November 2, 2010

Lamb Chops with Fennel, Rosemary and Garlic and Orzo with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus

Do you ever dread the question, "What's for dinner?" I do- sometimes I just do NOT have the time and energy to a) come up with a good idea, b) execute it well and c) be pleasant about it! We all get so tired being Moms and busy, what makes me even more defeated is that when you try new recipes they often disappoint and you feel like screaming, "Why did I spend so much time on this mediocre meal?!!!"

Maybe you share my frustration and you are looking for a new idea for dinner. Here is one that I guarantee is actually not that much time and work and it is really delicious. Plus, it's pretty healthy! You have protein with the lamb and with the Orzo you have vegetables and some carbohydrates (you don't have to make a vegetable AND a starch!). Our baby actually likes this Orzo, he picks out the roasted cherry tomatoes and eats them. Maybe your babies will like this too- and then, even BETTER, you don't have to make MORE things for dinner to keep everyone happy- we all know how happy that would make us, the Moms...

Ok, here we go!

Lamb Chops
3-4 lamb chops per person, i.e. one frenched rack of lamb for two people
Fennel and Rosemary rub (recipe follows)

Now I know what you're thinking... a recipe in a recipe, I HATE those! I do too. But here's the deal with the Fennel and Rosemary rub, you make it and it is good for a while in your pantry and the amount you make is good for multiple uses! That's one of the ways you can save yourself time here. The pork loin you can make with this rub is INSANE, truly, truly INSANE, I promise!

Fennel and Rosemary Rub
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon sea salt (or kosher salt, just try to use some type of large grain salt)
2 teaspoons black (or whatever color you have) peppercorns
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (also called dried crushed red pepper)
1 Tablespoon dried rosemary
Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet on medium heat for just a few minutes, until they turn a little brown and are fragrant. Transfer to a dish and allow to cool. I use a molcajete for this next step, you can use a mortar and pestle or a spice mill / pepper grinder. I don't know how easy it will be in a pepper mill, it might be hard to get all the ingredients out when you are done. Combine the ingredients and crush them, not so they make a fine powder, just so most of the peppercorns and fennel seeds are broken. I store this in a small jar and I use it a lot- on pork and lamb primarily. It's a similar concept to a rub you would use on ribs. It would probably make really good ribs, actually!

To prepare your lamb chops, cut apart the rack, I buy racks that are already frenched and then I just cut them into the individual chops. You want to do this a few hours ahead of when you are going to cook them, so you could do this in the early afternoon, or if that isn't convenient, you can actually do this either the morning of the day you plan to cook them or even the night before. You can just refrigerate them until you plan to cook them. The beauty of that is that your lamb chops will taste even better, they will have had more time for the garlic and the rub to infuse them with wonderful flavors. How many cloves of garlic you are going to use depends on the size of the cloves and how much garlic you want. I use a garlic press and I put roughly half of clove of garlic (the cloves are medium sized) on each side of each chop. That will be a pretty hearty dose of garlic, so if you want less, put less garlic on the meat. Then I take some of the rub and I sprinkle it liberally on both sides of the lamb chops.

Other than frying them in the pan, your lamb chops are done! Let them rest and absorb those wonderful flavors. You can make the Orzo in the meantime.

Orzo with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus
1 cup Orzo pasta
3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for tomatoes
1/2 of a yellow onion (medium to large in size), chopped
1/2 of a bunch of asparagus, rough ends removed, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine
8-12 ounces cherry tomatoes, (various colors and or grape tomatoes also will work)
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, liberally pour olive oil over the tomatoes, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, you want the skins to begin to wrinkle and some of them will have burst. In a large saute pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the onion for 5-10 minutes on medium heat, some browning is fine. Add the asparagus and cook for another 5 minutes, the asparagus will turn a little brighter in color, this is great, this means they are cooking through. Add the wine and allow the liquid to cook down almost completely, this will take another few minutes. In boiling, salted water, boil the Orzo until al dente. Remove from the boiling water and transfer to a bowl, pour the remaining two Tablespoons of olive oil over the pasta and stir- this will help it from sticking together. Add the onion and asparagus and the roasted tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste- and you are done! This is also great cold as a pasta salad.

To complete your meal, heat some olive oil in a frying pan until shimmering, using slightly above medium heat. Cook the lamb chops in batches, I usually take about 5-6 minutes on each side for medium, so cook them to your desired temperature. It will also depend on the thickness of the chops and your stove.
Enjoy! I guarantee this will be worth the effort and my husband, who is not in any danger of praising anyone or anything too much, was very happy!

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