- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you’re looking for a new lamb dish for a dinner menu, chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s double lamb chops with tomato-bread pudding could bring your recipe search to a happy halt.

A timely plus: It could also give the home grilling team a chance to show off its skills, but it’s not a hard workout.

The lamb is cooked on the grill, then complemented with the savory side dish of fresh tomatoes layered with sliced baguette, flavored with basil and parsley, brushed with olive oil, marinated and baked to crisp around the edges.

Want to talk up nutrition as well as great taste? Well, then, the cook can drop in a reference to the summery benefits of good, fresh produce plus simply grilled protein.

Mr. Zakarian is owner-chef of two successful New York City restaurants, respectively named Town and Country. He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who worked his way up through stints at other famous eateries on way to taking charge of his own places.

His new — and first — cookbook is “Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town and Country” (Clarkson Potter). The book is a study of 65 ingredients that he uses constantly, with recipes for each in a dressed-up “town” version as well as a rustic “country” style.

“It’s nearly impossible to cook thin lamb chops so they’re nicely caramelized, lightly charred, and tasty on the outside without overdoing them on the inside,” he says. “This recipe solves that dilemma by calling for double chops, which have two rib bones each and are at least 2 inches thick.

“The extra thickness translates to longer cooking time on the grill, which means better flavor development. With just one double chop per entree serving, each diner gets a big, juicy dose of ‘lambiness.’

“Make sure you buy really good, ripe tomatoes for the pudding. It’s a lovely rustic accompaniment for the lamb. Imagine the best tomato and bread sandwich, or a perfect bruschetta, baked in the oven to lock in all the flavors — and that’s what you have.”

A note on timing: “The lamb chops are marinated in their rub overnight in the refrigerator. The tomato-bread pudding should also be prepared in advance; you can time it to finish baking and rest just as you’re grilling the lamb chops, preferably, or you can complete the entire process in advance and then reheat the pudding.”

About the ingredients, he says: “Lamb chops come from the shoulder, rib or loin section of the animal. The loin chops are farther back on the animal. The rib chops make up a rack before it’s sliced into chops; they are leaner and very tender. For this recipe, you can use almost any type, but I recommend rib chops. Have your butcher ‘french’ the chops, which means to trim them in the same manner as a crown rack of lamb, removing all excess fat and gristle from the bones (and exposing them as perfect little ‘handles’ to pick up the chop if you like).”

Grilled double lamb chops with tomato-bread pudding

LAMB CHOPS:

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced shallots ( small shallot)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the grill rack

1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

6 double lamb rib chops (each about 8 ounces), frenched

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 small sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Tomato-bread pudding (recipe follows)

To marinate the chops overnight: Place the rosemary, garlic, shallots, olive oil and mustard in a small mixing bowl; stir until thoroughly combined. Rub the mixture all over the lamb chops, place them in a dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (The chops can also be marinated in large resealable plastic bags.) Marinate overnight.

To grill the lamb chops: Prepare a hardwood charcoal fire in an outdoor grill. Let the coals burn down until they’re grayish white on the outside and glowing red on the inside.

Position the rack 4 to 5 inches above the coals. The fire should be hot; you should be able to hold your hand 5 inches above the grill for no more than 5 seconds — any longer and the fire isn’t hot enough. (For gas grills, use medium heat.)

Drain the lamb chops, discarding the marinade. Season the chops generously with salt and pepper. Lightly oil the rack. Place the lamb chops on the rack and grill until medium-rare (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part will indicate a temperature of 125 degrees) about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb chops to a platter, lightly cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Garnish the chops with parsley sprigs and serve with tomato-bread pudding. Makes 6 servings.

TOMATO-BREAD PUDDING

12 ripe medium tomatoes (about 3 pounds)

3 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing the dish

1 large baguette, sliced on the bias about 3/4 inch thick

5 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

5 tablespoons finely chopped basil

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Core the tomatoes, and blanch in the boiling water for about 30 seconds to loosen the skins. Transfer the tomatoes to a strainer. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and position the strainer over a medium bowl; scoop the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes into the strainer. Press the pulp to extract as much of the juice as possible.

Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, on a large plate. Sprinkle with the garlic and season moderately with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Pour any accumulated juice into the strained tomato juice.

Preheat a cast-iron grill pan or preheat the broiler. Brush the baguette slices on both sides with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive and grill or broil until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Season the toasts with salt and pepper and transfer to a large plate. Grill or broil the tomatoes on one side until lightly charred, about 3 minutes, then return to the plate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 3-by-9-inch baking dish. Arrange half the tomatoes on the bottom, pressing them down with a spatula. Sprinkle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons each of the parsley and basil; season generously with salt and pepper.

Top the tomatoes with half the toasted baguette slices. Repeat the procedure with the remaining tomatoes, 2 tablespoons each of the parsley and basil, and the remaining toast. Pour about 1 cup of the juice evenly over the bread pudding.

Place a piece of aluminum foil over the pudding, weighing it down with another pan. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the liquid is absorbed and the tomatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the weight and foil and bake until the top of the pudding is crisp, about 10 minutes more. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of parsley and basil, and serve. Makes 6 servings.


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