Normally I avoid featuring the same ingredient twice in a row, with the exception of no-brainers like summer tomatoes or corn. But I just couldn’t get the lamb idea in its original form out of my head. It loitered, obdurate, mocking me, and demanded satisfaction. Fortunately, Fleisher’s was open, and I had an appointment at the gallery, which is only a mile away. So I chatted with Josh, and bumped into two friends (I love small town life) and stocked up on chickens for the party on Saturday, brisket to make into pastrami, marrow bones, double-cut pork chops, and four beautiful lamb rib chops.
Upon return home, I trimmed the chops of all fat, vacuum-sealed them, and dropped them in a 51˚ C water bath for an hour. While they did their sous-vide thing, I pressure-cooked some Christmas lima beans with onion and guanciale, caramelized parsnips in a little olive oil, steamed our giant red mustard greens with fenugreek, cumin, and mustard seeds, and browned (in a little lamb fat with bits of guanciale) the 30%/70% feta/ricotta gnocchi I made yesterday, bound with 1% activa and piped onto parchment paper to set up in the fridge overnight.
Once the meat was ready, I puréed the greens and strained them. I added the parsnips (which had been off the heat) to the gnocchi, and also some peas just to warm through. Each chop got liberally brushed with a harissa tapenade (fresh harissa I made with toasted spices and oil, then folded into some of the tapenade gravy from last night) and wrapped tightly in an egg roll wrapper, then fried in a little oil for just enough to crisp the wonton skin- about 30 seconds per side. I pooled some green purée on each plate, scattered the gnocchi/parsnip/pea mixture around, added some beans, drained with a slotted spoon, and placed a crisp chopsicle in the middle.
What’s funny is that this wasn’t actually the original idea at all, outside of the fried chop with harissa tapenade. All the other stuff was totally different than I originally imagined, because we were out of yogurt, and I used the last of the preserved lemon for yesterday’s lamb. (I did just make a new quart jar full, but it takes a month to get good.) But it did the job. Because it was a FRIED LAMB CHOP. And the other flavors- harissa, olives, sharp mustard, funky feta, earthy beans, sweet peas- all play exceptionally well with lamb, which was the idea. The cooking method ensured perfect doneness; they were like kalamata-merguez pudding pops with a crispy crust. And one was actually enough.
I almost didn’t open any wine, since Milo has been waking up at 4:30 in the morning since we set the clocks back, and it’s torture, especially since he hasn’t really been getting back to sleep after he arrives in our bed. It’s hellish, but he’s really snuggly, and he pronounces gnocchi “yonkey” which is pretty cute. But fried lamb chops (did I mention them?) cry out for wine- big wine- in sultry, irresistable voices that will not be denied. As you can see, this meal was all about being bullied by lamb chops, without any choice in the matter. Deride my masculinity if you will, but my wife was pretty impressed, and she made noises that I enjoy. A 2000 Carver Sutro petite sirah was also euphonious with this food, though after the meat was gone it revealed itself to be still very tight and wanting of more cellar time. Having said that, I like the tannic austerity, since the nose in the last glass suggested that it might become too opulent; if the deep black fruit ever escapes the confines of that structure, it will be just another painted whore of a California wine. But I like its chances.
So, to reiterate, FRIED LAMB CHOPS.