Last week I found myself in possession of a very fancy bottle of zinfandel, and wanted to make something that would serve as a nice pairing. Most foodie experts recommend dark meat to go with zin, and being the lamb fanatic that I am, I decided to expand my repertoire beyond the Moroccan slow-cooked approach.
If you’re not a lamb person (or don’t think you are), this dish might just turn you around. I ended up adapting an Emeril Lagasse recipe for grilled lamb chops with mint pesto, and they were d-e-v-i-n-e. The marinade and pesto managed to transform the chops from a mediocre weeknight dinner into a savory, delectable heap of lamby deliciousness, the likes of which you could find in only the finest of Michelin rated eateries. OK maybe that’s a strength, but if you’re trying to impress someone, this is the recipe that will do it.
Though the ingredients in the marinade and pesto are robust, they weren’t overpowering and definitely did not detract from the subtler flavor of the lamb. In fact, the biggest takeaway I got from this dish was that buying a decent, often pricier cut of meat (from an actual butcher or a Whole Foods-esque establishment) makes a huge difference in tenderness and flavor, especially if you’re grilling rather than slow-cooking. Just bite the bullet and go for the high-end stuff. You’re worth it.
Jump over to Another Freaking Cooking Blog for the recipe.
If you want to push this meal to its full potential and create a real dinner experience, you should pop in Elis Regina’s Como & Porque (Here and Now) whilst savoring your lamb and zinfandel. The compliments from your guests will be ceaseless. “This lamb, it’s positively heavenly! And this music! How can one man/women have such good taste in food AND music?” They’ll be in the palm of your hand.
For the uninitiated, Elis Regina was part of the Brazilian Tropicália movement in music during the 60s and 70s, a stylized mixture of traditional African and Brazilian rhythms with rock and roll and bossa nova. Released in 1969, Como & Porque was Regina’s 12th album, full of light arrangements, smooth rhythms and her clear, at times breathtaking, voice.
The horn, percussion and string arrangements by Roberto Menescal are breezy and joyful, and have a soft stream of consciousness quality that perfectly compliments Regina’s vocals. The malleability of Regina’s sound is striking on this album. In “Casa Forte”, her voice is layered over itself again and again to create a powerful, wordless harmony that connotes a beautiful sadness and longing. In “Canto de Ossanda”, it slithers quietly at first, only to build to a loud, fantastic finish. In “Vera Cruz” it ebbs and flows between a quavering fragility and a powerful intensity.
Aside from her music, Regina was an influential cultural and political figure as well, openly critical of the Brazilian military government and its incarceration of other musicians and leaders of Tropicalismo.
Check out “Canto de Ossanda”: