You can count on Ina, on the grill or off.
That would be Ina Garten, cookbook author and TV host for millions of home cooks looking for recipes that can’t fail.
Her latest book, “Cooking for Jeffrey” (that reference is to her husband), includes a lamb chop recipe that has made it to my dinner-for-company list.
In typical fashion, she offers a twist on a traditional dish — grilled lamb chops — and makes it even better, in this case incorporating a rub and an unusual kind of marinade to give it a Moroccan flavor. Think mint, garlic, cumin, turmeric and coriander for a rub that’s followed by a yogurt-based schmear (the “unusual” marinade).
She calls for it to be prepared many hours in advance, but I can assure you that even a few hours of flavoring makes a difference with the meat.
Garten recommends cutting up a rack of lamb for the chops, which is minimal effort for most cooks. But if that means too many chops for the guests at your dinner table — or you don’t want to cut up the meat yourself — consider buying them individually.
Garten serves the lamb atop couscous, which for many of us is a treat in itself (how often you eat couscous likely depends on your culinary heritage). This staple of North Africa couldn’t be easier to prepare. Usually it’s sold pre-steamed and dried, so it needs little more than a dunk in boiling water or stock and about 10 minutes to rehydrate.
Regular couscous is the most common, which has tiny grains before it’s plumped up with moisture. But on this occasion, I made the pearl couscous variety, which is slightly larger and those grains look like tiny balls that retain their shape after they are ready to eat, with a similar look to barley. The finished result is pretty and unexpected, which is always a plus for company.
Garten dresses up the couscous with a little onion, pine nuts and mint for the finished dish for, once again, that extra Ina touch.
Prep the lamb earlier in the day, or the night before. Saute the onion for the couscous earlier, and toast the pine nuts, and dinner comes together quickly (the chops need only a total of 8 to 10 minutes on the grill).
Moroccan Grilled Lamb Chops
Note: Plan ahead as the rub and yogurt marinade involve hours in the refrigerator. However, even a few hours make a difference. If you prefer, buy individual lamb chops rather than by the rack. Two to three chops per person is generally sufficient for serving. From “Cooking for Jeffrey,” by Ina Garten.
6 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup julienned fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons; reserve lemons for juice)
5 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for the grill
3 racks of lamb (6 to 7 ribs each), cut into chops (see note)
1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (12 oz.)
1 11/2 teaspoons Sriracha
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Couscous With Pine Nuts and Mint (see recipe)
To make the rub: Place garlic, mint, turmeric, coriander, cumin, lemon zest and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, and process until finely ground. Add olive oil and pulse to combine. (If you only have a blender to use, add these ingredients for the rub all at once and process.)
Place chops in 1 or 2 nonmetal dishes large enough to hold them in 1 layer. Spread garlic and herb mixture evenly on both sides.
To make the yogurt marinade: In small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, Sriracha and lemon juice, and spread it evenly on top of the lamb chops (only one side gets the yogurt). Cover, refrigerate, and allow to marinate for 6 to 24 hours.
Prepare grill and oil the cooking grate. Sprinkle lamb with salt and grill 5 to 6 inches above the coals, first with the yogurt side up (marinade and all) for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn and grill for 3 to 4 minutes, until medium-rare. Transfer to clean plate, cover plate tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the couscous. Serves 6.
Nutrition information per serving without couscous: 335 calories, 24 g fat, 620 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrates, 8 g saturated fat, 3 g total sugars, 24 g protein, 90 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Couscous With Pine Nuts and Mint
To toast pine nuts, place them in a dry saute pan over low heat, tossing often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until they brown slightly and become fragrant. Have the onions prepped and set aside. Ten minutes before serving, you can bring the stock to a boil, add the couscous and finish the recipe. From “Cooking for Jeffrey,” by Ina Garten.
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups couscous
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (see note)
Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remove from heat. Cover pot tightly and allow couscous to steam for 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in mint and pine nuts. Taste for seasonings and add about 1 teaspoon salt (depending on saltiness of stock) and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Serve hot. Serves 6.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories, 13 g fat, 390 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrates, 2 g saturated fat, 3 g total sugars, 9 g protein, 5 mg cholesterol, 3 g dietary fiber