Friday, September 26, 2014

Greek-Style Lamb Chops with Sautéed Dandelion

Inspired by the flavour and presentation of the Char-Grilled Ontario Lamb Chops served at Mamakas Taverna, a splendid Greek restaurant where we dined the other night, I found myself consumed with the notion to try and recreate the classic Aegean masterpiece at home. Known as Padiakia in Greece, which means 'small ribs', this traditional dish is fabulous served with Horta, steamed dandelion greens with fresh lemon juice and olive oil, and Patates sto Fourno, crisp golden roast potatoes. Although sometimes garnished with latholemono, a classic Mediterranean lemon and olive oil sauce, lamb chops are equally outstanding served over great puddles of cool and creamy Tzatziki. Never having prepared dandelion greens before, I was delighted to discover that this popular Greek staple, like most greens, is a nutritional powerhouse. Rich in potassium, antioxidants and vitamins, dandelion greens can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised, and bursting with flavour, are a healthy and delicious addition to this taverna-style menu of grilled New Zealand rack of lamb and pan-roasted new potatoes nestled over great swaths of tzatziki — Kalí óreksi!

Lamb chops marinating in olive oil, garlic, mustard, parsley, thyme, lemon juice and black pepper

Fresh whole dandelion greens

Washed, trimmed and chopped, the dandelions are blanched for 10 minutes until soft and tender

The greens are then drained in a colander and squeezed dry 

Olive oil, slivered garlic, cumin, salt and pepper are sautéed for about 5 minutes

The dandelion greens are then added and cooked for another 2-3 minutes

The new potatoes are halved and steamed for 10 minutes

The potatoes are then cooked in a non-stick frying pan for 3 minutes on each side 

The potatoes are golden brown and perfectly cooked

A dollop of tzatziki is brushed onto the serving board using a rounded kitchen palette knife

Lamb Chops with Sautéed Dandelion Greens & Roasted Potatoes
Serves 2

1 rack of New Zealand lamb, cut into single chops
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp of fresh thyme
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 lemon wedges and sprigs of rosemary, for garnish
1 cup tzatziki

Pan-Roasted New Potatoes:
12 new potatoes, washed and halved but not peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes

Dandelion Greens:
1 bunch dandelions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow glass baking dish, add the olive oil, garlic, mustard, parsley, thyme, lemon juice and black pepper, and stir to blend. Add the lamb chops and coat with the marinade, then cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. 

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl or sink with cold water and rinse the dandelion greens to get rid of any sand or debris, then place in a salad spinner to dry the leaves. Using a small knife, cut away the tough ends of each stalk then chop the leaves into 1 to 2-inch pieces. Place the chopped dandelions in large pot with enough salted water just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the greens and rinse with cold water, then drain again. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and set aside. 

Put the halved baby potatoes on to steam for 10 minutes. Once they are tender, turn off the heat under the steamer and allow to sit for 3 minutes. Bring the lamb chops to room temperature and preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add the cooked dandelion greens and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, and stir to combine. Cover and keep warm, but bring up to high heat just before serving. 

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat with olive oil and tip the steamed potatoes into the pan and fry for three minutes, then turn them over and fry for another three minutes, shaking the pan every now and again to make them tumble and turn until golden brown. Set aside and keep warm.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper, and grill for 3 minutes on each side for medium and still pink inside. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the chops, sprinkle with some sea salt and finish with some dried Greek oregano.

To serve, spoon a swath of tzatziki on each serving plate and centre the lamb chops, standing upright with the bone ends linking if you can, and garnish with sliced lemon and sprigs of rosemary. One one side of the lamb, arrange a portion of pan-roasted potatoes and on the other side, a spoonful of sautéed dandelion greens, and serve immediately.