Grilled Rack of Lamb Chops Will Take You Back to Italy
This post on how to prepare grilled lamb lollipops was written by my wife, Meg. I'm so happy she is finally retired from her career in HR and is now helping me on the Reluctant Gourmet.
Our older daughter spent a semester in Rome during her junior year in college, and I took the opportunity to visit her for a long weekend. When I travel abroad, I look for things to do that veer me away from tourist destinations so I can get a glimpse of the local experience.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a Philadelphia-based company that arranges tours in cities worldwide, billed as "scholarly tours for curious travelers."
When In Rome
So before I headed to Rome, I booked a "tour" for my daughter, her roommate, and me that took us into the home, primarily the kitchen, of a Roman chef/caterer for a night of cooking lessons and eating. It was quite a treat to spend time in the kitchen preparing a traditional home-cooked Roman feast with someone steeped in the traditions of Roman cuisine.
When we sat down to eat, we served family-style, circulating platters of each dish among the three of us, our host, and her son. This stuck in my mind because when we entertain at home, we tend to plate food before serving. (Even when it's just the family, we tend to plate before serving.)
But there's something about passing platters that makes the experience more festive and more intimate at the same time. So when I got back, I started thinking about ways to incorporate the patter-passing into our routine.
Dining Under the Stars or Should I Say Wisteria
Our outdoor eating setup lends itself to platters because we have two long tables set up end to end that accommodate 12-14 people comfortably - and more if you don't mind squishing – with lots of real estate for large plates. So last summer, back when a dozen people sitting on top of each other wasn't life-threatening, we did a platter-based meal with recipes from a terrific cookbook I found aptly titled Piatti, which is Italian for "plates."
We served up bacon-wrapped leeks, shaved fennel salad, olive-oil marinated goat cheese, seared shrimp, and the most amazing lamb chops I've ever had. Of course, this is saying a lot – I love lamb and eat it every chance.
Only one problem – this recipe called for lamb loin chops. Unfortunately, our butcher was out of lamb loin chops, so he talked me into a rack of lamb. Now, I've experimented with the leg of lamb (bone in and out), loin chops bone in and out, and ground lamb, but I'm intimidated by a rack of lamb, even though when I'm at a party and lamb "lollipops" are passed around, I'm happy. Really happy.
Back to the butcher – he convinced me they would be a great substitute and cut them into chops for me—one less thing to be intimidated about. And for a good reason – this dish was the easiest thing we made that day, so much so that I've made it several times since then, and it's always a hit.
About 30 minutes before grilling, I took the chops out of the refrigerator, gave them a light coating of olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, a set them aside to come to room temperature. When ready, we popped them on the grill for about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
While RG was grilling, I prepared the serving platter by lightly coating the bottom with excellent olive oil – the kind we save for topping off a dish – sprinkling in some balsamic or red wine vinegar (whatever's handy), and adding thinly sliced garlic and coarsely chopped Italian parsley so that it is spread across the platter.
Magical Lamb Lollipops
Here's the magic of the dish: When the lamb chops come off the grill, they are placed immediately on the prepared platter and turned back and forth in the "marinade" with a pair of tongs until each side is coated. That's all there is to it.
You're marinating the chops after cooking rather than before. You are in culinary heaven, along with a crusty loaf of bread on the side to sop up the marinade and lamb chop drippings.
This was so good that when we made it since then, I stuck with the rack of lamb chops – my own little non-intimidating party platter. If lamb loin is your cut of preference, I'm sure this plating would be just as delicious, especially since that's what the cookbook author had in mind.
Every time we have this dish, it takes me back to my evening of cooking in Rome and all the memories that come with it. Buon appetite!
Grilled Lamb Lollipops
- Outdoor Grill
- 1 rack lamb cut into 8 individual chops
- freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves coursely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Rub about a tablespoon of olive oil on both sides of each chop. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the chops to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, generously coat a serving platter with the remaining olive oil and the garlic, parsley, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and set the platter aside.
- Preheat the grill to medium-hot. When the grill is ready, add the chops, cooking for about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
- Remove the chops from the grill and place them directly onto the prepared platter. Using tongs, flip each chop back and forth to cover it with the marinade.
- Serve with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the marinade and lamb drippings.
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