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THE AMERICAN TABLE: Recipe for sweet-and-spicy grilled lamb chops

06/03/2015 11:39 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT
The hardest thing about grilling lamb chops is buying them. Because once you get them home, the rest is easy.

My favourite style of chops resembles lamb lollipops — a long, slender bone with a fat nugget of sweet and tender meat at the end. And they are just begging to be grilled.

Most meat counters stock lamb loin chops, which are tasty, but the bone to meat ratio is too high for my liking. Instead, I purchase racks of lamb, preferably from New Zealand or Australia, and cut my own chops from the racks. Each rack will have 7 to 8 bones, and most racks are packaged "Frenched." It's a fancy term that means that the rib bones are cleaned and exposed. If your rack is not Frenched, most butchers will do it for you.

Buying a whole rack and cutting them into chops just before grilling ensures the meat is fresh, pink and pristine. Plus, this lets me choose to cut them in double-bone or single-bone portions. If I am serving the lamb as the main course, I generally cut one rack into four double-bone portions. If I am serving them with cocktails or at a more formal affair, I cut them into single bones and they become easy-to-eat finger food.

Once you decide how you want to cut the rack, you need to decide how to flavour the chops. The natural smokiness of the grill and the richness of the lamb is such a good pairing that often I season the chops simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. But if you really want to treat your friends and family, try a sweet-and-spicy barbecue rub.

I am talking about the kind of rub that generally is used for chicken wings or pork ribs. The unexpected combination of sweet and hot spices rich with a touch of cumin and garlic — as well as three kinds of sugar — is perfect for lamb chops. It's also great for Father's Day! It's a quick lamb rib fix everyone will love.

Just note that I go heavy on the rub in this recipe. This isn't a time to season lightly. Dads like flavours big and bold, and this rub delivers. But don't fear the rub. The sugars mellow out the heat and make a natural glaze for the lamb when you grill them quickly on both sides.

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SWEET-AND-SPICY GRILLED LAMB CHOPS

If you have a stovetop smoker, these are dynamite smoked over cherry wood for about 7 minutes or until medium rare.

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

2 racks of lamb, Frenched (bone ends trimmed of meat), each rack about 1 1/2 pounds

Olive oil

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Heat the grill to medium. Be certain the grill grates are very clean.

Use paper towels to pat dry the racks of lamb. One at a time, place each rack on a cutting board and cut through at every bone to create chops, using the bones as a guide. From each rack, you will get 7 to 8 thin chops with 1 bone each, about 2/3-inch thick. Brush each chop all over with olive oil.

To make the rub, in a small bowl, mix together all 3 sugars, the salt, both chili powders, the cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and mustard. Place the rub on a dinner plate and drag each chop through it to coat on all sides. Pat the rub into the meat so that it sticks.

When the grill is ready, arrange the chops on the grates and cook, with the grill covered, for 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Cook longer if you prefer your meat more done.

Remove the chops from the grill and place on a clean platter. Let the chops rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lots of paper towels and let people eat with their hands.

Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories; 200 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 23 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 120 mg cholesterol; 3,150 mg sodium; 43 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 40 g sugar; 38 g protein.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."

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