Aztec Chipotle Lamb Chops with Citrus-Cilantro Yogurt Crema

I’ve been out of the kitchen for almost a month due to a broken foot. It’s been a long hot summer, but I’m back in the saddle and ready to cook!
In May, I picked up 1/2 of a lamb from Kyle Farms right here in my home town! We have chops, riblets, ground lamb, leg and shoulder to enjoy over the next few months.
Yesterday was another hot day here in western NY, so while my family spent the afternoon at a baseball game, I spent some time keeping cool at home and developing a recipe for dinner using the chops from Kyle Farms.

Often when I make lamb chops I will do it the French way with a simple but delicious herb and breadcrumb coating (aka persillade). It’s very straightforward and really fabulous! Sometimes I lean toward the Mediterranean flavors and do a garlic and rosemary paste on lamb with a little mint, but this time I wanted to do something a little different.
It’s been so hot recently that I have been thinking of something Latin. Something spicy, smokey and bold.

I love using rubs on beef and lamb to impart flavors and to create a nice crust when it’s broiled or grilled. The all natural lamb is so flavorful I wanted something to compliment the sweetness of the meat so I got out my spices and got to work! Coffee imparts a really smokey, deep flavor and cocoa powder gives a great depth of flavor that reads as very savory, not sweet like chocolate. In Mexican cooking, dark, unsweetened chocolate is sometimes added to a sauce such as mole to add a really deep rich flavor. It is a perfect ingredient in a rub for something like beef or lamb that can stand up to some bold ingredients. To balance all the deep, rich flavors, I chose to use dark brown sugar that has more molasses and is very rich as well. The sugar is an important part of the rub that will caramelize when put on the hot grill.
I needed some heat for this rub and went with ground chipotle as the cayenne would be too “in your face” and the ancho got lost with all the deep flavors of the coffee and cocoa. Chipotle peppers are smoked jalepenos, so that there is a nice smokey undertone and a warm, gentle heat that is one of my favorites! It took a little time to get the ratio just right, but I was very happy with the final product.

Once the rub came together, I decided that a nice fresh, light crema would be perfect to accompany the sweet, smoky spicy lamb. I wanted something a little sweet but not cloying, and fresh with a lot of citrus. I had cilantro in my fridge which was exactly what I needed to round out the flavors.

A word of advice is to make sure you don’t overcook the chops. They cook really quickly and there is nothing worse than lamb cooked past medium rare. (Well, maybe overdone fish… but that is another post! ) Whether you grill, broil or pan sear your lamb chops, watch them carefully and don’t walk away!

I served the lamb chops with potato stuffed mini peppers and broiled asparagus and dinner got four thumbs up around the table

Grilled Kyle Farms Aztec Chipotle Lamb Chops with Citrus-Cilantro Yogurt Crema
Serves: 4

8 Kyle Farms natural lamb chops

3 Tb. finely ground coffee or espresso
1 Tb. unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Ghiradelli brand)
1 Tb. sugar
2 Tb. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. kosher salt

Citrus-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:
1 6-8 oz. container of plain, non-fat Greek style yogurt
2 Tb. orange blossom honey
1 lime, zested and juiced
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro

Assemble all ingredients for the rub in a small bowl. Spoon liberally onto both sides of the chops, and pat gently to make the rub adhere. Place chops on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator for about 20 minutes prior to grilling. Store any unused rub in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 6 months.

Assemble the Citrus-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce and chill in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Preheat grill on high for 7-8 minutes or to 400º, then turn off the burners on one side to create a cooler side to the grill. Sear the chops for about 2 minutes on the hot side of the grill, turn and sear for another 2 minutes, then move the chops to the cooler side of the grill and cook for another 2-4 minutes or until just medium rare. Cover with a tent of foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before eating.

To serve, make a small pool of yogurt sauce on the plate and top with two lamb chops per person, or to serve family style, line the chops up on a platter and drizzle the sauce over the top.