It was only a couple of years ago that my family and I discovered the joy of eating lamb. As a child I had the experience of Easter leg of lamb, over cooked, dry and served with a gelatinous blob of transparent green mint jelly. (My apologies to those who enjoy their lamb with mint jelly, but it just doesn’t do it for me.) That lamb had turned me against a meat that really has such delicious potential. It wasn’t until my brother took us out to dinner at a little Mediterranean restaurant where I decided to live a little and ordered the lamb chops that I discovered how tender and flavorful lamb could be.
Lamb is a meat with a flavor all its own that can break up the daily doldrums of chicken, pork and beef (here in the city where pasture raised meat is not easily come by). I had no idea what I was missing until that day. Lamb can be a costly meat to purchase around here, that was, until a new market opened in our neighborhood offering new selections of meat and groceries at prices a family of 3 on a single income could afford for more than just special occasions.
Wanting to try something new, we purchased a small package of boneless lamb shoulder chops. These were not a pretty nor a costly cut, just a nice, safe selection for our first time. As I had never prepared lamb before, I hit the good ol’ internet looking for ways to prepare the chops and happened across a recipe for a marinade with garlic, rosemary, lemon and coarse ground mustard. Nothing soaked in all those wonderful flavors could possibly turn out too bad. After soaking the lamb in the marinade overnight, we grilled it up to medium-rare and were astonished by the amazing flavor, moisture and tenderness that met our palates. All three of us were awestruck by this new taste. This lamb made us all believers. The marinade was perfect, strong enough to stand next to, but not overwhelm, the natural, earthy flavor that is lamb. Oh my, I am drooling just writing about it now.
But it gets even better. We then take this amazing meat and kick it up another decadent notch by incorporating it into a pizza layered in more ingredients that are strong enough to accompany the unique flavor of lamb with out over powering it.
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Four 8- to 12-ounce lamb shoulder chops
1 lb. pizza dough
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and divided**
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved or quartered
a handful of baby arugula
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
1 Tbs fresh oregano leaves
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Refrigerate for a minimum of a couple of hours, overnight would be even better.
When ready, grill or broil your lamb to medium-rare. Even if you like your meat a little more on the done side, grill to medium-rare since it will cook again on the pizza. This is the hardest part, try not to eat all the lamb before you get to assembling your pizza. It will be one of the hardest things you might ever have to do (not really, but it will be tough)
For the pizza dough this time I tried a homemade recipe for a honey-wheat. It needs some adjusting but was over all a good crust. I always use a whole wheat pizza dough, I think the heartier texture and flavor suit this pizza much better than the traditional white flour crust. You of course could use any pizza dough you prefer, even try making smaller versions on pita bread.
I opted to cook inside due to cold temps outside, but we usually grill our pizzas.
Anyway, stretch your pizza crust out, not too thin, maybe about a 1/4″ thick with a little edge. Too thin and it won’t be able to bear the weight of the ingredients. Too thick and it may just over power all the deliciousness on top of it. Place on a cornmeal coated cookie sheet or pizza stone.
Followed by the arugula, tomatoes (yes I used chopped Roma tomatoes as I forgot to buy the cherry toms), and olives. The best Kalamata olives, hands down are these
(I am not paid for my endorsement, they are just fantastic olives, try the garlic-stuffed green ones too)
Top off your pizza with the remaining feta cheese, a sprinkle of fresh oregano, a drizzle of about 1 Tbs. of olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper. Pop it back in the oven for another 15 or so minutes, until the cheese gets a little melty and the crust is golden and crisp.
Cut your pizza into 8 slices and be prepared to be amazed!
**Side Note; the softer, creamier feta you can find the better, This time I selected too dry a feta that didn’t melt down as much as I would have liked. A good, soft goats cheese would probably be just as delightful.