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Poor lamb. It gets such a bad rap because so many of us first experienced as a gamey overcooked hunk of meat with nothing to enhance its flavour besides a blob of suspiciously emerald-green mint jelly. Ugh.
It doesn’t have to be like that, though. When it’s treated just right, lamb is a wonderfully flavourful and tender cut of meat.
All you need to achieve a perfect result is a boldly spiced marinade, the right cut of lamb, and a really hot grill. Easy peasy.
The Trick to Grilling the Perfect Lamb
I'm convinced that most people who say they don't like lamb have only ever had it well done.
The trick with lamb, regardless of whether you're planning on grilling or roasting, is to never cook it past medium. (And, if we’re being perfectly honest here, medium-rare is even better).
To achieve this on the grill, start by searing over high heat, then finish over indirect heat until the internal temperature reaches 130F for medium, or 120F for medium-rare. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving to keep your chops nice and juicy when you cut into them.
Marinate for Extra Flavour
Lamb has a plenty of flavour on its own, which means it's a perfect candidate for marinating to add some extra layers of deliciousness.
You want to be shamelessly bold in your seasoning choices, and then add a bright pop of acid to help to neutralize some of that "lamby" flavour.
In particular, lamb downright shines when paired with equally strong seasonings like rosemary, saffron, citrus, or in this case, an Indian-inspired blend of ginger, garlic, garam masala and turmeric.
This marinade works with just about any cut of lamb, but I particularly like it with lamb rib chops.
What is a Lamb Lollipop, Anyway?
Lamb lollipops are bone-in lamb rib chops that are cut from a whole rack of lamb and trimmed to expose the end of the bone, a technique that's also known as "frenching". Most butcher shops can prepare these for you, or you can pick up a frenched rack of lamb and cut it into chops yourself if you're feeling a little more ambitious.
These adorable little chops are perfect for picking up by the bone to nibble away on… hence why they’re also sometimes known as lamb lollipops. I just can’t resist food that I can just pick up and eat!
However, if you're having trouble finding lamb lollipops, you can also use this combo of marinade and pesto with other grill-friendly cuts of meat, such as loin chops or even a whole boneless leg of lamb. Simply adjust your grilling time based on the cut you're using.
Finish with Mint and Pistachio Pesto
My very favourite part of this recipe isn’t the juicy chops you can pick up or the flavourful spices in the marinade. It’s the mint and pistachio pesto!
This condiment might not look like much, but it's a very important finishing touch because it adds a much-needed pop of fresh green mintiness. After all, lamb and mint belong together… just as long as it’s not in jelly form.
You can also use this condiment anywhere you'd use a more traditional basil pesto. Personally, I really like it tossed with pasta and fresh peas, which means it can do double-duty for this meal if you happen to have any vegetarians at the table. (Or even just someone who's not such a big fan of lamb.)
These adorable lamb chops prove that bold seasonings and a hot barbecue are lamb's best friend. Save the leftover pesto (if you have any that is), and toss it with pasta, sweet peas and grilled shrimp later on in the week for an easy worknight supper.
Indian-Spiced Lamb Lollipops:
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 lamb rib chops (aka “lamb lollipops”)
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp water
Marinate the Lamb Chops (3-4 hours in advance):
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, ginger, garam masala, turmeric and salt until well combined.
- Place the chops in a large plastic zip-top bag, and pour over the marinade. Shake to make sure the chops are coated all over, then refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
Prepare the Pesto:
- While the chops are marinating, prepare the pesto.
- In a small food processor, pulse the mint and pistachios until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and while the food processor is still running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream until the oil is fully incorporated. The pesto will probably still be a little thick at this point, so drizzle in some water, 1 tbsp at a time, until your have a thick but pourable consistency.
Grill and Serve the Lamb Chops:
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high heat.
- Arrange the lamb chops over direct heat and cook with the lid closed until the chops are nicely browned on the outside and medium-rare on the inside, about 5 minutes per side. (You can cook it longer, if you like, but personally I think that lamb does best when it’s still a little pink in the middle.)
- To serve, place the lamb chops on a platter, and nestle a few lemon slices among them. Drizzle with a little pesto and scatter with some fresh mint. Pour the remaining pesto into a small bowl, and serve alongside the chops.
- Category: Main