I found a really interesting recipe via Smitten Kitchen for lamb chops with a pistachio tapenade. So I used that recipe as a base, and took some liberties with it. I got enough lamb chops for four per person (okay, there were 2 left over - as we were winding down from the meal I snuck into the kitchen and ate them standing over the stove - seriously, that tapenade is killer delicious). So then I started brainstorming what would go with these chops. As we were wandering around Chinatown searching for Dragonfruit, I found some beautiful baby bok choy, so I bought a bag full. Immediately I knew I was going to saute them in some spicy, saffron oil.
The night before, I had decided that the base of my plate was going to be pan fried polenta. So I whipped up a huge batch of polenta and put it in the fridge to cool down. I wanted to be able to cut it up into pieces and fry it in some butter. I made it with chicken stock instead of water, and I added a generous amount of butter. So I had my plate planned: polenta as the base, bok choy layered over the polenta, and then the chops on top. But it was missing one thing...some kind of sauce to bring it all together.
I had some Lingonberry Syrup which is wonderfully tart. I knew it would complement every component of the meal, so I made a reduction of Lingonberry syrup, pomegranate juice and honey that I drizzled over the plate. WOW - I kept eating it by the fingerful after the meal - dangerously scrumptious!
The meal went over very, very well! This recipe is staying in my repertoire!
3 cups water or stock
1 cup cornmeal (I used white)
3 tablespoons butter
Most cornmeal packages have simple polenta recipes on them, and they probably work just fine. I tend to use 3 parts liquid to 1 part corn meal. In this case I used chicken stock, which I brought to a boil first and then whisked in the corn meal. If you've never made polenta before, be warned - it bubbles and spurts as it's cooking! Stir it frequently - both to keep it from sticking to the bottom and to help break down the cornmeal. 20 minutes of cooking over medium heat seemed to do the trick for me - and at about the 15 minute mark I threw in about 3 tablespoons of butter and stirred it through. The cornmeal begins to soften and you can see the grains disappear, and as it's about done it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot as you're stirring. You can serve it hot like this (it's great), but I like to pour it into a lightly greased dish and let it cool. Once cool you can cut it up anyway you like. Then I heated up a pan with some butter and fried it for 2-3 minutes on each side to get it a little crispy.
Baby Bok Choy
3-4 baby bok choy, removed from the main stem/base, whole
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
This works just fine with large/regular bok choy, I would just cut it up into large pieces. Wash the bok choy very thoroughly - mine was certainly gritty with sand & dirt. If using baby bok choy, leave them whole. Heat up 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan with a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and a pinch of saffron. Throw in the bok choy and toss to coat. Turn or toss them every so often, and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the leaves are mostly wilted and the white flesh starts to soften just a bit. You still want to have to be able to cut them up to eat them. Add a little salt at the end before tossing one final time.
Lingonberry & Pomegranate Reduction
1/4 Lingonberry syrup
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup honey
Combine everything into a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a bubble, and reduce the heat to medium. Let the mixture cook down by 1/3, stirring frequently. If the flavor is too tart, simply add more honey.
Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade
1 cup pistachios, shelled and toasted
1 cup pitted green olives
4 tablespoons capers
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
Zest of 2 lemons
12 lamb chops
Start with the tapenade. Combine the pistachios (lightly toasted in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes), olives, capers, garlic, oregano and parsley in a food processor. Once it is all combined, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to incorporate - it should become like a thick paste. Once the tapenade is at a consistency that you like, remove from food processor and set aside.
Most lamb chops come with 2 bone segments in each - I cut these in half creating small/petite lamb chops - one per rib bone. You can buy them like this, or buy a rack and cut them yourself. Make sure they've been out of the refrigerator for at least 10 - 15 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle salt & pepper over the chops to season.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat the bottom of a large saute pan generously with olive oil over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to get very hot - but not smoking. Sear the chops for about 2 minutes on each side. They should caramelize beautifully. Remove the chops from the heat, and cover each with a generous dollop of the tapenade. Place all of the chops in the oven (cookie sheet works really well) for 4-5 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
To combine all of this, I placed 4-5 pieces of polenta in the center of the plate. I then laid a small heap of bok choy on top of the polenta, and stacked the lamb chops over everything. Finally, drizzle around the plate and lightly over the chops with the lingonberry reduction.