Berbere-Spiced Lamb Chops
So I made this recipe (1) because it tastes ridiculously good, (2) because I’m also doing these for my holiday party this week so thought I would kill 2 birds with 1 stone and (3) because I thought I might be able to come up with an adequate substitute for berbere for those with limited access to ethnic food stores. #3 is giving me a really hard time.
Berbere is a key ingredient in Ethiopian cooking. It gives their stews that blood-red color and signature spiced flavor. Berbere comes in a ground form that’s a complex blend of dried chilies, garlic, ginger and red onion with such spices as fenugreek, ajwain, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric…Sometimes it’s mixed with red wine to form a paste. Like masala, it’s a subjective blend, and I am still perfecting mine…
Berbere as a dry rub on lamb chops is just heavenly. This dish is truly elegant and sinfully easy to make, particularly for a party. The chops come out a bit charred with a smoky, red pepper flavor, a bit garlicky with hints of the spice blend. I gave a quick and dirty substitute (without measurements) below, but I would advise going and tasting the real thing. Either pick up a packet of the spice at a local ethnic store or online or even walk into an Ethiopian restaurant and ask for a bit to try. Enjoy!
2 tsps berbere*
½ tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
1 rack of lamb, frenched and cut into single or double chops
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Combine berbere, ground mustard, pepper, and garlic powder. Rub onto chops. Season both sides with salt as desired. Let chops sit for about a half hour until they come up to room temperature.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Place chops in pan and cook 4 minutes each side for double chops and 2 to 3 minutes each side for single chops for medium rare.
Finish in the oven to desired level of doneness.
*To approximate, start with dried New Mexican chilies, which are a great base for the blend. I would seed and rib and then blend to a powder. Mix with a touch of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, and ajwain if you have it. Good luck!