaining mint and process to smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings adding salt and more lime juice as needed.
- I like to do the mint in 2 steps because the second addition has a fresher flavor.
*Note: This chutney only stays fresh for a few days. The lime juice starts to breakdown the flavors so use it up quickly. It’s great on eggs.
Hey, where’s the yogurt?
My friend Chef Susur Lee made a mint chutney on Top Chef Masters. In all the craziness of cooking-under-pressure-on-TV-in-competition, it was impossible to follow exactly what he put in it, but it did appear that he just tossed everything in a blender and let it rip. Years before, I’d fallen in love with his mint chutneywhen he and I were cooking at the Bermuda Food and Wine Festival. I’d assumed it was complicated to make because the flavors were so complex. It’s not. I still don’t know exactly what he put into it, but here’s my version and it’s pretty addictive.
This chutney is based on a classic Northern Indian staple. It’s supposed to be spicy and have a little sugar in it. I wanted to keep mine as simple as possible, but in my research I noticed some recipes call for ginger and/or cilantro. Hey, it’s up to you.
In my family, mint always went with lamb in the form of a clear pale green jelly. I thought it was beautiful, jewel-like and couldn’t get enough of it. Jelly for dinner–what 8 year old doesn’t love that? My tastes have changed, but I still love mint and a little sugar with my lamb.
GARUM NEWS FLASH!!!!
The wreckage of a 2000 year-old trading vessel was discovered last week in a couple of hundred feet of water off the coast of Liguria. Scientists believe that ship was carrying wine, oil, grain and garum, and that the 200 amphorae of the ship’s cargo recovered thus far are still intact, that is, uncontaminated by sea water. As yet no one has pronounced on the state of the contents themselves. Read about it in the Daily Mail Online. Thanks very much to Sara Clevering over at Three Clever Sisters for bringing it to our attention. (Sara’s July 28th post on Vacation Blueberry Pie was Freshly Pressed–her blog is definitely worth checking out.)