Double-Smoked Lamb Chops

It’s an indulgence. It’s not for everyday. And it ain’t cheap. But life is short so when you’re in splurge mode, go for French-cut lamb chops. The ‘French’ means that the bones are exposed. This makes them lovely to look at and fun to eat because you can pick them up like a lollypop and chow down. Forget the fork and knife – this is adult finger food.

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These chops are perfect for the BBQ – a quick minute or two over high heat and they’re good to go. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and you’re talking seriously tasty (and I mean lick the plate tasty). A salad and some roasted potatoes and you’ve officially died and gone to heaven.

The only thing that makes them better is a little marinade to add a flavor punch. One of my favorites is a combo of two chile powders, both with a smoky edge to them. Chipotle gives the marinade smoke and heat while smoked sweet paprika is milder but with a lovely smoky aroma all its own.

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If you haven’t used smoked sweet paprika (called pimento dulce ahumado in Spanish), you’re in for a treat. It hails from Spain where it’s made in Murcia (eastern Spain) and the La Vera region of Extremadura (western Spain). You can find it smoked and not smoked. Both types come in dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy-hot)

Before you think I wrote the book about pimenton, I didn’t but I found the person who did. Her name is Janet Mendel and she’s got a great blog called My Kitchen in Spain. She’s a journalist and cookbook author and has lived in Spain for a longtime. If you’re having trouble finding smoked sweet paprika, never fear. In Santa Fe, we find it at The Spanish Table and they do mail order.

Double-Smoked Lamb Chops

French-cut lamb chops are typically sold in a rack that has 7 or 8 rib chops. You can ask your friendly meat guy or gal to cut the rack into individual ribs or do it yourself.

7-8 French-cut lamb chops, around 1 to 1¼ lbs.
½ tsp chipotle chile powder
½ tsp smoked mild paprika (pimenton dulce ahumado)
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Mix the chipotle chile powder, sweet pimenton, rosemary, garlic and olive oil together. Place the lamb chops in a bowl or large plastic baggie and pour the marinade over them to coat.

photophoto copy 21 Place the lamb chops in the fridge and marinade for several hours or over night. Before grilling, remove the lamb chops from the marinade and sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat for about 2 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve with wedges of lemon and enjoy!

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Chile Sea Salt Chocolates

You’re stranded on a desert island. You can take ten foods with you. And no, there isn’t any other food on the island. Just you, a lot of sand and some palm trees.

CHOC 1So what’s it going to be? Love asparagus? How about eating it everyday for the rest of your life? I mean, think about it – ten foods to eat forever. It’s not easy. Now the practical me, says lemons. They taste great and I won’t get scurvy and end up looking like a toothless pirate.

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Chile, of course. Silly question. I’d have my own cache of red and green in powder, crushed and whole. Another no-brainer is chocolate. If I’m hanging out on an island, I want some chocolate because it a) tastes so darn good and, b) makes life look a bit better.

No wonder I love all those articles about the health benefits of chocolate – particularly dark chocolate. There are studies that say it decreases stroke risk, lowers blood pressure, reduces bad cholesterol, boosts your mood (no surprise there), improves vision and even has flavinoids that protect your skin from UV damage. Maybe I could slather some chocolate on as a sunscreen on my island…

And chocolate is a natural with chile. The ancient Aztecs loved drinking chocolate with chile. There’s a great book called The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael Coe that charts the history of chocolate including the chocolate/chile connection.

But I digress….I’m off to a deserted island and I’m taking chocolate, chile and lemons and…I’ll get back to you…

What are your top-ten desert island food picks? Share them with us.

CHOC 7Chile Sea Salt Chocolates

This is my desert island homage. It’s got chile and chocolate and a pinch of sea salt. Heaven.

Makes approximately 20 1 ¾” dark chocolate discs and 20 white chocolate discs.

Dark Chocolate Discs

5 ½ oz dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
1 tsp chile molido (or more to taste)
1 tsp
chile pequin
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 Tbsp pistachios, roughly chopped

White Chocolate Discs

5 ½ oz white chocolate
1 tsp green chile powder (or more to taste)
1 tsp green chile caribe
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

CHOC 3CHOC 2The technique for both white and dark chocolate is the same. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Melt the chocolate making sure not to over heat it– chocolate can easily separate. When about two-thirds of the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and silky smooth. Stir in the chile powder and taste. You can add more if you’d like more heat but remember you’re topping with chile flakes so don’t go overboard.

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CHOC 6Place a non-stick silpat sheet or piece of baking parchment on the counter. Spoon about a tablespoon of the melted chocolate onto silpat or parchment to form a round disc, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾“ in diameter. Dot each one with a few nuts, chile pepper flakes and sea salt flakes. Repeat with the rest of the chocolate. Set aside until the chocolate hardens.

Can be kept in a container in a cool place (but don’t refrigerate).

Aglio e Olio

You’re tired. It’s been a long day. You hate your job and your life. And you’re very, very hungry. You get home and open up the fridge door. And the refrigerator laughs. It laughs as if to say, “What did you expect? Something to eat?” Because the fridge is empty. Sure there’s a jar of olives – or are they pickles? And something that used to be lettuce back in the ‘50’s. But there’s nothing you can eat without risk of food poisoning.

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So you can 1) give up and go to bed, 2) go out and go shopping (are you kidding?) or, 3) get creative. Let’s go for option 3. Scrounge around – and I mean properly scrounge around – and you’ll probably find something. We’re talking about what cookbooks call ‘store cupboard staples’. These are the dry goods you should – and I emphasize should – have on hand. Okay, you’re no Martha Stewart but you do keep something in those cabinets, don’t you?

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Here’s a crisis (because that’s what this is) meal that you can probably whip up. All you need is pasta (spaghetti please), red chile flakes, garlic, and olive oil. And running water. And electricity or gas. You get the idea. The dish is Aglio e Olio – or Aio e Oio  if you’re in Rome. It’s a classic example that the less you fuss about with food the better it tastes.

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A couple of suggestions…sauté the garlic in a large sauté pan. Don’t drain the pasta but instead scoop it out and place in the pan with the garlic/olive oil/chile mixture. The small amount of water that clings to the pasta will make the dish taste better and richer. Add fresh parsley – if you’ve got it– and parmesan if you want (not traditional but tasty nonetheless). While you’re eating it, make out a grocery list. No more laughing refrigerators, promise?

Aglio e Olio

2 servings or 1 if you’re famished

Salt
½ pound spaghetti
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ tsp or more chile pepper flakes
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
grated parmesan (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions until al dente (with a bit of bite and definitely not mushy).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the garlic and the chile flakes in a large skillet. This will only take a minute or two. You do not want to brown the garlic or burn it. When the pasta is done, scoop it out of the water and place in the pan with the garlic, olive oil and chile flakes. Reduce the heat. Toss to coat the pasta until any excess water is absorbed (only a minute or two). Taste and add salt or more chile flakes, if desired. Stir in the parsley. Place in bowls and garnish with parmesan – if using.

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