The influence of Moorish Spain can be seen here in the blend of spices in the marinade, but the sauce is pure Mexican—a classic combination of tomatillos and pasilla chiles, which are dried ripe poblano chiles with a rich, fruity flavor.
Lamb Chops with Pasilla Chile Sauce
For the lamb:
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. ancho chile powder
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 fresh oregano sprigs, minced
- 6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, minced
- 12 to 18 thick-cut bone-in lamb rib chops, each 4 to 6 oz. (125 to 180 g)
For the sauce:
- 4 large dried pasilla chiles (about 2 oz./60 g)
- 2 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1/4 yellow onion, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1/8 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican, rubbed
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) chicken stock
1. To prepare the lamb, in a bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, ancho powder, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp. salt, a sprinkling of pepper, the oregano and parsley to make a paste. Smear the paste evenly to coat all sides of the lamb chops. Marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or in the refrigerator up to overnight.
2. To make the sauce, heat a heavy griddle over medium-high heat. Remove the stems from the chiles, then cut a slit up one side of each chile and remove the seeds. Open the chiles up flat. One at a time, press the chiles flat onto the hot griddle until blistered and light brown. Turn and repeat. Tear into small pieces and set aside.
3. In a 2-quart (2-l) saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the tomatillos, onion, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatillos are barely soft, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the chiles to the saucepan and press down into the hot liquid. Let soak for 15 minutes.
4. Place the contents of the saucepan, including the cooking liquid, in a blender. Add the oregano and puree until the sauce is completely smooth, 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup (180 ml) of the chicken stock and pulse to combine. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve or food mill to remove all particles of chile skin. Rinse out the blender with the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) stock and add to the sauce. You will have about 2 cups (500 ml) sauce. (At this point, the sauce may be refrigerated and reheated just before serving.)
5. Preheat a gas grill or cast-iron grill pan on high heat, or position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) below the broiler and preheat on high. Cook the chops, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chops away from the bone registers 130°F (54°C) for medium-rare, or until cooked to your desired doneness. For smaller chops, the cooking time may be as brief as 2 to 3 minutes per side.
6. Serve the chops on warmed plates, passing the sauce in a separate bowl. Serves 6.
Bring a true taste of Mexico to your table with our mouthwatering collection of down-home dishes in Rustic Mexican, by Deborah Schneider.