This is by far the best lamb that I’ve ever had, and it might very well be one of my favorite meat preparations of all time. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like taking a bite into one of these juicy lamb chops, but it’s a profoundly pleasurable experience in the same category of pleasures as uninhibited sex, standing stage-side at a rock concert, and shredding rubber around a racetrack in a Ferrari.
As you bite through the crust, your taste buds and olfactory senses light up as they’re stimulated by salt and smoke, followed by pungent garlic punctuated with cumin and black pepper, which eventually gives way to a creamy toasty pistachio flavor accented with mint and just a hint of smoke. The contrast of the piquant exterior with the sweet juicy meat just beneath is orally stimulating, and a dip in the pool of sweet, tart pomegranate molasses brings the next bite to another level.
To achieve this carnivorous nirvana, the whole rack of lamb is cured with a crust of pistachios, garlic, mint, cumin and other spices before being tea-smoked and then roasted. It may sound like a substantial chore, but aside from sitting in the fridge overnight, it really doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare. I’d be lying to you if I told you it was easy, but before you get intimated by the curing and smoking, consider this, I made this inside a tiny apartment on the thirteenth floor of a high-rise. If you’re wondering how I managed to smoke something in an apartment building without having the fire brigade axing down my door, I’ll tell you.
It involves putting sugar (the starter) with tea (the aromatic) in the bottom of a heavy duty pan, and heating it until the sugar starts to burn. This in turn sets the tea leaves smoking, releasing their aroma and depositing it on the surface of your roast.
It’s an awesome technique that allows you to infuse a smoky flavor into your food indoors, but before you try it, you need to be a aware of a few things. While a tight fitting lid helps hold most of the smoke in the pot, some will inevitably escape, especially when you open the lid. If you have a smoke detector anywhere near your kitchen it will almost certainly go off. Also, if you don’t have an externally venting range hood, I don’t recommend you try this.
You’ll also want to use a pot that is safe to use at very high temperatures (never use teflon coated pans for smoking). While the aluminum foil is there to keep the burning sugar and tea away from the surface of your pan, the high temperatures involved will discolor stainless steel. I use a non-enamled cast iron dutch oven with a metal steamer rack insert, but an uncoated wok with steamer insert should work as well.
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