One of the enduring pleasures of living in San Diego is the tremendous access we have to wonderful ethnic foodstuffs.
That this would be so for latin ingredients is not surprising. Given the proximity to Mexico and the large Latin American population it could hardly be otherwise. From innumerable small corner markets to the massive Gonzalez Northgate Market on 43rd street off of the 805 (think hole-in-the-wall Hispanic market done up as Whole Foods) it is easy to find good and inexpensive Mexican ingredients.
A little more surprising for me was how many wonderful Asian markets there are in the area. From 99 Ranch Market and Thuang Phat in the Kearney Mesa area to a series of excellent Korean and Japanese shops, the challenges of Asian cuisine for a San Diegan do not include finding the raw materials.
Perhaps most surprising to me was how easy it is to find Middle Eastern ingredients. Vine Ripe Market in La Mesa is something of an emporium. International Foods in Kearney Mesa has recently been remodeled and expanded. But my favorite Middle Eastern markets continue to be North Park Produce on Wilson Avenue off of El Cajon Boulevard and their even bigger outpost in Poway.
With a trip to Turkey on our summer docket we’ve been spending a lot of time at North Park Produce lately. One of our new favorite Turkish dishes is called Hünkar Beğendi (which variously translates into English as “The Sultan Approves” or “Sultan’s Delight”) and is traditionally a lamb stew served over creamed eggplant. We wanted to take the classic flavors and present them in accord with our culture’s obsession with the tender cuts such as the lamb chops used here.
Roast Lamb Chops with Eggplant-Kasseri Cream
For the Lamb Chops:
- 7 lamb chops
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano (or 3-4 sprigs fresh)
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher Salt
For the Eggplant-Kasseri Cream:
- 2 pounds eggplant
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup unsalted butter (one stick)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 cups light cream
- 1 cup grated Kasseri cheese (sometimes called “Kashkaval”)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher Salt
For the Garnish
- Parsley Oil
- Pomegranate reduction
- Marinate the Lamb Chops. Combine all of the lamb chops ingredients except for the meat and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and work to a puree. Marinate the lamb chops in the puree for at least half an hour (overnight would be better).
- Roast and Prepare the Eggplant. If roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 425°F. Using a skewer prick the skin of the eggplants in several places to allow the heat to penetrate. Either over a grill, over a gas flame or in the oven, roast the eggplant until the skins blister black, up to about 20 minutes. Remove the eggplant to the sink and allow it to cool. Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice with three cups of water. When the eggplants are cool, peel the skin and the seeds placing the pulp into the acidulated water. Let them stand for ten minutes. Transfer the pulps to a strainer and it of excess water, pressing the pulps lightly against the strainer. Puree the eggplant pulp in a food processor. Reduce the heat in the oven to 375°F
- Cook the Eggplant Cream. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat, then stir in the flour to form a roux and cook for two to three minutes, stirring regularly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cream slowly until a thick white sauce without lumps has formed. Return the saucepan to the burner and stir in the pureed eggplant, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese and whisk regularly for four minutes. Place the eggplant cream in the bowl of a Vitamix (or other high speed blender) and puree to a fine, sauce-like texture. Adjust the seasoning.
- Roast the Lamb Chops. Remove the lamb chops from the marinade. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan until just short of the smoking point. Add the lamb chops and cook until browned, approximately three minutes per side. Transfer the sauté pan to the oven and cook to the desired level of doneness. Medium rare should take about ten minutes. Transfer to a platter and allow the chops to rest. Arrange two lamb chops around the cream placed at the center of a dish. Garnish with the parsley oil and pomegranate reduction.