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Recipe: Lamb chops, romaine make a sort-of salad

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Grilled lamb chops with lettuce and ranch dressing.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Grilled lamb chops with lettuce and ranch dressing.

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                An herb paste acts as a garlicky marinade for the lamb.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    An herb paste acts as a garlicky marinade for the lamb.

Adding just a few dainty lamb chops to a whole lot of romaine won’t disqualify a meal from being considered a salad — just as long as I keep 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 dinner.

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.

  • Grilled Lamb Chops With Lettuce and Ranch Dressing
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • 1/3 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 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, to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or mashed to paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, or 1/4 cup each milk and plain yogurt
  • 1 lemon, in wedges
  • 2 pounds bone-in lamb chops, about 1-inch thick (any cut)
  • Romaine lettuce hearts, large leaves torn, small ones left whole, for serving
  • Sliced radishes, for serving

In a blender or mini food processor, combine half the scallions, herbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil, pinch salt and a lot of pepper. Blend into a rough paste, scraping down sides of blender as needed.

Transfer 2-1/2 tablespoons of herb mix to a small bowl. Mix in about two-thirds of grated garlic (2 cloves) and Worcestershire sauce; set aside.

To blender, add remaining garlic, mayonnaise, buttermilk and juice of 1 lemon wedge. Puree until quite smooth. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, as needed. Refrigerate dressing.

Season lamb chops all over with salt, then rub them with reserved herb paste. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

Light grill to high heat. (If broiling, set a rack 4 inches from heat source and heat 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.

To serve, put lettuce hearts on platter, drizzle with ranch dressing, top with sliced radishes and scallion. Serve along with lamb chops and more ranch dressing and lemon wedges on side. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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