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Braised Lamb Chops with Artichokes

Perfect for a chilly spring night, this hearty dish features two iconic ingredients of the season: spring lamb and artichokes. Lamb shoulder chops are easy to find, easy to cook and—a boon for the hosts—inexpensive. However, feel free to use smaller, leaner rib chops, in which case you will need to increase the number of chops by about one-third. Sear thinner rib chops for only 2 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 9 to 12 lamb shoulder chops, each about 3/4 inch thick 
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh marjoram, plus sprigs for garnish 
  • 1 can (14 1/2 fl oz.) beef stock or consommé 
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine or vermouth 
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste 
  • 3/4 cup French green olives, such as Lucque or Picholine, pitted and halved 
  • 2 boxes (each 10 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed 

Directions:

Season the lamb chops generously on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy sauté pan or a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until very hot. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, add the chops and sear, using tongs to turn once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a platter. When searing the last batch of chops, stir the garlic and marjoram into the pan and cook for 1 minute more.

Return all the chops to the pan (you may have to stack them in 2 layers) and add the stock, wine and tomato paste. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the paste and scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.

After the lamb has been cooking for 30 minutes, turn the chops over, rearranging to submerge any that started out on top if they are layered in the pan. Scatter the olives over the top, cover the pan and continue simmering very gently for 30 minutes more. Add the artichoke hearts and simmer until the lamb is tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. At this point, you can remove the pan from the heat and let it stand on the back of the stove, covered, for up to 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb, artichokes and olives to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and keep warm in a low (200°F) oven. Pour the braising liquid into a large glass measuring pitcher or fat separator. Pour or spoon off the fat that rises to the top, then transfer the juices to a small saucepan, place over high heat, and simmer briskly to concentrate the flavors and make a light sauce or jus, about 10 minutes. Pour the jus over the chops and garnish the platter with the marjoram sprigs. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Entertaining, by Brigit Binns (Gold Street Press, 2008).