I feel like we go on and on ad nauseam about our trip to Italy last summer, and I suspect that if it hasn’t happened already, our faithful readers will begin to tire of our constant references to those halcyon days of pastoral bliss, romantic nuptials, and devastatingly good food. So, before your goodwill towards us is exhausted, I want to wring out the last of it with this post on the remarkable dish that is deep-fried lamb rib chops
Perhaps ironically (and this may extend your patience toward us), the only meal, or in this case, part of a meal, that I ate during that trip that was not first-class was the secundi course of the meal in Bologna that included the frankly phenomenal ragu bolognese my wife wrote about recently, namely the deep-fried lamb rib chops. Not that it was bad or even close to bad, it was actually pretty good, but they were slightly overcooked and therefore dry, something I am almost proud to say I could discern even during the intense examination of the final dregs of our third bottle of Barolo.
Crispy exteriors combined with unctious, moist interiors are the holy-grail of almost every fried, grilled or roasted meat dish, where the crispy outer layer insulates the flesh and keeps it moist. However, there is a very fine line between success and failure in these endeavors. Too far one way and you’ve got a crispy outside, but a dry and tough inside. Too far the other, and you’ve got a limp crust and a bloody interior. Lamb rib chops are the beautiful, tender pieces that correspond to the rib-eye (the rib attached to the tenderloin) on a steer, and are frequently served as a rack, medium-rare, with the bones nicely trimmed (Frenched) and often with a garlic & parsley breadcrumb crust that is rarely as crunchy as you want it to be, and I wanted to experiment whether deep-frying could provide the crunch as well as the medium-rareness I had tragically missed out on that night in Bologna.
Indeed, the stakes were further raised by the horrifically high price of lamb in the US. It took this transplanted Englishman a long while to get used to the scarcity of lamb in this country where beef is king (despite there being huge swathes of land that are eminently suitable for sheep-grazing), and the cost has kept us on a steady diet of braised shoulder chops, unable to branch out into the leg or the rack until a fortuitous wander into our local Pathmark store coincided with a virtual giveaway of perfectly Frenched rib chops. Seizing this opportunity with a vigor that may have shocked my wife, I loaded up our shopping cart (yes, the trolley) with rib chops and it was this bounty, as much as anything, that convinced me to try deep-frying them. After all, if it didn’t work and they turned out like hockey pucks, we could still broil or grill ourselves some dinner with the rest.
A little bit of luck, and I prevailed in this experiment and I’m delighted to say that these rib chops were as good as any I’ve eaten anywhere. Assuming you also have the good fortune of finding lamb rib chops at a reasonable price, you should not only grab an armful, but you should try this recipe right away. It would be the perfect thing to impress dinner guests with, and since the chops are fried and therefore quite rich, two per person will suffice, making you appear generous and feel thrifty at the same time. Joy.
Fried Lamb Rib-Chops with Grilled Polenta, Broccoli di Rape and Balsamic Reduction
So, before continuing, I should say that I shallow fried my chops instead of deep frying them as I was nervous about overcooking them. Shallow frying allows you to do the “poke-test” on them (poke the meat with your finger, if it feels soft, it’s rare or very rare, if it is firm, it’s well-done, you want it somewhere between. The trick is knowing when is enough.)
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 4-6 lamb rib chops, frenched
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup panko, or very coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 cup soda water/sparkling mineral water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-3 cups vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, smashed but with skin-on
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Combine salt, water and flour in a mixing bowl into a batter of medium thickness.
- Put oil in a 10inch (20cm) diameter frying pan. Should be about 1/2inch (1cm) deep.
- Heat oil to around 350F (175C)
- dip chops in batter, then dredge in panko (breadcrumbs) and lay them gently in oil. Do not overcrowd pan. We did ours two at a time.
- Fry chops for about three minutes per side, or until slightly darker than golden brown on the outside.
- Use poke test to determine done-ness.
- Place in a warming oven (200F/95C) and allow to rest for five to ten minutes.
- Add balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary to your smallest saucepan.
- Over medium heat allow it to come to a boil. Reduce heat to about medium-low and allow to reduce by at least half.
- Keep your eye on it at this stage because it can very quickly go from a perfect consistency to a bitter-tasting molasses.
- Remove garlic and rosemary and serve sparingly over your lamb chops.
Check out these other posts you may enjoy:
- Truffled Butter: A Prince Among Ideas
- San Gennaro Festival, Little Italy, NYC – Ain’t What it Used to Be (Girl’s Version)
- Pork Roll and Scrapple – The Dirty Culinary Pride of South Jersey/Philly
- SHREDDED CHICKEN SOPES WITH TOMATILLO AVOCADO SAUCE
- GRILLED STEAK WITH TARRAGON GARLIC BUTTER
- CHESTNUT CUSTARD TART
- SPANISH (AUSTURIAN) OXTAIL WITH FRIED POTATOES