Braised Lamb Chops with Tomatoes and Red Wine
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Winter is still here, and nothing beats the winter chill than rich, braised meats. Slow cooking turns the connective tissue that makes meat tough into gelatin, which is soft, moist and full of flavor. Spring is around the corner, though, so I want something that is quick and doesn't heat up the kitchen. Thanks to the people at Cooks Illustrated, I've found a recipe that is full of flavor, uses a reasonably inexpensive cut of meat, pairs beautifully with wine, and is quick enough to make from scratch after work.

This recipe, called Braised Lamb Chops with Tomatoes and Red Wine, uses shoulder chops, one of the least expensive cuts of lamb. It calls for very few ingredients, including garlic, an onion, canned diced tomatoes, some herbs (they recommend fresh, but I substitute dry when I have to), and red wine. Cooking time is about a half hour (20 minutes unattended); prep time is about 15 minutes.

Nothing goes as well with braised meat as Chateauneuf du Pape. This classic wine from the southern Rhone valley of France is a blend of up to 14 grapes, but are usually made primarily with Grenache, with some Syrah and Mourvedre. Its full flavor matches the richness of the meat, has the acidity to pair with the tomatoes and the wine, and fruit and herb flavors to enhance your enjoyment of the dish. At a lower price point, Chateauneuf's neighbors from Gigondas and Vacqueyras are terrific substitutes.

Braised Lamb Chops with Tomatoes and Red Wine

Because they are generally leaner, round bone chops, also called arm chops, are preferable for this braise. If available, however, lean blade chops also braise nicely. Serves 4

  • 4 lamb shoulder chops, about 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of external fat
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes packed in puree, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosmary

1. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. Cooking in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding, add chops; saute until brown on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.

3. Pour fat from pan; return pan to medium heat, adding remaining tablespoon of oil. Add onion; saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add wine; simmer until reduced by half, scraping browned bits from pan bottom with wooden spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then return chops to pan. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until chops are cooked through but tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer chops to each of four plates. Stir parsley into braising liquid; simmer until sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, spoon portion of sauce over each chop, and serve.

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