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Spiced Lamb Chops

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spices were never used a lot in my cooking, with the exception of black pepper and salt, which I do not even consider spices. That's how I grew up - in my mom's kitchen where wonderful things were cooked, we didn't use unusual stuff. Spices like coriander or cumin could be bought only at the farmer's market (bazaar), where numerous merchants from Asian Soviet republics brought a lot of interesting exotic things. Only in America I learned many new things about international cooking and many new exciting  ingredients (Martha was my first great teacher).
Recently, on our trip to an Indian store we bought a lot of spices, the packages were so big that Masha and I shared them. Now I have a few glass jars of different spices in my pantry, so last Sunday I decided to be bold and used a lot of them. It produced a beautiful result: spices being in abundance did not overpower the lamb, just added to the richness of its aroma. Now... please follow me to the kitchen.

What you need:
3 lamb shoulder chops, about 1.5 lb
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium carrot, grated
2 medium parsnips, julienned
2 medium onions, quartered and sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
3 + 3 tbsp olive oil
Boiling water
8-10" open skillet
8-10" skillet with lid

For side dish:
1 cup millet
3.5 (up to 5) cups filtered water
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp butter
Non-stick or stainless steel 2.5qt saucepan with lid

Mix turmeric, coriander, ginger, and cumin in a shallow dish, set aside.
Cover all sides of meat with spices.
Rinse lamb chops with cold water, tap dry with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
Heat the open skillet on medium heat, add 3 tbsp olive oil. Cover chops in spices, pressing slightly to allow spices stick to meat surface, shake off the excess, and  place in the skillet. Fry on one side until nicely golden, flip over.

Add boiling water, and cover with lid.
While the other side of meat is frying, attend to vegetables. In skillet with lid saute onions, carrots, and parsnips for 3-4 minutes, add garlic, saute 1 minute. Look at the other side of chops: if it is golden, transfer all chops in skillet with vegetables, add boiling water to almost cover meat, reduce heat to low, add more salt to taste, and simmer meat until meat is tender (soft to the fork), about 1 hour.

All water is absorbed.
While meat is cooking, start to prepare the side dish. Rinse millet thoroughly in cold water, drain, cover with filtered water, put on high and bring to rapid boil, stirring. Add salt to taste, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until millet grains are all tender and fluffy, about 45 minutes. Millet will absorb all 4 cups of water and expand. To make millet even more tender, I usually add more water (about 0.5 - 1 cup), little by little, after all 4 cups are absorbed, and cook a 5-10 min more. The quality of grain could be different, so to be on the safe side and to avoid that all grains fall apart completely, begin with 3.5 cups of water per 1 cup of millet, then add little by little until desired softness. Remove from heat, keep covered for 10 minutes, then add butter, let it melt, and mix gently.
When serving, add a splash of greens to this rich and spicy indulgence, where velvety mellowness of vegetables makes a delightful contrast with exotic bouquet of spicy meat. Happy eating!

If you have a choice, go with organic meat - makes a huge difference.
Millet is overlooked in American cuisine, and this is a shame. It is a nutritious ancient food that is used by many peoples of the world.   
Other possible side dishes: potatoes (any kind, mashed, fried, baked, boiled), pasta, steamed rice, boiled beans,  steamed green beans,  steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Don't use spices on sides (except salt, of course) - this will give you the contrast with spicy meat.

Go wild, and use even more spices, chili pepper among them. Ooh!

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