The scent of a wood-fired grill mingles with downtown cool and snappy service at both of Chef Daniel Wright’s popular Over-the-Rhine restaurants, which he operates with his wife, Lana: the dog-slinging, poutine grinding, craft beer emporium Senate, and its Mediterranean-flavored sibling Abigail Street. Due in part to Lana’s Jordanian heritage, lamb is a familiar dish on the table, and its rich, sweet-yet-savory profile lends perfectly to a wood-fired grill. If you are new to lamb, Wright recommends beginning with well-marbled loin chops cut to 1½ inches, which maximizes the surface area to the fire and produces a beautifully crisp char. Trim the excess fat to prevent smoke and flare-ups, and keep the rub simple. Lamb is a great friend to bold seasoning, but less means more of the meat’s delicate flavor shines through. This recipe is part of a full menu created by Daniel Wright for the July 2012 issue.
Grilled Lamb Chops
12 1½-inch thick lamb chops (3 to 4 ounces each)
1 Tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a bowl mix paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Drizzle lamb chops with olive oil and vigorously rub spice blend on to both sides. Allow chops to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. If you’re using a charcoal grill, fire it up; if gas, pre-heat to high. When the grill is sizzling hot, reduce heat to medium. Place lamb chops directly over heat (for charcoal grill, medium heat refers to cooking chops over indirect heat) and cook for 3 minutes. This will sear the meat and lock in the juices. Rotate chops 90 degrees (this creates nice grill marks); cook another 2 minutes. Flip chops, cook 3 minutes. Turn 90 degrees; cook for 1–2 more minutes, then remove. Lamb should be a lovely medium and slightly firm to the touch. Top with a generous amount of fig relish.
Black Mission Fig Relish
2 pints fresh Black Mission figs
1 small red onion
2 small jalapeño peppers
3 sprigs fresh mint
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces white wine vinegar
Remove stems from figs and cut into quarters or rough chop into large pieces. Finely chop red onion and rinse with cool water (this removes the bitterness). Slice jalapeños down the middle lengthwise; discard pith and seeds. Finely chop jalapeños. Remove mint leaves from stems and chop. Combine figs, onions, minced jalapeños, and mint in a nonreactive bowl. Stir in sugar, salt, oil, and vinegar; toss ingredients and place bowl in refrigerator until ready to use. Top grilled lamb with a generous spoonful of cool relish.