By TARA O'BRADY
Special to The Globe and Mail
Saturday, April 7, 2018
My dream of April is one of rhubarb galettes, strawberries that taste like sunshine and shucking peas on the back porch. The reality of course is one that's far more grey and more freezer case than farmers' market.
That said, I conjure spring as best I can, with a dish that combines some classics of the season; lamb and peas brought together by an emerald green herb oil, against the milky softness of burrata.
(And yes, I'm making it with frozen petit pois.)
The peas are barely cooked, then smashed with oil and lemon. They're the furthest from mealy or pallid you can imagine, instead bouncily tender and acutely sweet. Dressed by the oil - which includes mint, a perennial partner to both peas and lamb - the peas have a grassy freshness and serve as both sauce and side to the meat. The idea is to have the peas and cheese cool, and then place the chops atop when still crackling with sizzle. Then, the burrata melts a bit, the peas warm in spots and the oil marries all. It is, in short, a very good way to ease the wait for sunnier days.
The recipe progresses in manageable steps, with few particulars to keep in mind. For the peas, if garden or shelling peas are in season and available to you, then buy and use the same day. For frozen, my aforementioned preference is for young peas, which are consistently flavourful and tender.
My sincere apologies for the multiple appliances employed here; neither does the other's job well enough to just use one and as my aim is to give you the best version of a recipe and its method, I endorse the use of both.
That said, I equally endorse cutting down on cleanup, so go forth confident in my blessing if you choose to keep the production to a singular electrical assistant.
When blitzing the herb oil, the best extra-virgin is of course a treat, but not essential, as the herbs might overpower its nuances. I'd advise an oil that tastes good on its own, rather than seeking out anything exceptional. Consider the herb quantities a loose guideline; I most often measure by handful, or by what's in the crisper drawer. The dill sprigs are included for their spindly prettiness more than their taste. Tarragon could neatly slide in instead.
LAMB WITH SMASHED PEAS INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4)
Herb oil Medium-grained kosher salt as needed
2 cups (30 grams) flat leaf parsley, loosely packed leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup (20 grams) basil leaves, loosely packed
1/2 cup (20 grams) mint leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup (10 grams) chives
2 dill sprigs, optional
1 cup good olive oil, see note Peas
2 garlic cloves, loose paper removed but unpeeled
21/2 cups (375 grams) peas, fresh or frozen, see note Medium-grained kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1 lemon Lamb
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon medium-grained kosher salt A good pinch dried chili pepper, such as maras, urfa or smoked paprika 8 rib lamb chops, Frenched or left whole, about
1-inch (2.5-cm) thick Olive oil, as needed To serve
1 pound (454 grams) burrata or fresh mozzarella Start by making the oil. Put a medium pot of salted water to boil over a medium-high flame. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. (Both the boiling and ice water will be used for first the herbs and then the peas later on, so do not discard either after making the oil.) Set a fine-meshed sieve over a large liquid measure or a jug with a pouring spout.
Pick a few leaves from the herbs for garnish and set aside.
Working in batches as necessary, blanch the rest of the herbs until brightly green, 10 to 15 seconds. As soon as they are unapologetically verdant, retrieve the herbs from their bath with tongs or a slotted spoon and plunge them into the prepared ice water to halt the cooking. Using your hands, squeeze the herbs over the sink to rid of excess water. Drop the wrung herbs into the carafe of an upright blender, along with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and the olive oil. Affix the lid and blend until smooth. Pour the oil through the fine-meshed sieve, scraping out the carafe with a silicone spatula. Allow the oil to drain on its own, resisting the compulsion to press down on the solids, or the oil will be murky. Allow to thoroughly drain before discarding the solids. Set aside as you pull together the rest of the meal.
For the peas, bring the pot of water back to a rolling boil if necessary. Pop the whole garlic cloves into the pot for 3 minutes, then tumble in the peas. Cook for 2 minutes more, at which point the peas should be intensely green and the garlic tender. Using a slotted spoon or colander, drain and move the peas and garlic to the ice bath. Let stand for 5 minutes to properly cool.
Use a Y-peeler to cut strips of lemon peel from half the fruit. Slice the strips into julienne. (Alternatively, grate into long strands with the smaller side of a box grater.) Keep aside.
Peel the garlic and add the cloves to the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade attached. Scoop in about 1 /2-cup of peas and whirr to a purée, stopping and scraping down the bowl as needed. Tip the rest of the peas into the processor with the juice from half the lemon, then secure the lid and pulse a few times - your aim is an uneven rubble, with some peas whole and some split. Texture is welcomed. Set aside at room temperature as you move on to the lamb.
In a non-reactive baking dish that will hold the lamb snugly, whisk together the buttermilk, coriander seed, cumin, kosher salt and dried chili flakes. Squeeze the second half of the lemon over all. Turn the lamb in the marinade, then cover and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
When the marinating time's almost up, finish the peas and prep the cheese. Discard the solids from the sieve. Fold 2 tablespoons of the herb oil into the peas, along with half the lemon zest. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Tear the burrata into chunks across a serving platter or individual plates.
Spoon the peas on and around the burrata. Dress with another tablespoon of herb oil.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin sheen of oil.
Scrape the marinade off the lamb chops then, working in batches if necessary, fry until golden brown and cooked to your liking, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare, and adding more olive oil as needed.
When the chops are ready, place them atop the burrata and peas and souse with oil. Strew the reserved zest and herbs across everything, and maybe bestow the meat with an extra smattering of salt. Serve immediately, offering more herb oil at the table. Any leftover oil can be stored, covered in the fridge. Use within a week.
TARA O'BRADY/THE GLOBE AND MAIL