How often do you prepare lamb? Braised lamb shoulder chops are just the thing for a fall dinner or during one of the spring holidays like Passover, Easter or Eid al-Fitr. The lamb shoulder chops are nicely spiced and make a stellar main dish.
For the dish, we recommend using our Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Dried Mission Figs. They bring their deep sweetness and flavor that pairs beautifully with lamb. You could swap in Golden Figs too. The first step to making the dish is to rehydrate the figs, which simply involves pouring warm water over the figs. This helps soften the dried figs, but it does something extra too—the figs scent the water that gets used later in the recipe, so hold on to it.
Boost the Flavor in Lamb Shoulder Chops
Before they become braised lamb shoulder chops, you’ll want to season them with salt and pepper, then, brown them to achieve a bit of tasty crust on both sides. While you will pour off the fat from the pan, all that browning occurs because of the Maillard reaction and a bonus is there will be flavorful bits stuck to the bottom of the pan to scrape up into the braising sauce.
For the braising liquid, we used a combination of North African spices: coriander and cumin from Rumi Spice. Rumi sells premium saffron, spices, and unique spice blends, direct-sourced from farmers and foragers in Afghanistan.
Building Blocks of Flavor
Next, you’ll add in the aromatics to be sauteed until softened. Then, the spices are added, blooming them in the pan until warm and fragrant. At this point, you’ll add in that reserved fig soaking liquid, which will also help loosen the browned bits to be scraped up and stirred in as the sauce simmers until reduced by half. At this point, in go the tomatoes, honey and figs before returning the lamb shoulder chops to the pan.
Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the braised lamb shoulder chops are cooked through and still tender. To finish the dish, once the lamb shoulder chops have been removed from the pan, you’ll add in parsley to the skillet, simmering the sauce until thickened to spoon all over the completed dish.
What to Serve on the Side
Couscous is always a good idea, especially since the spices used in this dish lean North African. You could opt for plain couscous or try our colorful carrot pine nut couscous, or take it in another direction and opt for pearl couscous brightened with lemon. Rice would be nice here too and a gluten-free / wheat-free option. Or, head right into veggies and serve with riced cauliflower or roasted carrots with a fig olive relish.
North African Spice Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Figs
- 1/3 cup Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Figs stemmed
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 4 shoulder lamb chops about 3/4" thick, trimmed of exess fat
- salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- 2 small garlic cloves minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with their juice
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves minced
- Place the figs and water in a bowl and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the water. Cut the figs into quarters and reserve.
- Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cooking in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding, add the chops and cook until browned on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chops from the pan to a plate and set aside.
- Pour off the fat in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved soaking liquid from the figs and simmer until reduced by half, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom with a wooden spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, honey and reserved figs, then return the chops to the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chops are cooked through but tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer 1 chop to each of 4 plates. Stir the parsley into the braising liquid in the skillet and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, spoon the sauce over the chops, and serve immediately.
Recipe source: America’s Test Kitchen. Valley Fig is a proud sponsor of the America’s Test Kitchen.