Iceland is expensive

Lamb chops with garlic parsley crust*

Issue 45 September 2007 p. 66-68 (no link found online)

Rice pilaf with vermicelli

p. 130

getting all artsy with the angles

getting all artsy with the angles

Shopping at Whole Foods makes me lose all sense of the value of money.  Everything is so expensive, and you’ve already committed yourself to shopping at Whole Foods, so you might as well just go nuts.  I can’t seem to make it out of there without panicking and buying a bottle of wine from a display just because it said something vague like “yummy with beef.”  Yummy with beef?  I’d be stupid not to buy it!  $100 later, I trundle out to the car a broke(n) woman.

This trip was no different.  You see, this recipe calls for a lamb chop.  Does lamb have a season?  It should be spring, right?  Because that’s when baby animals are born?  Something about Easter?  Anyway, my goofy grocery store has entire sides of lamb around Easter.  I don’t want to talk about what a side of lamb looks like sitting in a meat case.  It looks sad.  Anyway, when I went shopping neither the sides of lamb nor any other pieces of the lamb were available.  I should have tried a couple local butchers in the neighborhood.  I really should have.  But my grocery store was also all out of yellow squash.  What magical place would have out-of-season meat and out-of-season vegetables?  Probably Whole Foods.  Sigh.  Whole Foods also sells bulk bacon, which is nice for when you just need it for a recipe and don’t want to buy a whole pound.

*panicked breathing*

*panicked breathing*

I’ll cut to the chase.  I purchased $17.99 per pound Icelandic lamb chops. Here’s the actual text message exchange between B and me in response to these chops:

G: This lamb had better be spectacular.  $17.99/lb at whole foods.  Meep!

B: Gah!  That’s ridiculous!!!  [Did] the sheep graze in pristine alpine meadows and drink nothing but glacial spring water?!

G: Im sure they lived an infinitely better life than I have.  In Norway.  That’s right.  Norway.

B: Well I hear the Scandinavians have a great lifestyle

. . .

G: Oh and the lamb was from Iceland.  Even more absurd.  But oh was it good!!

B: Yum!  Maybe the lamb regularly immersed itself in hot springs to make it extra tender.  That might make it worth $17.99 /lb

Hot spring bath or no, this was very good lamb.  It was delicious and tender and lovely.  In fairness to the good people at MSLO, this is supposed to be a Cooking for One recipe.  I could have saved money by not feeding D.  The spinach was nice, but it was really just there as a foil for that lovely lamb.  If you make this, and I hope you do, please note that there is no reason (except for fussiness) not to get your lemon wedge from the same lemon that provided the zest.  It’s an ugly wedge, but it saves you from buying another lemon just for the wedge.  Also, be confident, but gentle, when placing these chops in the pan.  Press all you like, these suckers are going to shed some crust when you place them and when you flip them.  Speaking of which, take their advice and use tongs.  Finally, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between the lamb and the spinach.  Because the lamb chops shed some of their topping, some of it gets burned sitting in the oil with no lamb to keep it in check.  There’s really no reason to cook the spinach in burned crumbs.

The rice pilaf was a rice pilaf.  It was buttery.  It was a little rich with the butter and broth, but not too much so.  It had pasta in it, which is always nice.  Here’s a question, dear readers, do you recognize this as Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat)?  The MSLO website tries to be coy about this by calling it “our homemade rendition of a long-popular packaged side…”  Nudge. Wink.  Another question: D and I both grew up believing that the long pieces in Rice a Roni were long grains of rice.  Anyone else think this?  It’s ok to admit it.  This recipe reveals that those are, of course, pieces of pasta.

I did not, in fact, use vermicelli.  I used what Aldi calls whole wheat “thin spaghetti.”  What is vermicelli if not thin spaghetti?  Speaking of the pasta, the recipe has you cut the pasta into little pieces with kitchen shears and set it aside before you cook the rest.  This is dumb for a couple reasons.  First of all, you add the rice, pasta, and oil together before you cook them all for 3-5 minutes.  That gives you enough time to snip the little pasta pieces into the pan while the other ingredients get started.  All you sacrifice is a little extra cooking of the raw pasta strands.  Second, cutting the pasta over the pot contains the wildly ricocheting strands and keeps you from having to gather all that up again into a nice, neat pile until you’re ready for them.  Just cut the pasta over the pot when it’s time to add it.

It’s a nice side, and it complemented the lamb and spinach very nicely.  Oh, and in a little more blog synergy, we had the citrus spritzers as a before dinner drink.  Stay tuned for more about that.

*Recipe for the chops and spinach

prep time: 20 minutes; total time: 25 minutes.  This recipe is pretty much all prep and very brief periods of cooking

(NOTE: original recipe is a Cooking for One recipe.  I doubled it to feed me and D)

  • 2 T plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedge for serving (if you don’t care if it’s cute, you can get the wedge from the denuded lemon)
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 4 loin lamb chops (3-5 oz each)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, stems trimmed (I don’t think I actually doubled this part.  I thought a whole bunch of spinach per person seemed excessive, even if it is cooked down)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, zest, and 2 t of the oil; season with salt and pepper.  Dividing that breadcrumb goo equally between the four chops, press the mixture firmly on one side of the chop.  This works…ok.  Just press hard, set it to the side on a flat surface and resign yourself to a mess.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 t oil over medium.  Working gently, but confidently and quickly (lest the crumbs fall off) place the chops, crumb side down; season with S & P again.  Cook until crust is browned, 3-4 minutes; using tongs, turn even more gently than you did before, and cook 4-6 minutes more for medium rare.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil just to keep the chops warm.  Wipe out the skillet because there are probably burned bits in it.
  3. Add spinach to skillet; season with S & P.  Cook, tossing, until wilted, 1-3 minutes.  Serve lamb with spinach and lemon wedges.

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 66-68

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