Spezzatino – Sicilian Braised Lamb Chops with Lemon-Olive Oil Potatoes
This secret to this fragrant and colorful Sicilian dish is the saffron.
- A fat pinch of saffron threads (about 24-30 threads)
- 3 cups of chicken or lamb stock
- 4 pounds lamb chop shoulder steak, 1 1/2-2 inches thick (4-5 chops to feed 4-6 people)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (pepperoncino), lightly crushed in your palm
- 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest or a long curl of peel
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup fresh mint, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
- 6 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
- Flaky sea salt
Place the saffron in a small pot with the stock. Bring to a low simmer and reduce the heat to keep warm and infuse the saffron into the stock.
Bring the chops to room temperature and season liberally with Kosher salt and black pepper.
Heat a wide, deep skillet with a lid over medium-high to high heat with a turn and a half of the pan of oil (not extra virgin – use a filtered, innocuous oil). Brown the chops on both sides and the edges and remove from the pan. Add the onions, garlic, chili flakes, orange or lemon zest or peel, thyme, rosemary and bay to the pan; reduce the heat a bit and cook to soften, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until fragrant, then add the wine and raise the heat again to reduce by half. Add the saffron stock to the pan and bring to a bubble. Add the chops; cover with the lid and braise at a low simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer to thicken, 15 minutes more.
Transfer the meat to a warm platter. Whisk the sauce up a bit and reduce if you wish to thicken a bit more. Chop the mint and parsley and stir in the herbs just before serving.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then salt the water and cook to tender, but not falling apart. Drain and return the potatoes to the hot pot. Add the lemon juice and EVOO to coat lightly; toss and season with flaky sea salt, to taste.
Serve the chops doused in sauce and pass more sauce at the table for the lemon-olive oil potatoes.