Lamb Chops with Kumquat Walnut Crust

Lamb Chops with Kumquat Walnut Crust Recipe

Lamb chops are great on their own, but this walnut and kumquat flavored crust takes them to another level. I love the crust so much, I could eat it on its own. The fragrant zest of the kumquats pairs very well with the roasted and ground walnuts.

To ensure that the meat is juicy and very tender, I marinated the lamb in a Cabernet Sauvignon marinade mixed with my usual meat tenderizer ingredient (green papaya) before adding the crust. This recipe takes some time, but your efforts will be rewarded.

Our kumquat tree has produced a bumper crop this season, and I'm taking full advantage of the fruits of our labor. Stay tuned for more recipes that feature this wonderful and unique citrus.

Ingredients

Yields: 6 servings

3 racks of lamb, about 5 pounds total
1 cup walnuts, roasted
2 tablespoons papaya paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground
4 cloves garlic, finely minced and puréed
1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon (or any red wine)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 cups curly parsley, tightly packed and chopped
10 fresh kumquats
4 tablespoons butter, diced


Directions

Prepping the kumquats: Wash the kumquats. Thinly slice them using a sharp chef's knife. Discard all the seeds and the white center membrane. Finely chop them.

Seasoning the meat: Rub half the amount of garlic purée on the racks of lamb and season with kosher salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper.


For the lamb chop marinade:

In a bowl, combine the red wine, balsamic vinegar, papaya paste, finely chopped rosemary and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir well.

Place each rack of lamb in a sealable zip-top bag (or the 3 racks together in a very large bowl). Divide the marinade among the 3 bags or pour all over it over the racks in the bowl. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours or overnight.


The following day...

Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature before cooking.

Roasting walnuts: To release all the flavor and oil of the nuts, I like to roast them in the oven before using them. Spread the nuts onto a baking sheet. Place the tray in a preheated oven at 170°F. Roast the walnuts for about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely.

Making walnut mill:

You can either buy ready-made walnut powder (really just finely ground walnuts), or make it yourself. Grind the roasted walnuts with a food processor. Make sure you stop before it turns into nut butter. The result should be a fine mill.


For the kumquat walnut crust: In the food processor, add the butter, remaining garlic and kumquats and parsley to the ground walnuts. Season with 2 teaspoons of honey mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse until it forms coarse crumbs of butter and walnuts. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Set aside.


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Cooking lamb:

Remove the lamb from the marinade. Pat the meat dry using paper towels. Reserve the marinade.

In a large heavy-bottom pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it's really hot, almost to the smoking point. Place the rack of lamb, fat side up. Sear the meat for about 2 minutes until nicely golden. Flip the meat on the other side using tongs. Do NOT pierce the meat with a fork; it's important that you do not pierce the meat so it stays moist and tender. Sear the other side for another 2 minutes. Immediately transfer the pan to the oven and roast the lamb for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the oven and cover it with kumquat walnut crust by pressing it against the meat using a large spoon. Drizzle with a little oil. Return immediately to the oven and roast for another 13-15 minutes (16-17 minutes if you like it well done), depending on how pink you like your meat.

Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the racks of lamb to a large platter. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing (I didn't re-heat the meat as  I felt the warmth from the red wine sauce was sufficient). That way the meat stays very juicy and tender.


Making red wine sauce:

Meanwhile, strain the reserved marinade through a fine sieve. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and about ¼ cup of water. Reduce (uncovered) the liquid to about half its original volume. Adjust seasoning. Transfer to a gravy boat.


Assembly time:

A mean thermometer should register 125-130°F for medium-rare meat.

Slice the lamb into 3/4" thick pieces, fanning the slices for a nice presentation; serve immediately.

I served the lamb chops with the warm red wine sauce on the side, pommes lyonnaise (I'll post the recipe tomorrow) and some greens.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I know a lot of people don't like lamb because they think it has strong flavor or smell. The reality is that, if you get really fresh, good quality lamb, it doesn't have an unpleasant smell at all. Greek, Middle-Eastern and Persian ethnic markets usually carry the best lamb because lamb is very common in those cultures.

I used kumquats from our garden. The zest is very fragrant. If you don't have kumquats, you could use other acidic fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, pineapple or kiwi.

I use an Indian meat tenderizers to ensure juicy and moist poultry. Papaya paste was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya with its seeds in a blender; place about 1 tablespoon of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I store them exactly the same as I would extra pesto.

I use curly parsley stems also, because that's where the flavor is the most potent.

I used Cabernet Sauvignon. Our friend Andrew gave it to us. If you have any red wine left, use it to make stewed cherries. It's delicious!

Cabernet Sauvignon Picture

The roasting time depends on how pink you like the lamb. If you' want to be absolutely sure, just place a temperature probe in one of the racks, and remove the lamb from the oven when the thermometer registers 130°F.

Wrap the ends of the bones with aluminum foil (before placing in the oven) to prevent them from burning so you'll have a nice, clean presentation.

Make sure to let the lamb rest before slicing it to ensure an optimum tenderness of the meat. To carve the rack of lamb, place it on a cutting board with the bones facing you. You can use the bones as a guide to where to cut and separate the chops.

Count about 3 to 4 lamb chops per person.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 15, 2010.


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