I think I’m like most of you when it comes to lamb chops: straight up with a rosemary and garlic rub. But my copy of Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook had been sitting on the shelf long enough. Sure, I’ve looked through the pages MANY a time to drool at the beautiful, glossy pictures and so earnestly wish I were friends with Deb. But the execution just hadn’t happened. And though I’ve never had pistachio crusted anything before, I did have (almost) all the ingredients on hand for this recipe. Which is rare.
I was lucky I had just enough pistachios left over. You can bet that I was shelling them there were two bodies hovering around me picking them out of the bowl. It worked because I was working with such a small batch (the recipe was written for 6, I had just two lamb chops). And contrary to the directions in the recipe, I crushed the pistachios with a rolling pin instead of a food processor. Does anyone else find it a huge pain in the butt to clean the food processor? Sure, some spices made its way out of the ziploc bag as I banged out the mix, but doing so over a cutting board helped rescue some escapees.
This was the first time I used chaat masala to actually cook something. Chaat masala, for all you non-masala eaters out there, is a South Asian spice mix. It’s bright. It’s funky. It’s spicy. It’s savory. It’s Heather from work. A combination of some usual (cumin, coriander, black pepper) and some unusual (dried mango powder, black salt, asfoetida) ingredients. It usually adorns pani puri, bhel phuri, chatpati, and other street foods that if consumed every day, from actual Dhaka street vendors, over the course of 2 weeks will give you the nastiest stomach bug known to man (truth). I usually put it over fruit and yogurt to make fruit chaat. It’s delightful.
The spices, the cooking method, the superb meat – it’s like when all the pieces come together to make a beautiful work of art!
I have nothing further to add to this glorious hunk of meat. It didn’t even need the yogurt sauce. But. If you do go down that road, make sure to add 1/4 cup of shredded cucumber to make a proper raita. I didn’t have cucumber on hand, but I did have some handy dandy black salt (it’s got a wonderful smokey/savoriness to it that’s hard to imitate).
Recipe adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I used 1/3 of the recipe for the chops.
- 1 cup full fat plain yogurt
- a pinch of salt
- a pinch of black salt (if you don’t have black salt, do a 1/4 tsp cumin)
- 2 tbsp minced fresh mint or cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup grated cucumber
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 3 tsp chaat masala
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 6 lamb chops, 3-4 ounces each
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- For the raita: mix all the ingredients in a bowl and adjust the seasonings to taste.
- For the lamb chops: pulverize the nuts with the spices in a food processor or by putting them in a ziploc bag and beating with a rolling pin. Pour onto a plate and set aside.
- Season lamb chops with salt and pepper and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over high heat. Add oil. When it’s hot but not smoking, add chops, two at a time. Cook for 2 minutes on each side then place directly onto nuts. Coat in nut mixture then place on baking sheet. Finish cooking the chops in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Serve with yogurt sauce.