Lamb Loin Chops with Greek Chimichurri
I found some nice lamb loin chops the other day, and I decided to try another bit of regional swapping. I love taking a technique or recipe from one part of the planet, and mixing it up with a completely different part of the planet. I think the foodie word "fusion" leans a little bit to the Asian/Western combination, but that's sort of what I'm shooting for -- combining what works in one culture's food with what works in another culture's. Sometimes, this may be reinventing the wheel. Similar methods of meal creation pop up all over the globe, independently from any cultural link. For example, many cultures have discovered the basics of food fermentation separately, from kimchi in Asia to the preparation of chocolate beans in South America. Other cultures have relied on connections, sometimes roundabout connections, and have adapted ingredients to their own culture -- Mexican cuisine uses the Middle-Eastern cumin, and Italy uses the South American tomato.
Therefore, I'm not entirely sure there's not a Greek equivalent to the Argentinian technique of creating chimichurri sauce -- which itself has been described as something of a Patagonian pesto. Heavy on the herbs, with some olive oil, vinegar, some vegetables...generally local stuff blended and chopped together into a chunky, pasty, loose sauce.
In any case, that's what I thought of when I saw the lamb. A nice marinade for flavor, grilled nicely, then a chimichurri-like sauce with classically Aegean ingredients.
I've been growing herbs on the kitchen windowsill. I have chives, oregano, basil, thyme, and cilantro. I want tarragon, too, but it's pretty hard to grow in the heat and humidity of Florida, except for the Russian and Texas varieties, which aren't nearly as elegant, in my opinion. This recipe is pretty heavy on the fresh herbs, and just screams early summer.
I started a marinade with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, red wine (I used a cab sav), a minced shallot, half a seeded and deveined cherry pepper (or jalapeno or equivalent), minced, and a big clove of garlic.
I also chopped some fresh oregano, thyme, and basil. I would guess rosemary would also work well with lamb, but I don't particularly like rosemary, so I abstained.
I stabbed the lamb a bit to allow some marinade to penetrate, then added the chops to the bowl, along with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, and some fresh black pepper.
The lamb marinates for about an hour, stirred a couple times so the meat surfaces contact the marinade.
Meanwhile, I make the Greek Chimi. I slice another shallot, along with the other half of the cherry pepper, a clove of garlic, a chopped roasted red pepper (pimento -- no heat), more chopped thyme, oregano, and basil, some red wine vinegar, and some olive oil for a base. Kosher salt, pepper, then pulsed lightly in the mini food processor -- I'm looking to mix these ingredients and chop some of the sliced shallots and such, but this is a very rough, very loose sauce. The end product is somewhere between TexMex salsa and maybe a tapenade.
Fresh oregano is so different from dried oregano in a jar, it's amazing they're the same herb.
Once it's pulsed, it can sit until just before serving.
After the lamb is finished marinating, I grill it on a hot, preheated grill until it's around medium. Depending on the grill, that's maybe 7-8 minutes a side, taken off a little early so it can finish warming on the plate.
When the lamb is resting, I took a big handful of kalamata olives, and chopped them, and took a handful of sheep-milk feta cheese and crumbled it into chunks. I added the olives to the chimi, then stirred it in with a fork.
Plating was lamb chops, with chimi on top, and a generous amount of feta over that.
Deconstruction: This was one of the best things I've made in a long time. Lamb is a nice, hearty meat and can handle a lot of flavor with the sauce and toppings. The chimi was herby and olivey, and bright and zingy, and the feta was nicely salty with its own tang. Both really balanced the earthy lamb with the marinade flavor and the crispiness from the grill.