Lamb Chops with Shallot Cream Sauce   Recipe
Lamb Chops with Shallot Cream Sauce

By Wolfgang Puck

Soon after I opened my first Spago restaurant back in 1982, I was asked to speak to a group of beef producers at a conference in Palm Springs. The invitation was flattering, and I accepted, of course. But, as I told my hosts a little bit sheepishly (and there is an intended pun, as you'll very soon understand), I wasn't sure why they'd invited me. After all, the only meat on Spago's menu at the time was lamb.

Of course, you can order beef, as well as pork and humanely raised veal, at Spago now. There's a simple reason, however, why I only had lamb on the menu to start: It's one of my all-time favorite meats. So, I'm always surprised when some people tell me they don't like lamb, usually complaining that it's too gamy or, well, "lamby," for their tastes.

It doesn't have to be that way. For my restaurants, we order lamb from a special farmer in Sonoma, Calif., who raises the meat to our exacting specifications, including my commitment to using only ingredients that are produced in a responsible and safe way. That ensures that the meat is absolutely tender and rich-tasting, yet mild.

You don't necessarily order lamb especially for good meat, however. Just be sure that you buy the lamb from a good-quality butcher or market, so you'll be sure you're getting good young lamb from animals no more than seven months old, rather than stronger-tasting mutton, which comes from an animal that is one year or older.

The next important thing to remember is to trim excess fat from lamb before you cook it, especially with cuts like lamb chops, which are often ringed with fat. Most of the strong aroma and flavor people associate unpleasantly with lamb comes from that fat, and cooking lamb with the fat transfers some of that smell and taste to the meat. Eliminate most of the fat, however, and you eliminate much of the reason for objections.

Finally, remember that the flavor of good lamb is best appreciated when the meat is cooked medium-rare. Push it to medium or well-done and you lose much of the tenderness, juiciness and sweetness for which lamb is prized.

Beyond that, it's up to you how you embellish a quickly cooked lamb dish. Since the early days of Spago, one of my favorite ways to offer lamb chops has been to saute them and then prepare a quick pan sauce with chopped shallots, vinegar, white wine and cream, a recipe I first learned back in the early 1970s at Oustau de Baumaniere in the south of France. Serve it to your own guests and, I promise you, no one will notice that you aren't offering beef!

Lamb Chops with Shallot Cream Sauce Recipe

Serves 6

RecipeIngredients

12 lamb chops, each about 1-1/2 inches thick, excess fat trimmed

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon safflower oil or canola oil

10 shallots, minced

1/2 cup good-quality red wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup organic store-bought chicken broth

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

 

 

Recipe Preparation

Season the lamb chops on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, heavy saute pan large enough to hold all the lamb chops, or two smaller pans large enough to hold half each, over medium-high heat. Add the oil and, as soon as it swirls easily, add the lamb chops and saute them until they are medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side, resisting the urge to move them around while they cook. Transfer the chops to a warmed platter and cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the saute pan and add three fourths of the shallots, reserving the remainder. Saute the shallots until they are fragrant and begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, raise the heat to high, and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Add the white wine, bring the liquid to a boil, and continue boiling until the liquid has reduced to only about 2 tablespoons, about 7 minutes.

Add the broth and the thyme and continue boiling until the liquid reduces by half, 3 to 5 minutes more. Stir in the cream and continue boiling until the liquid reduces to a lightly thickened consistency, about half its original volume, about 5 minutes more.

A few pieces at a time, whisk the butter into the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, if necessary, with a little more salt and pepper. Pour the sauce through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean bowl.

As soon as the sauce is ready, place 2 lamb chops on each heated serving plate. Spoon the sauce over and around each chop, garnish with the reserved shallots, and serve immediately.

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