By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
There are some summer evenings so steamy that the only thing I can bear to eat is a giant bowl of leafy salad. And this whole month of August has been full of those kinds of nights, one sticky sunset after the next.
But on what must have been our umpteenth salad, something had to give. Surely adding just a few dainty lamb chops to a whole lot of romaine wouldn’t disqualify it from salad status — just as long as I kept the balance of charred meat to lettuce decidedly in the romaine’s favor.
The result is what I like to think of as a sort-of salad: meaty and satisfying, but still fresh and sprightly enough for any late-summer evening.
You can use any type of lamb chops here, but pricier rib and loin chops will be leaner than economical shoulder chops, which tend to be fattier and gristlier. (I write this with love for fat and gristle.) Cooking shoulder chops to medium-rare helps caramelize the fat and tenderize the meat while still keeping them juicy on the inside; loin and rib chops can be as rare as you like.
If you did spring for a great piece of lamb, the usual rule is not to marinate it first. A little salt is all you need to bring out its brawny, mineral essence.
This said, I’ve never met a lamb chop that wasn’t improved by a little garlic and some herbs. Both are used in profusion in this dark green seasoning paste, which I rub onto the chops about 30 minutes before grilling — or the day before if I’ve planned ahead.
That herb paste serves another function as well. After smearing some on the lamb, the rest is mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk and turned into a creamy, tangy ranch dressing for this sort-of salad.
Romaine hearts make a cool, crisp contrast to the char and savory juices of the meat. But floppy lettuces and arugula are also salad-worthy, albeit in a soft rather than crunchy way.
But really, when you have tender lamb chops and homemade ranch dressing together in one dish, any kind of vegetable will be happy to join in, whether tomatoes, grilled zucchini or a pile of sliced cucumbers or radishes. Or try them all and skip the lamb entirely. You’ll have plenty of chances as August burns on.
Recipe: Grilled Lamb Chops With Lettuce and Ranch Dressing
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 40 minutes, plus marinating
- 4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 3 packed tablespoons chopped mint, dill, cilantro or a combination
- 2 packed tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grated or mashed to a paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, or use 1/4 cup each milk and plain yogurt
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 pounds bone-in lamb chops, about 1-inch thick (any cut)
- Romaine lettuce hearts, large leaves torn and small ones left whole, for serving
- Sliced radishes, for serving
1. In a blender or mini food processor, combine half the scallions, the herbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of salt and a lot of pepper. Blend until you get a rough paste, scraping down the sides of the blender with a spatula as needed. (It’s not a lot of liquid so you may need to stop the blender a few times to scrape the sides.)
2. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons of the herb mix to a small bowl. Mix in about two-thirds of the grated garlic (2 cloves) and the Worcestershire, and set it aside.
3. To the blender, add the remaining garlic, the mayonnaise, buttermilk and the juice of 1 lemon wedge, and purée until the mixture is quite smooth. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, as needed. Store dressing in the refrigerator until serving.
4. Season lamb chops all over with salt, then rub them with the reserved herb paste. Refrigerate the chops for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
5. Light the grill to high heat. (If broiling, set a rack 4 inches away from the heat source and heat your broiler to high.) Drizzle chops with a little oil, then grill or broil until done to taste, 2 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.
6. To serve, put the lettuce hearts on a platter, drizzle with ranch dressing, and top with sliced radishes and scallion. Serve along with the lamb chops and more ranch dressing and lemon wedges on the side.