In my continued effort to "Asiafy" every dish in the world, I made lamb chops using the classic Cantonese barbecuing method called "char siu." Typically used to flavor and barbecue pork, char siu involves marinating the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese five spice powder, hoisin sauce, and a sweetener like honey or sugar. The meat is then skewered on long forks or tines and roasted in an oven or sometimes over an open fire.
For my lamb chops, I chose to grill them on a grill pan. And since I'm always looking for ways to thoughtfully bridge Asian flavors with other cuisines (nope, I will not use the term "fusion," I refuse!), I paired my lamb chops with medjool dates (a Middle Eastern and North African staple), pickled fennel, mandarin oranges (another Asian ingredient), and mint (a classic pairing with lamb). I then tied the whole thing together with a date-balsamic glaze.
For maximum flavor, I marinated the lamb chops in my char siu mixture (hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, sugar, and salt) for a full 24 hours, but you don't have to be that diligent. A good four hours should be just fine. The marinade will allow the lamb chops to achieve a crispy caramelized crust, which is something you should always keep in the back of your mind, because no matter how bad life gets, a good caramelized crust alone is worth living for. Recipe below.
Adapted from Epicurious
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or dry Sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
18 rib lamb chops (about 3 pounds), well trimmed
16 ounces medjool dates
4 mandarin oranges, supremed
1/3 cup mint, chopped
For the pickled fennel:
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced with a sharp knife or on a mandoline
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the date-balsamic glaze:
1/2 cup pitted whole dates, chopped
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
- Whisk first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or tupperware. Add lamb to bag or tupperware and turn to coat evenly. Marinate in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
- To pickle the fennel, whisk together the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper in a bowl or tupperware. Add the fennel and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Supreme the mandarin oranges, or just throw in whole slices if you don't want to deal with the fuss.
- Preheat your grill pan on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until a drop of water steams and sizzles when it hits the pan. Remove the lamb from the marinade, but keep some of it clinging. Throw them onto the grill pan along with a handful of dates (you'll have to grill the lamb and dates in batches). Grill lamb until slightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, about 21/2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter.
- While lamb is grilling, add the ingredients for the glaze into a sauce pot and cook on medium heat until the sauce has thickened. Be careful not to let it burn or over-reduce.
- Serve with chopped mint.