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Food

The better lamb chop

LOS ANGELES, CA-April 2, 2019: Lamb steaks, marinated with anchovies, chile flakes, and lemon zest,
Lamb shoulder chops, marinating in anchovy, lemon zest, and chile flakes.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Lamb shoulder chops are an oft-overlooked dinner option that I think should be on your table more often. Rib chops are too dainty (“Lollipops?” No). Saddle chops (those mini T-bones), too expensive. Shoulder chops, however, are cheaper and more flavorful than beef steaks. They take strong flavors well, and they cook up quickly: a perfect weeknight meat.

Lately I’ve settled into a routine using a marinade for lamb powered by two lemons’ worth of zest, garlic, crushed red chile flakes and anchovies, which I was inspired to try after reading Cal Peternell’s “Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta,” in which he replaces salt with anchovies in many of his recipes.

I serve the chops (or steaks, both are the same thing) with simple egg noodles dressed in a lemon-and-white wine vinaigrette and a TON of chopped mint both for herbal freshness and because, however cliché, I can’t have lamb without it. The noodles, mottled with strands of millennial-pink onions, provide a refreshing foil for the intense lamb steaks. At home, we even pick the pasta up with our fingers in between bites of steak eaten by hand.

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LOS ANGELES, CA-April 2, 2019: Lamb steaks, marinated with anchovies, chile flakes, and lemon zest,
Marinated lamb shoulder chops with minty egg noodles and pickled red onions.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Anchovy-Marinated Lamb Shoulder Chops With Minty Noodles

1 hour, plus marinating. Serves 4.

Resist the urge to chop the marinade ingredients for the lamb too finely or smooth; you want the small chunks of anchovy to transform into sweet, charred bits on the grilled chops. And while it might seem like not enough oil in the marinade, if you use any more, the steaks will catch fire and smoke instead of getting that controlled blackening sear you’re going for.

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1 (2-ounce) tin olive oil-packed anchovies

2 almond-size garlic cloves

Kosher salt

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

3 doorknob-size lemons

4 (8- to 10-ounce) lamb shoulder steaks or chops

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1 1/2 pounds extra-wide egg noodles (the type you’d get for chicken noodle soup)

1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced (1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons white wine

2 cups lightly packed mint leaves

 

1 Marinate the lamb steaks: Lift the anchovies from the tin and place them on a cutting board with the garlic. Pour the oil from the tin into a large bowl (you should get about 1 tablespoon). Roughly chop the anchovies and garlic together, then sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Continue chopping and mashing the anchovies and garlic together with the salt until they form a lightly chunky paste. Scrape the paste into the bowl with the anchovy oil. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil and the chile flakes, and season with black pepper. Finely grate the zest from 2 lemons and stir it into the anchovy-garlic paste; reserve the zested lemons.

2 Place the lamb steaks in the bowl or a zip-top plastic bag and scrape the paste on top. Use your hands to toss the steaks with the paste in the bowl until evenly coated, or close the bag and massage the paste all over the steaks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

3 While the steaks marinate, squeeze a quarter-cup juice from the 2 zested lemons and pour into a small bowl. Add the onions and toss to coat. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill the onions while they pickle, about 15 minutes. Remove the lamb steaks from the refrigerator to take the chill off them before cooking.

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4 Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Remove the bowl of onions from the fridge and, while holding the onions in place with one hand, drain off and pour the chilled, millennial-pink lemon juice into a large bowl; return the onions to the fridge. Add the remaining quarter-cup olive oil and the wine, and whisk to make a vinaigrette. Add the noodles to the boiling water, and cook until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the noodles, then transfer to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss to coat them well. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside a quarter-cup mint leaves, then place the rest on a cutting board and roughly chop. Add the chopped mint to the noodles and toss to combine.

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Grilled lamb shoulder chops.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

5 Set up a charcoal grill for direct heat or heat a gas grill over high. (Alternatively, heat a large skillet or grill pan over high heat.) Remove the steaks from the bag or bowl and place on the grill and cook undisturbed for 4 minutes. Flip the steaks and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Remove the steaks from the grill and transfer to a platter. Loosely tent the platter with foil and let the steaks rest for 10 minutes.

6 While the steaks rest, transfer the noodles to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining quarter cup mint leaves followed by the chilled pickled onions. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges and serve alongside the lamb steaks with minty noodles.


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