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Manservant was astounded when I agreed to writing a Whole Foods post on grilled Icelandic lamb chops. After all, I stopped eating red meat 8 years ago. Why did I stop? The short answer is that after viewing a movie about large scale production “factory farms”, I decided that as a child I had eaten enough meat to last a life time. And so I just stopped. I am not usually so decisive about such important matters, but for some reason that movie resonated with me. And I don’t even remember the name of it!
The rest of my family continued to eat their beef and their lamb, but I never really missed it. Well, I did miss eating burgers but even that desire has been erased, as there are so many other choices one has when it comes to burgers. And really; aren’t burgers all about the fries and ketchup? I continued to cook with beef, but over the years it has become less and less. I do grill the occasional steak when they come home, and if I am eating a chicken burger, I’ll buy them beef, but that’s about it!
When I made my decision there weren’t a lot of choices when it came to eating beef. Or lamb. Now there are smaller ranches and grass fed, hormone free cows and frankly, if I had had those choices then I may have never given up eating the meat. But I did and I see no reason to turn back as I’ve come to live with it. However I must admit that my family hopes I never see a movie about chickens or pigs because when I really think about it, I could probably take those off my list, too.
So why then did I decide to write about lamb? Well, I knew Manservant would be very happy to eat some and this kitchen aims to please. It wasn’t that long ago that I used to make lamb for dinner parties. It is a great dish for entertaining because many folks just don’t know how to cook it and many aren’t familiar with it. That is a shame, because lamb used to be one of my favorites.
There are two things that I can tell you now. Colorado has great lamb and Iceland has outstanding lamb. Unless they were sampled side by side, I don’t know if one could tell the difference, but from what I remember lamb always had a somewhat mild, but gamey taste that was always enhanced by the addition of a sauce or a marinade. I did sample a bite of the Icelandic lamb, but even if I had wanted more, I don’t think Manservant would have allowed me one more morsel. It was that good. (This is from a man who eats around the world at 5 star restaurants and 5 star holes in the wall, while I sit home with eggs and toast!)
These chops were easily grilled, about 5-6 minutes per side. Lamb should be served pink, for the best flavor. I served these with a simple chimichurri type sauce composed of cilantro, red onion and mint with a touch of honey. The honey really made this! I drizzled it over the chops while they were warm. Nothing else was needed because this lamb is glorious on its own. However I did drizzle the sauce on my chicken which made for a very happy chicken breast!
Icelandic lamb is special. The sheep are allowed to graze freely for 5 months, eating herbs and berries through the mountains, with 24 hours of sunshine to keep them happy. Think no pesticides there! They are then rounded up each fall in true Viking tradition. The lamb is sent fresh to Whole Foods and is only sold in the fall. It is mild and delicate and requires very little seasoning or preparation. It is tender, with such a delicate taste; I almost didn’t know I was eating meat. Lamb makes a perfectly elegant meal for a party or yourself. It isn’t available at all Whole Foods stores, so get it while you can.
Grilled Icelandic Lamb Chops with Honey Herb Chimichurri
Figure 2-3 per person (My Whole Foods only sold the loin chops.)
Time to make: About 5 minutes and 4-6 minutes per side
2-3 Lamb loin chops per serving
Honey Herb Chimichurri
2 1/2 T chopped cilantro
2 1/2 T c chopped mint
2 T finely diced red onion
Pinch of salt
Pinch of chile flakes
1/2 to 3/4 t of honey
3 T olive oil
1 t red wine vinegar
Bring lamb chops to room temperature, about 20 minutes before placing on grill. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper on each side. Preheat grill to high.
While grill is heating, combine ingredients for the honey herb chimichurri. Make sure grill is oiled and place lamb chops on grate for about 4-6 minutes per side.I lost my meat thermometer but lamb should be cooked from 145 to 160 degrees. Let rest, lightly tented with foil for about 5 minutes before serving which means one should take it off the grill about 10 degrees before desired doneness. Drizzle with chimichurri before serving.
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