Greek-inspired, weeknight-easy: Lamb chops with feta and olives

A marinade with red wine vinegar and lemon juice quickly tenderizes flavorful lamb shoulder chops. Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion and lemon zest add even more flavor.

Blue Kitchen
A marinade with red wine vinegar and lemon juice quickly tenderizes flavorful lamb shoulder chops.

For me, grabbing lamb when I see it in the store is almost automatic. Ground lamb for weeknight-quick burgers, cooked rare, a leg of lamb for a special holiday feast or maybe lamb rib chops when I’m feeling extravagant. Or, most often, lamb shoulder chops – cheap, flavorful and with a chewiness that can be easily tamed with a trick or two.

One simple tenderizing technique is to dry brine the chops with coarse kosher salt (this works for steaks and pork chops too). Another is to marinate the chops in a liquid that contains acids – they help break down muscle fiber and add flavor, especially when herbs and other aromatics are part of the marinade.

When I automatically grabbed some lamb shoulder chops the other night, my plan was to use the salt technique (another semi-automatic response for me). Then I remembered some leftover feta cheese from the Linguine with Brussels Sprouts, Feta and Bacon we did here a couple of weeks ago. Even though this particular feta happens to be French, I mostly think of the tart, briny cheese as Greek. And as we all know, Greek cooks know a thing or two about lamb. Thinking about that hit the reset button on my automatic approach to these chops.

Starting with the feta, I added Kalamata olives, oregano, lemon zest, garlic and some red onion for a little bite and sweetness. Red wine vinegar and lemon juice gave the marinade its tenderizing acidity.

These chops are also weeknight quick. They don’t have to marinate for hours – 30 minutes will do.

Lamb Chops with Feta and Olives
 Serves 2

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus the zest of 1 lemon
 1 scant teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
 1 large clove garlic, sliced
 salt and freshly ground black pepper
 2 lamb shoulder chops, 6 to 8 ounces each
 1/3 cup chopped red onion
 1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives
 1/3 cup crumbled feta

1. Make the marinade. Whisk together the 1/3 cup olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano and garlic in a small bowl. (If you count the garlic slices, you’ll be confident later that you’ve retrieved them all.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Place chops in a glass baking dish just big enough to accommodate them in one layer. You can also put them in a zippered bag. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the marinade to another small bowl. Pour the remaining marinade over the chops, turning them to coat on both sides. Let the chops marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, turning occasionally.

3. When the lamb has been marinating for about 15 minutes, fish any garlic slices out of the reserved marinade and add the red onion, olives and lemon zest. Stir to thoroughly combine and set aside.

4. Cook the chops. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or grilling pan over medium-high flame (if you’re using a grilling pan, you won’t need the 2 tablespoons of oil – just brush the pan with some oil). Shake excess marinade off the chops (including any clingy garlic slices), season with additional salt and pepper and cook until desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare.

5. When you’ve turned the chops to cook on the second side, gently stir the feta into the olives mixture. Plate cooked chops and spoon feta/olives mixture over them. Serve.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Linguine with Brussels Sprouts, Feta and Bacon

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