I have really tried to like coffee. There was almost always a pot brewing in my house when I was growing up, and over the years, starting as a teenager, I tried many times to acquire a taste for it. Never happened. I’m not proud of the fact – I consider it a major social shortcoming on my part. But even though I don’t drink coffee, I’m intrigued by what it does to food.
In some cases – in ice creams, for instance – it really lets you know it’s there: “HI, I’M COFFEE. I’LL BE YOUR FLAVOR THIS EVENING.” Other times, like with the spice rub for these chops, it blends in with the other ingredients, just adding a pleasantly bitter edge to the dish without tasting like coffee. This particular spice rub comes courtesy of our younger daughter. She used it to make pan-seared steaks for friends. When she told us about it, we knew we would have to do something with it. And since we’re fans of virtually every version of lamb with cumin we’ve ever had in Chinese restaurants, that seemed like a perfect pairing.
By volume, coffee is the main ingredient in this spice rub. But the biggest flavor note is the cumin. I used whole cumin seeds here because I like the occasional crunch of them as you bite into the lamb. There’s no need to toast them ahead of time – the seeds toast up nicely on the chops as they cook. If you don’t have whole cumin, you can substitute ground. But if you do have it, use it – the whole seeds add visual interest, too. I was concerned about the amount of cinnamon in the recipe, but like the coffee, it blends in nicely with all the other flavors. This spice rub – with lamb or steaks or maybe even pork chops – is definitely going into our rotation.
Coffee Cumin Lamb Chops
1/4 cup freshly ground coffee (I used a fine espresso grind)
1-1/2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lamb loin chops, about 5 to 6 ounces each
1. Make the coffee cumin rub. Combine coffee, cumin seeds, chili powder, cinnamon and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Brush the lamb chops with canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the coffee cumin rub in a baking pan or on a platter. Press both sides of each lamb chop into the rub. Set aside for 20 minutes to an hour.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large, lidded skillet over medium-high flame. Give the pan a couple of minutes to get good and hot. Transfer lamb chops to the pan and cook until well seared on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn chops and reduce heat to medium. Let the chops cook for 2 minutes, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the pan sit for 5 minutes. The chops will continue to cook, becoming medium rare; this method of finishing them will also make them moist and tender. Plate chops and serve.
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