These small lamb chops have always been one of my favorite foods. The bite or two of special succulent meat on each is a perfect size, and if you love the bones, they’re dainty enough to pick up and chew. Saba, a thick, syrupy grape reduction, or “must,” aged in wood barrels, has been described as the original balsamic vinegar. You can find modern versions in gourmet shops and online; or substitute other good-quality balsamic vinegar syrups or aged products called “condiment” balsamic. Here the sweet saba, laced with mint is the perfect delicate accompaniment to the lamb; if enhances the flavor without ever overwhelming it.
12 Lamb Rib chops, preferably New Zealand, each about 4 ounces and 1 inch thick
6 tablespoons olive oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
½ cup saba (see recipe introduction) or excellent quality condiment or aged (preferably at least 12 years) balsamic vinegar
½ cup fresh mint
1. Bring the lamb chops to room temperature. Rub the chops on all sides with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until smoking. Add the lamb chops and cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides and cooked to the desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for rare, 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a platter and let rest.
3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the saba and stir until well combined. Cook until the mixture is bubbly and fragrant, about 3 minutes. The sauce should be syrupy. Remove from the heat, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
4. To serve, arrange 3 chops on each of the 4 plates. Stir the mint into the warm saba, drizzle over the chops, and serve immediately.
Recipe from Small Gatherings by Jessica Strand (Egg & Dart Press, May 2013)
Image by Sheri Giblin