Lamb Shoulder Chops with Eggplant and Cilantro Puree by Ari Ariel

The biggest cliché of the culinary world is that the best food comes out of home kitchens—and almost all chefs cite their mothers as important influences. Perhaps in some bygone era little old women spent their days hand rolling pasta and braising meats in clay pots buried under hot coals. Neither of these cooking methods were common in New York City in the 1970s. In fact, my mother hardly ever cooked. Most of my meals came from my neighborhood coffee shop (we never used the word diner), Pizza Joint, or Hunan Park. Maybe at some unconscious level my life-long food obsession has been a quest to find the comfort that everyone else seems to have gotten from their mothers’ roasted chicken, pot roast, or meat loaf.  When my mother did cook she made one of three things: baked beans with hot dogs, chicken cooked in orange juice, and on really special occasions broiled lamb chops. The lamb was always my favorite—the gaminess of the meat and the richness of the sizzling brown fat are perfect together. My mother always used affordable shoulder chops and seasoned them simply with salt, pepper and garlic powder. I replace the powder with a bit of cumin and coriander and sauté the chops in a cast iron skillet to get them as caramelized as possible. In keeping with the Middle Eastern theme I serve them with eggplant and a spicy cilantro puree. This is how I imagine my mother would make lamb if she were a more accomplished cook—no offense mom. 

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