Gourmet (July 2009)
A couple years ago, we read an interview with a chef -- forgive us, we can't for the life of us remember who it was -- discussing which one ingredient was the most important in the kitchen. Whoever it was responded without hesitation (and of course we're paraphrasing): "Thyme. It's the single ingredient I couldn't live without. I use it as a foundation in just about every dish."
At the time, we found that surprising: The flavor of thyme isn't bold or even really immediately identifiable. It's not, say, rosemary or oregano or garlic.
Today, though, we're converts. Whenever we're cooking meat, especially things like pork or chicken -- we immediately reach for the thyme. It's got this great subtle, herbal quality that just elevates any dish.
While we think thyme makes a terrific flavor base for lots of foods, there may be no better pairing than a nice grilled lamb chop.
We love cooking with lamb -- braised, in stews or thrown on the grill. But it's not in heavy rotation around our house. In fact, we've only featured it on The Bitten Word two times. Well, three, but in that instance, it wasn't the main event.
But this recipe reminded us that lamb should have a regular place on our table. It's juicy and flavorful, with a great taste that's wild, almost gamy (in a good way).
Our supermarket didn't have loin chops, so we opted for shoulder chops. In the case of this recipe, either will work beautifully. Depending on the thickness of the meat you buy, just pay special attention once the meat is on the grill, so that it doesn't get overcooked. Lamb is much leaner than other meats, so it's best when it's cooked on the rare side.
The thyme rub really highlights the meat. Punched up with garlic and red pepper flakes, it's a knockout accompaniment that really shows off the strong, delicious flavors of the lamb.
And aren't you proud of us for making it through this entire post without saying, "It's about thyme you started cooking with lamb"?
Active Time: 20 min
Start to Finish: 30 min
-- 2 garlic cloves
-- 1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
-- 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
-- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
-- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-- 8 (1-inch thick) lamb loin chops
Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat.
Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/4 tsp salt, then whisk together with thyme, red pepper flakes, vinegar, oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Coat chops with marinade.
Oil grill rack, then grill chops, covered, turning occasionally, until grill marks appear and meat is cooked to desired doneness, about 6 minutes total for medium rare. Transfer to a plate and let rest 5 minutes.