Lamb with Mint Chimichurri
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Sometimes you think you’ve got a great idea for a ‘new’ recipe, only to find out that… well, you were hardly the first to think of it. But hey, that’s the world of food blogging for you. In any case, lamb with mint is hardly a new idea, and there are a few other recipes out there that have taken the idea of mint-plus-herb-sauce, and you can find any number of lamb recipes featuring pesto, gremolata, chimichurri, chutney, or green harissa. It’s not surprising really; mint goes beautifully with lamb, but lamb is also one of the few meats whose flavour is powerful enough to partner with a particularly bold condiment.
Now mint sauce is great, but I really like to bring bolder flavours into play with my lamb. If you’re unfamiliar with chimichurri (or more specifically, green chimichurri verde), it’s an Argentinean sauce made from garlic, oil, and vinegar along with copious quantities of chopped parsley. I always wondered where the name came from – after all it’s pretty distinctive and fun to say. The most plausible etymology relates to the Basque word tximitxurri, which roughly translates to ‘a mixture of things in no particular order.’ Basically, kitchen-sink cooking. A Basque origin for this sauce is not surprising, as a large number of Basque immigrants settled in Argentina in the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite this, a number of folk etymologies (which is a nicer way of saying false origins) have been proposed as alternative origins for the word, and oddly enough these tend to cite a corruption of one or more English phrases. Various stories have claimed that an English meat importer named Jimmy Curry (or an Irish freedom-fighter named Jimmy McCurry) was so enamoured with the South American mojo criollo sauces that this variation came to be synonymous with him. Some of these (rather Anglo-centric) stories go on to claim that one Jimmy or another actually invented this sauce, and that chimichurri is simply a corruption of his name by Spanish-speaking Argentines. This origin, like many food folk etymologies, is not backed up by any contemporary evidence, but tends to be repeated because it makes for good story-telling. Entertaining stuff, but the purely linguistic explanations tend to be a little more believable. Regardless of the name and its origins, it’s delicious stuff.
My chimicurri recipe adds to the green parsley aspect of the original with the distinctive (and lamb-loving) taste of mint. It also goes beyond the basic green/garlic/oil/vinegar combination to bring in a couple of other flavours that partner beautifully with lamb, namely cumin and lemon. The combination is earthy and aromatic, yet bright and acidic. I think it’s a perfect foil to the lamb – and there’s no reason to limit it to just this cut. Feel free to try it out with a rack, leg, or any other cut. It’s also quite nice with rich, well-aged red meat like beef and bison. And if you’re not into meat, first of all thanks for reading this far. Secondly, mint chimichurri also happens to make a fantastic salad/salsa when combined with mango and tomato. You can find a recipe for that right here.
As for the lamb itself, loin chops are great, but feel free to try other cuts, including roasts. Regardless, make sure not to overcook it – lamb is best rare or medium rare. If you’re a fan of rack of lamb, this combination with the pesto would make a fantastic meal.
Use a good, fresh flat-leaf or Italian parsley to make this recipe, and the freshest mint you can find. Parsley is frequently overlooked as an ingredient thanks to it’s throwaway use as a plate garnish, but it’s a flavourful, powerful herb in it’s own right. You can use the leaves alone, but don’t be shy about letting some of the smaller stems make their way into the mix – especially if you’re chopping things quite finely.
On that note, the chimichurri can be chopped/processed as finely as you like it. Personally, I like it with large pieces and some substance to it, but it could be chopped finely or even pureed for a somewhat less rustic look. (Note that this chimichurri is my own recipe, but I was inspired by this lovely recipe from SimplyRecipes.)
Though fatty (see below), the nutritional information shown here is assuming that you serve this to four people. If you cut your meat intake a little and serve six, it’s very healthy all around.
As with a lot of meats, the amount of actual fat will depend a lot on the cut, quality, and preparation of the meat, so choose wisely.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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If you like garlic in your greens (hello, friend), it's about time you took a step beyond pesto and checked this out. The vinegar-garlic bite of chimichurri meets the classic mint/lamb combination, and the result is AWESOME.
- 2 lb lamb loin chops
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt (to season)
- pepper (to season)
- 1 cup mint finely chopped
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin ground
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1.5 tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
Let the lamb reach room temperature, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
Combined all of the chimichurri ingredients and let stand. For a chunkier sauce, chop the greens by hand. For a smoother sauce (and a quicker prep), toss all of the ingredients EXCEPT for the olive oil in a food processor and blend (blending extra virgin olive oil can make it bitter, so be sure to add it at the end). Note that this step can be done a day in advance, and may actually help the flavours to blend and mellow a little.
(Optional) Add some or all of the chimichurri to a mortar and crush to bruise the greens and allow them to absorb more of the liquid.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot, add the lamb to the pan, taking care not to crowd the individual chops. Cook the first side until well-browned, approximately 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until the chops are medium-rare at most. Using tongs, briefly sear the bone and fatty sides of the chops.
Remove the lamb chops from heat and set aside. Cover with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve the chops with a healthy dollop of chimichurri on top.