Pan Grilled Lamb Chops with Harissa
Adding spicy flavor to rib lamb chops
- Servings: 4.
The heat and flavor of harissa, the spicy red pepper paste used in Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine, is used as a rub on the lamb chops which are then pan grilled. Harissa is a paste that can be made from scratch and its ingredients are usually a combination of chili peppers, cumin, garlic, paprika, coriander and olive oil. But good quality and flavorful harissa is easy to find in NYC markets. Look for one imported from Morocco or Spain. Or you can make your own.
I usually prefer the cheaper and more flavorful shoulder lamb chops but this recipe is a treat when done with the little rib chops. Rib lamb chops are usually sold two ribs to a chop. For this recipe, cut each rib in half so that each piece is only about 1/2" thick.
LIkewise if you use shoulder chops, make sure they're only one-half inch thick.
- 6 double-rib lamb chops (each then cut into 2 for a total of 12 single-rib chops) or 4 half-inch thick shoulder chops
- 1/2 cup harissa
- Take the lamb chops out of the refrigerator, rinse and pat dry.
- If using rib chops, cut in-between the bones of each double-rib chop and slice each in half so that you end up with 12 little single-rib chops.
- Place the chops in a single layer on a platter or in a larger ceramic dish. Spread the harissa on the lamb chops so that there's a thin coating of the red paste on both sides of all the chops. (I use my hands to do this but if you do, too, be sure to wash them well before touching your eyes or nose.)
- Let the chops sit on the counter long enough to come to room temperature, 15 to 30 minutes. The longer they sit with the harissa on them, the spicier the final flavor will be.
- Put a ribbed grill pan (preferably cast iron) on high heat for 2 to 5 minutes so that it is blazing hot. Add no fat to the pan.
- While the pan is heating, using a spatula or your hands or a paper towel, wipe the harissa off of the chops. The meat will be stained a little red from the red pepper paste and this is fine. Discard the harissa.
- Cooking one layer of chops at a time, pan grill the lamb chops about 3 to 4 minutes a side for medium rare. Be prepared that any fat on the chops plus any residue from the harissa will bring up some smoke (you might want to turn on your fan or if you have a kitchen window, crack it open).
- Serve with couscous to which you can add chickpeas, sliced cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, plus a green vegetable.
The longer the harissa sits on the chops, the hotter the final flavor will be. This is not, however, like some chili-based rubs that can quickly go from heat to dangerous. The heat and spices in harissa are more subtle and complex and there's little risk of fire damage. Still, all it takes is 15 to 30 minutes for the coated chops to come to room temperature and for the harissa to make its presence known.