lamb chops with mint pesto

I made this dish for Easter supper since lamb seemed to be the choice protein for the holiday. I had just watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode featuring a Crown Roast of Lamb, where he recommended American lamb for its size and fat content. Unfortunately, Whole Foods only carried New Zealand rack of lamb. Even so, the dish still came out delicious with just the right amount of gaminess you expect from lamb, and the mint pesto paired alongside beautifully to brigten up the flavors. I had never really enjoyed the taste of lamb until now.

This recipe was inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ show Everyday Italian on the Food Network. I added a dab of Chevre cheese on top of the lamb chops to give it an extra kick of flavor. I melted the cheese using my handy blowtorch until the cheese just started to bubble. The dish would have been complete at this stage, but I decided to make it super special for Easter by adding a fried quail egg on top. I had seen chef’s top off steak with a fried egg and I thought to myself… why not do that with lamb? The miniature size of the quail egg sits perfectly on the lamb chop making an impressive presentation!




PREP TIME 30 Min
COOK TIME 40 Min
READY IN 1 Hr 30 Min
   
SERVINGS 2

 

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup walnuts (preferably roasted and unsalted)
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning (See the Guide)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup quality extra-virgin olive oil, divided (See the Guide)
4 teaspoons (about 2/3 ounce) Chevre cheese
8 quail eggs (See the Guide)
1 (about 1 1/2-pound) rack of lamb, trimmed and Frenched

 

EQUIPMENT:

Blender or food processor
Cast-iron skillet
Tongs
Chef’s knife (See the Guide)
Small bowl
Non-stick pan
Spatula
Lined baking sheet (See the Guide)
Flame torch (See the Guide)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Blend the mint, basil, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add 2 tablespoons of oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  • Trim off any excess fat on the rack of lamb and pat dry with a paper towel.* Generously sprinkle both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Place the rack of lamb meat-side down in the skillet and cook just until brown, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the rack of lamb meat-side up using a pair of tongs and brown for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Transfer the cast-iron skillet into the oven and roast to desired doneness, about 18 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fry the quail eggs in a non-stick pan, sunny-side up. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Since the quail eggs are so tiny, it’s best to first crack each egg into a small bowl or measuring cup and then gently pour the egg into the hot pan and fry for 2 minutes. If you are using a small omelet pan, only fry two eggs at most at a time to avoid scrambling the eggs.
  • Transfer the eggs to a lined baking sheet.**
  • After the lamb has rested, cut the lamb between the bones into single chops. Spread 1 teaspoon of the pesto over each chop and top with 1/2 teaspoon dab of chevre cheese.
  • Melt the cheese using a blow torch or under the broiler until just bubbling. Top each lamb chop with a fried quail egg and serve with extra pesto on the side.***

 

NOTES:

  • To enhance the flavor of the meat, I dry-aged the rack of lamb overnight in the fridge. This action is purely optional, but I decided to try it after watching Alton Brown’s episode on how to dry-age your own steaks at home. I’m not positive I could taste a difference, but the lamb chops were delicious so it definitely wasn’t a bad idea!
  • If you’re feeling timid about eating eggs over-easy, after transferring the fried eggs to a lined baking sheet, simply pop it in the oven for a couple minutes while you’re dressing up the lamb chops. The oven will still be warm enough to cook the quail egg yolks to your desired doneness.
  • Don’t let leftover pesto go to waste! Toss with plain pasta for a quick, delicious lunch or dinner the next day!



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