Lamb tends to be one of those things that people either love or hate. For a long time, I hated it because the only way I’d ever had it prepared was slow braised in a crockpot, stew-style, and served with mint jelly. While that may be some people’s cup of tea, it wasn’t mine. Then I figured out that lamb could be prepared much like steak – served medium rare. When served like this, it has a rich, complex flavor that makes an excellent alternative to beef.
Time: 1 hr
Cost per plate: $8-10
This particular recipe uses lamb loins although lamb chops would work just as well. Lamb loins look like tiny T-bone steaks – which is essentially what they are, just from a lamb instead of a cow (i.e., tenderloin on one side and strip steak on the other). As such, they are totally delicious. Because they’re small, they don’t have a lot of meat on them. My boys and I can easily polish off about four; my wife will eat two. Even still, if you can find them on special it makes for a pretty economical meal. Also, this recipe is SUPER easy.
12 – 16 Lamb Loins (serves 3-4 hungry folks)
3 TBSP Olive Oil
6-8 garlic cloves (finely minced or pressed)
juice of one lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Consider trimming a bit of fat off the outside of the lamb loins if they’re particularly fatty. 1/4 to 1/8 inch or so is probably good. I probably should have done that for this recipe; I will next time. In either case, no biggy – they came out great.
Place lamb loins in large tossing bowl and add olive oil. Toss to coat. Add garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. (Note: Normally I don’t like garlic presses, but in this case I’ll usually opt to press my garlic because it’s easier than mincing them into a paste, which is really what needs to happen). Cover and refrigerate for as little as 20 minutes or as long as 12 hours.
If preparing in the kitchen, preheat the oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with oven-safe parchment paper for easier clean up. Add 1 TBSP olive oil to a cast iron or copper skillet, and heat to very hot until oil is shimmering and smoking slightly. Sear lamb loins in batches, 2-3 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb loins to baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 130F for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
If preparing on the grill, build a 2-zone charcoal fire or alternatively, on a gas grill, light one or two burners only. Shoot for 300F at grate level on the cool side (don’t rely on your grill’s thermometer, spend $5 on an oven thermometer at Home Depot and place it on your grill grate to ensure an accurate reading). Add a couple of mesquite wood chunks, if you like (mesquite is perfect for this meal because of it’s strong flavor and the short smoking time involved).
Sear lamb loins on hot side of grill with the lid open for 3-5 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Transfer to cool side and close the lid. Grill for 15-20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 130F for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Remember: In order to achieve a piece of meat that is perfect medium-rare end to end and seared on the outside (see picture) the meat needs to be the same temperature throughout when the cooking process begins. I recommend going straight from the fridge to the grill/pan without letting it come up to temp on the countertop. For more information see The Secret to Perfect Beef Roasts and Steaks.
Serve with steamed asparagus or green beans and rice pilaf.
Pairs well with Malbec (Argentina), Shiraz (Australia) or Red Zinfandel (California)