I am having a love-hate moment with global warming right now. I mean, obviously, global warming, bad. Very bad. But wearing short sleeves and sandals in October in New York City with the sun warming your skin is just so NICE. But global warming, bad.
(Note to reader – this was written during the Obama presidency, when at least global warming was being addresses as, you know, a real thing in the world. Now the thought of global warming is attached to a whole other level of concern).
And it just feels weird. Also in the feels-weird category is what we all feel like cooking as late October approaches. In my Northeast corner of the world, we should all be roasting and braising and stewing things. Which feels odd in 80 degree weather.
But enough is enough, and I am ready for fall cooking, even if I am still putting on sunblock to go see my kid’s football game on Saturday.
How to Cook Lamb Shoulder Chops
Lamb shoulder chops can also be called arm or blade chops. They are versatile in that they can be cooked quickly or slowly, both with delicious results. They are quite economical – usually significantly less expensive than rib chops, but from a nearby cut. If you are cooking them in a fast recipe, keep an eye on them, as because they are thin they will cook quickly. But then, in a braised lamb shoulder chop recipe like this, they will go from tough to call apart tender over that time. If you want to read up a bit on braising, come over here!
The seasonings here are classic Mediterranean flavors, tomatoes, red wine, rosemary, thyme garlic….and the sauce that is created by the slow braise begs to be ladled over the tender meat atop a pile of mashed potatoes, or noodles, or maybe a rice pilaf of sorts. So be sure and make those, or some sort of starch to soak up the sauce.
It may seem unusual that the zucchini is braised for so long with the meat in the cooking liquid, but it’s more than fine. It definitely gets quite soft, but it fills out the sauce nicely, kind of thickening it. And along with the mushrooms it removes the need for making a separate vegetable, which is always a nice thing. Whatever the weather. This whole thing is made in one skillet, which adds to the appeal.
I have also made the same meal with sweet potatoes in place of the zucchini and mushrooms in the actual winter weather, and it’s another delicious version. My whole family went crazy for these chops in both versions. I know I’ll keep going with this recipe, swapping in vegetables as they occur to me, and as they show up in the market.
This is a stovetop slow braised recipe, but you could also transfer it to a 300°F oven for the two hour cooking period, if you prefer to finishing braising it in the oven, and free up your range. Also, I haven’t tried this with a slow cooker, but I’m betting it would be fabulous. If you had to, you could maybe even skip the searing step for ease of execution (but don’t if you can help it).
Don’t forget the parsley at the end. This kind of slow braised dish really benefits for a last pop of fresh green. One of the other little tricks I do often is to finish a dish with some chopped arugula, which serves the same purpose as parsley or another herb, but adds a peppery punch that I think is very welcome as a counterbalance to a rich dish.
Mediterranean Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 4 large carrots roughly chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 1 -inch thick lamb shoulder chops about 2 pounds total
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms such as button, cremini, shiitake
- 1 cup diced zucchini or summer squash
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary crushed
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes
- Water or chicken broth as needed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- In a large skillet with a lid, preferably cast iron, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until everything is tender and starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper on both sides. Give the skillet a quick wipe with a paper towl (be careful; that skillet is hot!), and return the skillet to the heat. Add 1 more tablespoon olive oil, make sure the pan is very hot, then add the chops and sear for about 4 minutes on each side until the chops are browned on both sides. Transfer the chops to a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and then the mushrooms, zucchini, thyme and rosemary. Sauté until the mushrooms give up their liquid, and that liquid evaporates and the vegetables become tender and slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the carrot and onion mixture. Add the red wine, stir to release and browned bit from the bottom and let it reduce by a little bit, about 2 minutes, then stir in the tomato sauce and tuck the browned chops into the mixture. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium low, and let the liquid very gently simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is very, very tender, almost falling apart. Check periodically to make sure there is still liquid in the skillet, and add a bit of water or broth if necessary.
- Sprinkle the finished dish with the parsley. Serve the lamb chops with the pan sauce over your choice of starch.
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