When we spent New Years in Niagara Falls a few years back we found ourselves on the terrace of a small restaurant not far from the Falls. It was a little touristy, but after a few drinks and some laughs with the other patrons it didn’t matter much (sidebar: It was here that I tried a Zombie cocktail, made with crème de menthe, for the first time… It was awful. Not all mint is created equally). Anyway, for the festivities they spit-roasted whole legs of lamb, slicing them to order. The meat itself was delicious; smoky, garlicky, seasoned wonderfully with aromatic spices. All of this, and it was almost negated, in my mind at least, when they brought little packets of mint jelly to the table. The meat was so good, so special, it almost seemed that to slather it in emerald green, wobbling, sugar-gel would mar it indefinitely, like putting catsup on a filet mignon. The funny thing was that even this mint, suspended in its glucose and gelatin tomb, was delicious. It’s a classic combination, but it was here that it somehow made sense and stuck with me. Which brings me to this…
I can’t quite remember when I started making this, or where the exact idea or inspiration originated from, but I’ve been doing it so long now that it’s practically engrained in my kitchen repertoire. It’s easy enough to make this to feed more people if you want—and it’s so good and just as easy to, why wouldn’t you?—but what’s important here is that there’s no reason to.
I love lamb with tzatziki, that cooling and creamy sauce of Greek yogurt, garlic, and cucumber; this time though, rather than just pumping it full of fresh, anisey dill as usual, I stir in equal amounts of mint. It’s not something that I do exclusively to the sauce for lamb—I love tzatziki this way with my grilled chicken thigh gyros, a real summer favorite—but it is something I always do with lamb. Sure, other herbs work just as well with lamb, but there’s something about the clean flavors of dill and mint that seem to tame the wilder tastes of the meat, particularly the fattier cuts, which are perhaps the most intense.
Kirby cucumbers, those little pickling cukes, makes it easy to make the perfect single-serving of tzatziki; just grate the whole thing end to end, no need to remove the seeds, and press on some paper towel to remove all the excess moisture. This way you don’t have most of a full-sized cucumber left knocking around in your fridge, taunting and pressuring you to make a salad or something with it later.
More often than not I use lamb shoulder blade or arm chops. They’re incredibly flavorful and have just enough fat to them to keep them moist and juicy, without needing extensive cooking times to make them tender (though they can be braised, too). They’re usually quite thin so they cook to the perfect medium-rare with just a minute or two in the pan on each side, making them perfect for quick cooking. To top it all off, they’re one of the most economical cuts, so you can make them for a crowd without breaking the bank. The last time around, though, I couldn’t resist the sale on traditional lamb chops when I saw them in the store. I had NO regrets.
And then there are the beans. They’re my nod to serving blistered bits of finely diced or ground lamb over hummus. Once the lamb comes out of the pan—a quick trip if there ever was one—I shake some whole cumin and sesame seeds into the pan just to toast them a bit and get their oils flowing. Then quickly, as not to let the seeds burn, tip in a can’s worth of drained and rinsed chickpeas to warm them through in the garlicky and spiced oil before squeezing in some fresh lemon. I hate myself for saying it already, but it’s kind of like deconstructed hummus. Oh, wait… Lazy person’s hummus. That’s better. That, with the lamb and tzatziki, is the perfect low effort Mediterranean meal.
Speaking of the beans; it might seem excessive to have an entire can of beans for just yourself but, practically speaking, it doesn’t make much sense to open a can and not use the entire thing—one of the rules I try to abide by when cooking for one—not to mention any leftover beans and tzatziki are great smashed and slathered over a pita for a midnight fridge-raid.
Cooking for one can be delicious and not the least bit daunting so if you want more craveable recipes like this, follow me on BLOGLOVIN’.