Does this sound familiar? You’re short on time, but need to plan a menu for Easter lunch THIS Sunday. You’d like the meal to be special and memorable, but don’t have hours to spend shopping and cooking. Well, grilled lamb chops with buttered couscous tossed with asparagus, almonds, and mint is a perfect dish for this spring holiday.
Several years ago I created this main course as the centerpiece for a class titled “Fast Lane Entertaining.” Students loved the simplicity of the colorful dish so redolent of the season, and were thrilled that it took only about an hour to prepare. Tender rib lamb chops are marinated in orange juice, garlic, and oil, then popped on the grill for only a few minutes. Buttered couscous tossed with sliced, blanched asparagus, toasted almonds, and mint makes a fast and delicious side. The recipe serves four, but can be doubled or tripled easily if needed.
You could add a salad of watercress tossed in a vinaigrette, and serve scoops of artisan vanilla ice cream in wine glasses topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert. Voila! You’ve got a delectable dinner for Easter that hasn’t kept you in the kitchen for hours.
Grilled Lamb Chops and Couscous with Asparagus, Almonds, and Mint
8 rib lamb chops, about 1/2 inch thick and 3 ounces each
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound slim asparagus spears
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (See note.)
2 tablespoons chopped mint, divided, plus several sprigs for garnish
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1. Place lamb chops in a shallow, nonreactive pan. Combine orange juice, garlic, and olive oil and pour over chops. Cover and refrigerate 45 minutes or longer. (Chops can be marinated up to 4 hours.)
2. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the couscous. Cut off and discard the tough bases from asparagus, then cut spears into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling, salted water to cover until just tender, only 3 to 4 minutes. Place in a colander, then run under cold water to cool. Pat dry.
3. To cook chops, oil a grill rack lightly and place about 5 inches from heat source. When grill is ready, add chops and grill 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cooking time will vary depending on intensity of heat and thickness of meat. Chops are done when they are rosy pink inside when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove and cover loosely with foil.
4. To finish couscous, heat stock and butter in a medium, heavy saucepan (with a lid) over high heat until simmering. Remove and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus, almonds, half of the mint, and orange zest. Salt to taste.
5. Arrange 2 chops on a dinner plate along with a mound of couscous. Sprinkle remaining chopped mint over the couscous and garnish with a mint sprig. Serves 4 with 2 chops per serving.
Note: To toast almonds, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F preheated oven. Bake until golden brown, only 4 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.