This recipe is a template for topping sauteed steaks or chops of most any kind with a wilted salad, a splendid dish for a late summer dinner.
Mostly, I’m taking my cues here from the Italians. In Florence, they like to pep up their grilled steaks with a drizzle of olive and a spritz of lemon, which cuts through the meat’s fattiness. Then there’s veal Milanese, a breaded chop with a salad on top. But the latter dish doesn’t marry the salad dressing to the chops, as I do here, and my chop isn’t breaded. Also, Caesar dressing is rooted in Mexico, not Italy. All of which is to say I guess my inspirations were pretty diverse.
How to marry the meat to the salad? By taking advantage of the concentrated bits of reduced meat juices at the bottom of the pan, as well as the juices from the resting chops after they have been cooked. It’s then that the salad’s flavours — anchovies, garlic and shallots — are added to the skillet, followed by chicken broth, lemon juice and olive oil.
As noted, these are basically the ingredients for a Caesar dressing with a little chicken broth added. (The broth amps up the meat flavour while cutting down on the need for more olive oil.)
If the very thought of anchovies sends you screaming for the exit, steel yourself and add them to the recipe as called for. Try it that way just once. You assume that the little devils are going to overwhelm the dish, adding nothing but fishiness. Not true. In this context, the anchovies are surprisingly modest; they provide salt and depth of flavour, but no obvious fishiness.
As for the greens, feel free to experiment. If you prefer them to be more crispy and less wilted, don’t add them to the pan; just toss them with the warm dressing.
Finally, I have called for lamb shoulder chops because they’re more affordable than rib or loin chops. They’re every bit as tasty as the pricier chops, even if they’re also marginally chewier. Of course, if you feel like splurging, reach for the more expensive cuts. And know that this recipe works just as well with steak, pork chops and chicken on the bone as it does with lamb chops.
LAMB CHOPS WITH WARM CAESAR SALAD
Start to finish: 35 minutes (15 minutes active)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Four 1/2-inch-thick lamb shoulder or round bone chops
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups chopped escarole, dandelion greens (tough stems removed) or romaine
1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add 2 of the lamb chops, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining 2 chops in the oil remaining in the pan.
Return the skillet to the heat and reduce to medium-low. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, the anchovies, shallots and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the broth and lemon juice and cook, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom, for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, the greens, and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until the greens are slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the juices from the resting lamb and remove from the heat.
To serve, transfer the chops to each of 4 plates and top each chop with a quarter of the dressed wilted greens and the cheese.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”