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Lamb Rib Chops with Seven Spices

Toasting spices in a dry pan cooks the oils, producing a nutty flavor. When the spices are ground with a mortar and pestle, their taste is much more intense.

Ingredients:

For the seven-spice blend:

  • 1 Tbs. cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbs. mace
  • 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 Tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 Tbs. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 8 mint leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 racks of lamb, each cut into 2-rib chops
  • 2 to 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. veal demi-glace diluted with 2 cups
     water, or 2 cups lightly salted chicken stock

Directions:

To make the seven-spice blend, in a small, dry sauté pan over medium heat, combine the cardamom, cumin, sesame, mace, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and nutmeg. Toast the spices, stirring often, until they are fragrant and turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, let cool for a few minutes and then grind the spices into a fine powder.

In a food processor, puree the cucumber and mint. Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and press on the solids to extract the liquid. Discard the liquid. Transfer the cucumber relish to a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat an oven to 400ºF.

Season the lamb generously with the spice blend, salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the oil until nearly smoking. Working in batches, arrange the chops in the pan (do not overcrowd) and brown for 3 to 5 minutes per side, adding more oil to the pan as needed. To prevent splattering, cover the pan with a splatter screen while browning the chops.

When all the chops are browned, return them to the pan, transfer to the oven and roast until the meat is lightly springy when pressed for rare to medium-rare, 6 to 8 minutes, or until done to your liking. Transfer the chops to a warmed platter.

Set the pan over medium heat, skim off the fat and add the demi-glace mixture. Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, and cook until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 6 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Serve the chops with the pan sauce and cucumber relish alongside.
Serves 4.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chef, Jean Georges, Jo Jo and Vong, New York City