I like the romance of a picnic.
But I also like to break the rules. So my picnics usually stretch beyond fried chicken confines. Because there are a lot of great choices that are perfectly suited to eating outdoors, slouched up against a tree with both hands held in front of your face, inhaling the experience of really good food served in a simple manner.
But picnics are more and more rare in my life. Maybe it’s the big city where I live, maybe it’s my age or our big city schedule. Maybe the ground is just further away than it used to be, but I don’t eat outdoors nearly as much as I should.
Lamb Chops with Savory Mint Sauce
It seems half my childhood meals were enjoyed on a blanket, even if that blanket was haphazardly strewn across the lawn behind our suburban Michigan house. Could these memories stem from the simple fact that air-conditioning was a luxury not yet enjoyed by our family? Could that be the reason I associate summer with outdoor dining?
Well whatever the reason, the weather is perfect and I have decided to take this meal outdoors. I’m presenting picnic food today– my kind of picnic food. Which means lamb chops grilled with peppercorns and served next to a savory mint dipping sauce.
I think lamb chops make great picnic food. Like a good old-fashioned drumstick they are perfect hand-held and devoured with or without utensils. Lamb bones are just as fun to gnaw on as chicken bones and lamb is equally good cold or hot.
Lamb’s complex flavor also makes it a great candidate for a sauce. Mint is a classic choice. But I’ll tell you the truth. I hate the Day-Glo green glob that often accompanies lamb. Too sweet. Too green. Too much!
So my sauce is super savory. I am using spearmint, which is very herbal in flavor and contains none of the menthol that gives peppermint its cool mouth sensation. My sauce also has a lot of garlic in it too, and is made slightly sour with the tangy bite of malt vinegar.
I am also serving it as a dipping sauce. Which means that this picnic does not even need plates. So pass the lamb and dip away. The weather is perfect, the earth smells sweet and the stars promise us a lovely show in the sky this night.
- 3⁄4 cup mint leaves, plus more sprigs for garnish
- 1⁄4 c water
- 3 T sugar
- 3⁄4 c malt vinegar, apple cider vinegar would be a good substitute
- 2 clv garlic, minced
- 3⁄4 t kosher salt, plus more for lamb, to taste
- 8 lamb chops
- 1 T olive oil
- multi colored peppercorns, lightly crushed, to taste
Make the dipping sauce: Put 1/2 cup of the mint leaves in a heat-proof medium-sized glass or stainless-steel bowl. In a small stainless-steel saucepan, bring the water to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
Stir in the vinegar, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Continue to cook 8 or 10 more minutes, until the sauce reduces some and gets slightly syrupy. Pour the mixture over the mint in the bowl. Let the sauce sit until completely cool. Finely mince the remaining mint leaves. Strain the sauce and add the minced mint.
Make the chops: Heat the grill to medium heat. Sprinkle chops with salt and the lightly crushed peppercorns, and grill until barely cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve warm or at room temperature with the reserved dipping sauce and mint sprigs if desired.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD
Lamb Chops with Savory Mint Sauce