RECIPE: No-fail, restaurant-quality lamb loin chops

Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Just like delicate fish fillets, lamb chops all too often can seem intimidating to cook at home. The lamb chops most often served at restaurants — the chops cut from the rib and that look like lollipops — are quick-cooking, expensive and have a high margin of error when it comes to proper cooking. But rib chops are not the only lamb chops you’ll find at the butcher’s counter; the other small chops — the ones cut from the loin — are equally speedy to cook, but far more forgiving and cheaper, to boot.

Lamb loin chops look like tiny T-bone steaks. They’ve got enough fat and connective tissue that they’ll still be plenty tender across a wide range of doneness temperatures, and they’re just as picturesque on the plate. You can cook them indoors in a skillet (eight chops, which serves four, will easily fit in a large, 12-inch skillet) or outdoors on a grill. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use a gas grill if you want to cook the dish in less than 30 minutes.

I like to stir together a sauce of spicy harissa, yogurt and cilantro to serve with the chops. (Thick, whole milk Greek-style yogurt works best.) A handful of toasted and chopped walnuts sprinkled over the top brings a nutty finish. For a restaurant-style presentation, spread half of the yogurt sauce on a platter before topping with the meat, nuts and extra cilantro. Pass the remaining sauce around the table for dipping and dolloping.

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Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain, whole milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons harissa (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 (1-inch-thick) lamb loin chops
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • On the side: Steamed broccoli and couscous
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, harissa and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Lightly coat the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with oil. (See note for grilling instructions.) Place over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, season the lamb chops with salt and pepper.
  • When the oil is shimmering, add the chops and cook until deeply browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the second side is browned and the center of the chops registers between 125 and 130 degrees, 4 to 5 more minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Spread half of the yogurt on the bottom of a serving platter. Place the rested chops on top. Sprinkle with the walnuts and garnish with additional cilantro. Serve with broccoli, couscous, and the remaining yogurt sauce on the side.
  • Note: The lamb chops can also be grilled on a gas grill set to medium-high. Once the grill is hot, clean and oil the grates, then follow the same cooking times as in the original recipe. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 744 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 40 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 61 grams total fat (23 grams saturated), 155 milligrams cholesterol, 1,002 milligrams sodium.
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