Coffee Rubbed Lamb Chops

On Valentine’s Day this year, I went to a yoga class taught by Les at Yoga Tree, one of my favorite yoga teachers in the city. Although I can’t really afford to go to Yoga Tree all the time, especially given the availability of cheap and decent yoga at my school’s gym, I still try to take classes at the studio about once a month. Les’ Vinyasa classes are always on top of my list because even though they’re pretty sweaty and hardcore, they’re also surprisingly calming and meditative. On top of that, he just seems like such a sweet guy! For example, during last Thursday’s class, he reminded us to “not let Hallmark tell you to love only one single day out of the entire year!” Aww…

While I agree that the whole idea of spending lots of money on flowers, cards, and gifts on a random day in February seems a bit silly, I do like the idea of celebrating the company of someone you love with a special dinner. (Of course, you can always count on it to me to justify the food part of any holiday!) Last year, Nathan and I decided that instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on one of the hundreds of prix fixe dinners offered in SF, we would splurge on some fancy groceries and cook at home – deliciousness and quality together-time minus the crowds and stress!

Our plan was so successful last year that we did it again this year (I feel like I can’t really call it a tradition yet, because this is only the second time we’ve done it). Since I’ve been whining about doing yoga all week, Nathan sweetly took charge of the shopping. When I got home, I was greeted by pink flowers, a glass of rosé, fancy chocolate bars, and a dozen of freshly shucked oysters with Nathan’s famous mignonette! Yum!

Valentine 2008

In between slurping down those yummy oysters, we also made an awesomely delicious and awesomely stress-free dinner: Coffee-rubbed Lamb Chops, Green Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Creamed Spinach, paired with this gorgeous bottle of Ridge Syrah I’ve been saving for a special occasion. By the way, if you’re looking to cook a semi-fancy dinner without fussing over complicated recipes, you’re going to love me by the time you finish reading this post! But just remember what Les said… don’t just love me for today! Ha!

(The coffee rub was adapted from this one by Bobby Flay. I know. Bobby Flay?? You can make fun of his overuse of chipotle all you like – I know I do – but that man really knows how to make yummy rubs for meats.)

Coffee-Rubbed Lamb Chops:
1/8 cup finely ground coffee (feel free to use decaf)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp dry mustard
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp of cayenne pepper (increase this if you like spiciness – the original recipe had 1/8 cup total of chili powder)
2 lamb chops, preferably bone-in
olive oil

Green Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, skins on and halved
1 sprig of green garlic (or a clove of regular garlic), chopped finely
olive oil (or butter – I prefer olive oil in mashed potatoes since I like being able to taste the potatoes)
1/4 cup cream or milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Creamed Spinach:
2 tbsp olive oil
half of a shallot, chopped finely
enough baby spinach leaves for 2 people (remember that spinach cooks down a lot – we used about the same amount that’s in 1 bag of those prewashed salads in the supermarket), washed and drained
1 cup of heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Prep the lamb: Pat lamb chops dry with paper towel. Combine all spices to make the rub. Take a few spoons of the spice rub, add in a little olive oil to make a paste, and rub all over lamb chops. (You won’t end up using all the spice rub unless you’re cooking gigantic lamb chops – save the rest of the rub for future use). Set aside while you work on the sides.

Make the mashed potatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and potatoes and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. Quickly saute the green garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until slightly softened and add to potatoes. Using a fork, roughly mash up the potatoes while mixing in the garlic. Add in cream or milk and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Keep mashing and mixing. Depending on how creamy you like your potatoes, you can add in more cream/milk or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Make the spinach: Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook gently for a few minutes until softened. Add in spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. If there’s too much water in the pan, push spinach to one side and pour out some water. Add in cream and a couple pinches of salt. Let cream simmer until it reduces to desired thickness. Add in a few pinches of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Keep warm over low heat while you finish the lamb.

Finish the lamb:Turn on a vent or open some windows because it’s going to get smoky! Cook lamb chops in a preheated cast-iron pan or griddle over medium-high heat until desired doneness – this will depend highly on the thickness of your chops. We cooked ours (see photo for thickness) about 5 minutes each side and they were medium-rare.

(Makes a romantique dinner for two)