Thursday, April 12, 2012

Herb Roasted Lamb Chops with Aparagus And a Baked Potato

         If Spring has a food, I can think of two things that fit the season perfectly. The first is lamb, so associated with Easter in both liturgy and on the Easter Table.  The second is Asparagus, which is never better than when it is local and abundant.  Putting the two together is a natural. Today’s post is not for a roast leg of lamb at all.  Rather these loin lamb chops start the cooking process on the stove and then finish in a hot oven.  They couldn’t be easier and they’re perfect for a weeknight dinner.  What’s surprising here is how much flavor the very simple and fast herb marinade gives you.  In thirty minutes to an hour, you’ll achieve a very tasty lamb chop. Alas, the Asparagus I used was not local – it will be June before it breaks ground on Long Island.  But the stuff in the stores was so tempting that I gladly brought it home.  And finally, I put a couple of Russet potatoes in the oven and baked them.  Andrew couldn’t remember the last time he’d had one but what had we been missing!

         Potatoes in general get a bad rap which has little or nothing to do with the tubers themselves and everything to do with what is loaded into and onto them.  A Baked Potato has a lot to recommend itself: The skin, which is full of vitamins, becomes wonderfully chewy.  And the flesh of the potato inside emerges from the oven fluffy and light.  A potato itself, flesh only, weighing 5.5 ounces contains 145 calories. It has only trace amounts of fat, 34 grams of “good” carbohydrates and 3 grams of protein. The skin of a potato, weighing 2 ounces, adds 115 calories, 27 grams of carbs and 2.5 grams of protein. But the skin adds fiber -- 4.6 grams compared with the 2 grams found in the flesh. The flesh is higher in sugar, with 3 grams, compared with the skin, at less than 1 gram. And there’s more.  The skin of the potato gives you eight times as much iron as the flesh. The flesh is a great source  source of magnesium, and both skin and flesh are equal in  phosphorus and zinc content.  And there’s copper, and copious amounts of potassium—more than in a small banana. But beware the dangers of the baked potato.
Andrew proved you can enjoy a
Baked Potato without a hint of butter or
Sour Cream--just a sprinkling of Scallions.
         You can quickly turn baked potatoes from a healthy low-calorie dish to a double-cheeseburger in grams of fat and calories. It all depends on what you choose to use for the topping and how much of the topping you use. Sour cream contains 23 calories per tablespoon, while butter packs a whopping 102 calories per tablespoon.  So if you add just a tablespoon of butter and one of sour cream you are still at  all of 385 calories.  The problem is people do not limit themselves to tablespoon servings of butter and sour cream, and they can watch the calorie count soar.  That old ‘moderation in all things’ certainly applies here. I stuck to very little sour cream and butter. Andrew eschewed them altogether and just stuck with a sprinkling of scallions over the top.   Here are the recipes:

Recipe for Baked Potatoes
Start the potatoes before starting anything else on the menu. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees.
Choose firm starchy potatoes like Red Russet or Idaho Potatoes. They are best for baking.  Take the potatoes and scrub them.  Use a fork
to prick the potatoes so that steam will escape.  Put the potatoes directly on the rack in the oven.  If you marinate the lamb chops for one half hour, the potatoes will be ready when you take the lamb chops out of the oven.  Now, make the lamb chops.

Recipe for Herb Roasted Lamb Chops from Bon Appetit

4 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 1 1/4-inch-thick lamb loin chops

Mix first 4 ingredients and 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl. Add lamb; turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add lamb; cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast lamb chops to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer lamb to platter, cover, and let rest 5 minutes.
Recipe for Cooking Asparagus
1 bunch of Fresh Asparagus
Highly salted water
Salt and Pepper
Once the lamb chops go in the oven, start the asparagus.
With a sharp knife cut off the bottom inch and a half to two inches of the asparagus stems. 
Fill a large sauté pan halfway up the sides with cold water.  Add plenty of salt.  This will ensure that your Asparagus stays green.  Put your asparagus in the pan and bring the water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, check the asparagus for tenderness with a sharp knife. It should take about 10 minutes to cook but this varies with the thickness of the asparagus.  Drain the pain of the water, judiciously butter the cooked asparagus then add salt and pepper to taste.