Before beginning the cooking process, organize your thoughts and create a game plan in your mind. First of all, decide the degree of 'doneness' that you desire when serving the lamb. My recommendation? Medium-rare. This allows the tender lamb to remain flavorful, retain its juices and be a palate-winner.
If you choose to serve your lamb lollipops medium-rare, you will cook them almost entirely on the stove. My recommendation is to cook double rib chops (2 ribs per piece of meat... each piece about 1/4 of a pound). When purchasing lamb, ask the butcher to cut double ribs and to french the bones (this eliminates the need to clean the bones when you return home... simply season and begin cooking).
1 pound lamb chops (cut into double rib chops)
1 garlic clove - minced
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary - minced
1 Tbsp Liquid smoke
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp EVOO, divided
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix the garlic, rosemary, liquid smoke, Dijon mustard, pinch of cayenne pepper and 2 Tbsp EVOO.
Sprinkle both sides of the double rib chops with salt and pepper. Massage the seasonings with your hands in order to work the salt and pepper into the meat. Coat the lamb lollipops with the marinade, then allow to sit at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes. Why? If you place a cold, dense piece of meat in a hot pan, you risk drying out the exterior of the meat before you have allowed the inside to cook through. Now granted, some chefs will tell you to work with meat immediately from the refrigerator. Others insist on room temperature. Personally, I have found that cooking with meat at room temperature produces the best results. If you are working with single rib chops, and you want the result to be medium-rare, then allow the chops to marinate in the rub in the refrigerator. Do not allow the thin ribs to come to room temperature or the thin ribs will easily overcook when you sear them in the following step.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO in an oven-proof sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, sear the lamb chops on all sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). While the lamb is searing, do not touch the chops... simply allow them to form a beautiful crust and lock the juices inside of their meat. If you are working with single rib chops, then sear only on two sides (only about one minute per each side if you want the result to be rare or medium rare).
After searing all sides of the lamb, baste the lamb with the EVOO in the pan (simply spoon the EVOO over the lamb chops repeatedly). At this point, if you want your lamb chops rare, then your cooking process has reached completion. Remove the lollipops from the pan, cover with foil and allot to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving. If you prefer your chops to be slightly more cooked, place them in a 400°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Why is it essential to allow your meat to rest?
Let's face it... it has just been though baptism by fire. Literally. First of all, when you allow your meat to rest, then you are allowing it to retain the maximum amount of juices. Imagine the meat to represent a large bundle of straws. Each straw is filled with liquid, representing muscle fibers. During cooking, bundles of muscle cells in the meat contract, forcing out liquid from the spaces between them. As the meat cools, the cell bundles actually relax; thus, reabsorbing the liquid. Second, resting evens out the temperature and the 'doneness'.
Moral of the lesson?
Always allow your meat to rest at least 5-10 minutes before serving. Just trust me on this one.
Rather than serving the lamb with a heaping mound of potatoes and a side of an immediate food coma, try roasting vegetables to compliment the meat. Roasted fennel, onions and beets - tossed in EVOO and rosemary - enhance the sweetness of the lamb. A sophisticated touch of femininity in color and texture, if you will.
"This world is but a canvas to our imagination." - Thoreau