Lamb Chops with Spinach Mint Pesto

Here’s the deal– when I made this for dinner, it was in my mind a lesser star on the cast billing that night. I had an obsession with sunchokes that I found were for sale on our grocery delivery service. I’d never used sunchokes before but loved them when I ate them in restaurants so I was eager to play with this new to me ingredient. The obsession got worse when the delivery service sent me 1 large artichoke as a substitute when they ran out of sunchokes the week I ordered them. A single email complaint resulted in tons of apologies via phone and email from the service (hello awesome customer service folks at Amazon Fresh!) and a batch of sunchokes was automatically included for free in my next order.

But what does this have to do with the lamb chops, I bet you’re wondering by now. I knew I wanted to prep sunchokes in the simplest form I could think of to appreciate their taste so I thought of making a puree with potatoes (potatoes being recommended to lessen the umm… less desirable effects of sunchokes on the digestive system) so some kind of tasty meat dish had to be made. Meat and potatoes: it’s culinarily instinctual. But when it comes down to deciding which part of the meal to blog? Well, lamb chops with a minty pesto seems like the more interesting thing to write about. Afterall, with the sunchoke potato puree, I can quickly sum it up here: peel, boil, and mash with cream.

Lamb chops and mint are also culinarily instinctual, but I prefer complexity and herbaceousness to my mint topping rather than sticky, toothpastey jelly. I decided to incorporate mint by making a pesto, the toasted almonds adding a lightly buttery nuttiness to round out the mint. I also blended in a bit of parsley to add a little lemony undertone, brought out a bit more by lemon zest, and a handful of spinach for some bitterness and to deepen the green color. Finally, a touch of honey brought some sweet notes to the pesto. When a spoonful of this pesto sits on top of lamb chops fresh out of the pan (or off the grill now that summer’s here!) it gets ever so slightly runny, wrapping the lamb in its bright, nicely balanced flavors.

Note: To add a little heat to this pesto, add 1 roughly chopped jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if you just want the peppery taste and not the heat… wuss) to pesto ingredients. Leftover pesto is delicious when mixed in with pasta or sautéed vegetables, particularly when mixed with cooked orzo pasta and some feta cheese.

  • 1 lb lamb chops (4 oz each)
  • olive oil (about 1/2 cup plus an additional tablespoon divided)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet (or some other oven-proof skillet) over medium high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the lamb chops with Montreal steak seasoning. Quickly sear the chops, about 2-3 minutes on each side then move the skillet to the oven and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes or until chops reach desired degree of doneness. An instant read thermometer will register 140 degrees for rare. Remove the chops to a plate and tent with foil while you make the pesto.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (almonds through honey) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Turn on the processor and slowly drizzle in up to 1/2 cup of olive oil through the feed tube processing until the pesto has a slightly saucy, emulsified consistency. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Serve chops with 1 tablespoon of pesto on top of each one, and with the rest of the pesto in a small bowl to add more at the table if you wish.

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