If you’re anything like us then you’ll probably have a couple of dishes that you crave more often than anything else. And, again, if you’re like us, you probably always have the ingredients for such dishes in your pantry in preparation for whenever that craving strikes. These are the dishes that, like a line-cook in a restaurant, you can turn out with the minimum of fuss in almost exactly the same way everytime. Now, this is not to say that such dishes are any less delicious or complex to prepare than others you make less regularly, but that once you’ve got the recipe memorized and get into a rhythym with it, you can make the dish just the way you like it without really having to think about it.
This is the way we are with a dish we call “lidia’s lamb”. I’ve no idea what the real name for it is since I’ve never looked up a recipe for it and I’ve only watched it being prepared once, on TV, by Lidia Bastianich, on her show Lidia’s Italy, but that’s what we call it. Essentially, it’s lamb shoulder chops braised in a sauce made from dijon mustard, anchovies, garlic and chicken stock, but such a description belies its richness and savory flavors and, if you’re crazy and you don’t like anchovies, it will put you off. So, just take it from me, you need to try this dish. It’s virtually impossible to mess up, it’s delicious and you can make it from scratch in under an hour, making it perfect for a weeknight meal, or if lamb is hard to find or expensive where you live, a good option for a dinner party because it’s so easily scalable for larger numbers. Plus, once you’ve made it the first time, you’ll be having cravings for it a lot.
(recipe serves 2, but for more just scale the recipe up. You’ll probably need more than one pan too, but you can figure that out yourself)
2 lamb shoulder chops (4-6 oz each)
approx. 2 pints chicken stock
2-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (depending on your tolerance for the stinking rose)
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
2-4 anchovy fillets (the salty ones in oil, you know what I’m talking about) (add more of less depending on how squeamish you are about anchovies – see final note below)
6-8 tbsp smooth dijon mustard (we prefer Maille, but Grey Poupon is fine. Don’t even think about using American yellow mustard! Save that for your hot dog.)
2-3oz plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil
black pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Dredge chops in flour and shake off excess. Hit pan with the olive oil and add the chops.
Cook chops for about three minutes per side, or until golden brown. Make a hot spot in the pan and add the shallots and garlic.
Allow these to saute for a couple of minutes until softened and fragrant, then add the anchovies. Stir anchovies vigorously around the pan until they start to disintegrate. After about another minute or two, add enough stock so that the liquid is at the same level as the “top” of the chops. Using your tongs, scrape the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan and turn the chops over. Add about half the mustard at this point and stir it in.
Reduce heat to medium and allow chops to braise in simmering liquid for about another 25-30 minutes, turning chops occasionally. Keep an eye on the level of the liquid and add more stock whenever it falls below the “top” of the chops. Meat should have begun to pull away from the bones after about 30 minutes.
Taste the sauce at this point. It should taste like it needs more mustard. Add some or all of the remaining tablespoons of mustard according to your taste. Increase heat to medium-high and allow sauce to thicken for about another 5-8 minutes. When it’s done the sauce should be around halfway up the chops and be of a medium thickness, with a pleasant sheen to it. Check seasoning and add black pepper to taste before serving.
We often serve this with some roasted potatoes because they usually take approximately the same amount of time to cook as the meat, providing you cut them reasonably small, parboil them first, and slap them in at least a 400F oven. We also often serve it with some asparagus, kale or broccoli di rape on the side. It sounds kind of heavy I know, but it’s really pretty well-balanced and very satisfying. I promise you, you’ll like this one.
And, just a final note, if you’re worried that the people you’re cooking for don’t like anchovies, I will be amazed if they can tell this dish contains anchovies. All the anchovies do here is add a salty, umami-ish flavor to the dish that brings it all together. You’ll notice that I don’t add salt to the recipe – that’s why. So, please don’t exclude the anchovies because the dish will not be the same without them. Again, just trust us on this one.