On Christmas Day, I woke up and drove away from my parents’ house. We’d celebrated nochebuena the night before at home and spent the weekend together on our first family cruise. On Tuesday morning, I headed north on Alligator Alley to meet Danny, his parents, and aunt in Tampa.
My car was filled with treats, as it usually is when I visit Miami. I should just keep a cooler in the trunk. This time the star was the tres leches, which we procured from a place my mom has deemed the best we can get. It would be our Christmas dessert.
His mom and aunt greeted me with blinking red and green earrings to match theirs, and Danny told me what we’d be having for dinner. Lamb chops.
It was all worth the four-hour drive.
These lamb chops with pistachio masala and cucumber-mint raita are from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, something Deb came up with after discovering chaat masala was the secret ingredient at a favorite Indian restaurant.
You’ll find chaat masala at Indian grocery stores, and it’s fairly inexpensive. As Deb notes, this spice blend is not really one to make at home unless you’ve got dried pomegranate seeds and black salt lying around. Ha! If you can’t find it, garam masala is easier to find (try Publix) and works very well.
We’ve made the lamb chops several times since last Christmas, and I love them every time. The nut and spice crust is as delicious as it is pretty. The lamb is juicy and tender.
Wait, I haven’t even told you about the raita yet. I cry when it’s gone. The slight heat of the cumin mixed with mint and cucumber is refreshing and absolutely wonderful. All you really need is a spoon. But! It truly complements the lamb chops, so make sure to serve them together.
This is a meal good enough to serve on your Christmas dinner table. You can bet it’s good enough for dinner tonight. Try it soon.
pistachio masala lamb chops with cucumber mint raita
The raita seems to get better as it sits, so definitely make it before the lamb. If you can’t find chaat masala, try garam masala.
for the raita:
1 cup full-fat plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup minced English cucumber
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of sugar
for the lamb chops:
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 to 3 teaspoons chaat masala (garam masala will work, too)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 small lamb chops (about 3 to 4 ounces each)
French couscous, for serving
To make the raita, mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Let it sit in the fridge and it gets better. Adjust seasoning if needed once the lamb chops are ready.
To make the lamb chops, start by grinding the pistachios and spices (chaat masala, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper) in a food processor in short pulses until it looks like breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture onto a plate.
Heat oven to 425F. Season lamb chops generously on both sides with salt and black pepper. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking. Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil and set to medium-high heat. Don’t let the oil get so hot that it smokes. Add the lamb chops, three at a time, and cook long enough to sear them, 2 minutes on each side. Lower the heat if the pan starts to smoke.
Hold each seared lamb chop by the bone end and dip it into the nut-spice mixture to coat on both sides. Lay out the chops on a large baking sheet. Roast for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove lamb chops from oven and let rest for 5 minutes (about as long as it takes to make couscous… Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add 1 cup couscous and immediately cover and remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with fork and season with salt, pepper, and herbs). Serve lamb chops with raita and cous cous.
Serves 4. Recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman