Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with English Mint Sauce

     English Comfort Food!
     Sweet sour vinegar and sugar sauces were popular during the Medieval Age in Europe.  Vinegar and sugar sauces for accompanying meats were part of French cuisine at that time in history, but sweet sour vinegar sauces pretty much faded out of existence when the haute cuisine trend began in the late 1600's.  English and Scandinavian cuisines both continued to use vinegar sugar sauces through modern times.  Scandinavian Hovmästarsås is a good example of a modern version of a Medieval style sweet sour sauce for meat.  English Mint Sauce is another prime example.

     There are a few different variations of English Mint Sauce.  Barley Malt Vinegar is the main ingredient in all English Mint Sauce recipes.  The mint sauce can be made by boiling malt vinegar and sugar together or it can simply be mixed at room temperature.       
     One definition of English mint sauce that I recently read, stated that English mint sauce sauce should be as thick as double cream, but this is not necessarily true.  This definition would require cooking malt vinegar and sugar till it becomes a syrup and then adding enough finely minced mint to create a puree sauce consistency.  This version of English mint sauce is thick enough to spread on toast and it basically mimics an Indian Mint Chutney.  The thick version of this sauce is not what English cooks usually make for lamb.
     Many old Medieval recipes for sweet sour sauce were simply vinegar and sugar or honey mixed together with no cooking involved.  Simplicity and uncomplicated distinct flavor combinations are recurring themes in English cuisine.  "The simpler, the better" is a good expression to keep in mind when cooking English food.  This expression certainly applies to making a traditional English mint sauce.  
     The most common version of English mint sauce is as simple as it gets.  Malt vinegar is mixed with sugar at room temperature, till a balance of sweet sour flavor is achieved.  Then a copious amount of minced fresh mint is added.  The sauce is not thick in any way.  This style of English mint sauce is very thin, yet full of infused mint flavor.  This is the most common version of English mint sauce and it is served as an accompaniment for lamb at many English pubs.  
     There are local variations of thin English mint sauce.  The variations are also very simple.  A pinch of white pepper or black pepper can be added.  Salt can be added.  Minced sweet onion or minced shallot is sometimes added to the sauce.  
     Not only is a thin English mint sauce easy to make, it is a real crowd pleaser.  English vinegar sauces traditionally accompany strong tasting meat, like lamb, mutton or wild game.  The vinegar sauce mellows the strong tasting meat flavor so well, that even those who do not like the flavor of lamb will find the entrée to be quite palatable.  
     Tourné Vegetables
     Tourné translates to turn.  The word turn refers to the arching motion of a knife blade when making turned vegetables.  
     There are three tourné sizes.  Olivette, Chatreau and Fondonte.  Tourné cut vegetables and potatoes should be no wider than 1/2" to 3/4", depending on the length.  The finished tourné should have a symmetric football shape.  Potatoes and root vegetables are always are turned so they have 7 sides.  Other vegetables like zucchini can have 5 sides.   
     Olivette Tourné is the most common and it is usually just called Tourné.  Standard Olivette Tourné measure 1" to 2" in length.  The width can vary, but the width of each type of vegetable should be uniform.   
     Chateau Tourné are larger than Olivette and smaller than Fondonte Tourné.  Chateau Tourné are 2" to 2 1/2" in length.  
     Fondonte Tourné are about 3" to 3 1/2" in length.  Some European chefs say it is okay to exceed the length limitation for certain applications.  
     • For today's recipe:
     Cut 3 Olivette Tourné potatoes.
     Cut 2 Olivette Tourné carrots that are slightly thinner than the potatoes.
     Place the tourné carrots and potatoes in a container of cold water to prevent oxidation.  

     Curry Tourné Carrots & Potato:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add the 3 tourné potatoes.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Simmer till the potatoes just start to become tender.  Add a splash of water, if the liquid evaporates.  Turn the potatoes in the liquid occasionally, so they cook evenly.
     Step 3:  Add the 2 tourné carrots.  
     Simmer, till the carrots and potatoes become tender, but not mushy.  Allow the sauce to reduce, till the excess liquid evaporates and the sauce can easily cling to the vegetables.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Keep the curry tourné carrots and potatoes warm on a stove top. 
     English Mint Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 generous portion of English Mint Sauce!  
     There are a few versions of English Mint Sauce.  Some are as thick as mint chutney.  Today's recipe is a popular version of mint sauce that has a very thin consistency.   
     English mint sauce is made with three basic required ingredients, which are malt vinegar, sugar and mint.  Anything else added to the recipe is considered to be an optional ingredient.  
     One thing to keep in mind is that all malt vinegar is not created equal!  Some are sharp and some taste mellow.  No matter what the amount of sugar is printed in a mint sauce recipe, adjusting the amount of sugar to taste is necessary. 
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 ounces of English malt vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
     Stir till the sugar dissolves.
     *Taste the mixture to check the sweet and sour flavor balance.  If necessary, adjust the flavor by adding more sugar.  The flavor should be sweet, yet tart.  
     Step 2:  Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  (optional)
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced shallot or minced sweet onion.  (optional)
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint leaves.  (Spearmint)
     Stir the sauce.
     Allow the sauce to stand for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Sautéed Portobello Mushroom Garnish:
     Cut 3 small portobello mushrooms into quarter wedges.
     Saute the mushrooms in unsalted butter over medium heat, till they are tender.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the garnish warm on a stove top

     Grilled Lamb Loin Chops: 
     Some chefs call Lamb Loin Chops "Lamb T-Bones."  There really is no such thing as a Lamb T-Bone.  This misleading name is just a marketing tool.  
     Lamb Loin Chops have more meat than Rib Chops.  Loin Chops are cut thicker than rib chops.  Lamb Loin Chops sell for a much lower price than rib chops or a rack of lamb.  
     In English restaurant and pub kitchens, grilling usually refers to cooking on a stainless steel flat top grill or a cast iron griddle and it does not refer to cooking on a chargrill.  The cooking technique is the same as pan searing or sautéing.  A sauté pan or cast skillet can be used to grill food English style.  
     For medium well to well done Lamb Loin Chops, it is best to grill the chops till they are medium rare, then finish cooking the chops in a 350ºF - 400ºF oven, so excessive browning does not occur.
     Step 1:  Season 3 Lamb Loin Chops with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a cast iron griddle or a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil or clarified unsalted butter.
     Grill the chops, till they are cooked to the preferred finish temperature.  Turn the chops occasionally, so they cook evenly.  
     Step 3:  Place the grilled loin chops on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let them rest for about 1 minute. 

     Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with English Mint Sauce ~ Curry Tourné Carrots & Potato:
     Mound the sautéed mushroom quarters on the center of a plate.
     Place the grilled loin chops on the front half of the plate, so the bone on each chop butts up against the mushrooms.
     Place the curry carrots & potatoes on the back half of the plate.  Spoon a little bit of the curry sauce over the vegetables.
     Place a few Italian Parsley leaves on the mushroom garnish.
     Place the English Mint Sauce in a small sauce boat or a ramekin and serve it on the side.

     This is really a simple entrée to make.  A simple clutter free clean presentation works best and it adds class.  Nobody ever said that food has to be complicated to be great!  

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