Liddie’s Traditional NM Dishes: Braised Lamb Chops

Braised lamb shoulder chops. Photo by Liddie Martinez
 
By LIDDIE MARTINEZ

Española Valley
 
Spring always reminds me of the savory lamb dishes my Mom and Grandma made for our family gatherings.
 
My Grandfather and uncles were all sheep herders and lamb was a regular entre for our evening meals. Living on a farm meant nothing was wasted and so while the more expensive cuts of meat, like leg of lamb, were saved for family celebrations, slow cooking less expensive cuts brought out the wonderful flavor and tender texture we all craved.
 
The house would fill with an amazing aroma that called us all home from wherever we were playing. This recipe, while steeped in tradition, has notes of a modern flair. White wine, lemon zest, thyme and rosemary were rarely seen in my Grandma’s kitchen but they like to hang out in my kitchen and so, I took advantage of the ingredients on hand to create a unique chile rub that compliments this dish, provides a citric balance and a nice level of heat to round out the local, spicy flavor.
 
Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops
 
8 Shoulder Chops
1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced in 16ths
8 Cloves garlic
1⁄4 Cup butter, room temp
5 Tbsp. Red Chile Powder, reserve 2 Tbsps.
1 Tbsp. Thyme, leaves only
1 Tbsp. Rosemary, remove stems and mince
2 1⁄2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp. Lemon zest, grated
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
A Heavy Pinch of Salt and Pepper
2 Cups White Wine
2 Cups of Water
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup frozen peas
3 Tbsp. Flour
Kitchen String
 
With a mortar and pestle, crush garlic together with salt, 3 Tbsps. chile and zest and make into a paste adding rosemary, thyme and butter. Stir until combined. Rub paste on all sides of chops and stack in fours. Tie together with kitchen string. Place in enameled Dutch Oven, cover and refrigerate for 12-48 hours.
 
Bring lamb to room temperature (about 1 hour) before cooking. Place rack on lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
 
In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté onions with a heavy pinch of salt until transparent. Season with pepper. Spoon onions over chop bundles and surround with wine and water. Cover bundles with parchment paper cut to the size of the lid. Cover pot with heavy lid and/or foil – it needs to be a tight fit.
 
Cook for three hours at 350 degrees then remove the parchment, cover with lid and increase heat to 450 degrees and cook for an additional hour. Transfer bundles to rest on foil loosely covered and let stand while you finish the sauce.
 
Gently remove the veggies to oven proof dish, cover with foil and place inside warm oven (make sure the oven is off). Skim fat from the pot to discard. Add olive oil to Dutch Oven and stir in flour to cook over medium heat for about two minutes. Add 2 Tbsps. red chile and chicken stock and whisk until it comes to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes then spoon sauce onto serving platter and arrange veggies and chops on the sauce after cutting the sting away. Chops will be very tender and may slightly collapse.
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