Roast Thick Lamb Chops with Roast Carrots and Parsnips

serves: 4 servings or more

You'll need lamb shoulder chops again for this great dinner dish, but unlike the thin chops for skillet cooking, the right ones for roasting won't be in the meat case. Don't just pick up a package of thick-looking chops: ask the butcher to cut lamb shoulder chops expressly for you, each one 2-1/2 inches thick (or as close to that as possible). If he or she looks surprised, it's because she's never cut them that thick before. The chop size is unusual but the meat is exactly the same as everyday thin chops-so make sure she gives you the same price! Thick chops are treated here like roasts, following my covered/uncovered roasting procedure. To shorten the roasting time, I divide each chop into two pieces. Still, the meat needs 90 minutes or more in the oven, typical of the long cooking all shoulder cuts need to melt the connective tissue and fat, to extract the flavor of bones and to soften the meat fibers.

ingredients
2 lamb shoulder chops, cut 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inches thick, 3 pounds total
¾ pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced in even 3-inch wedges
¾ pound parsnips, peeled, trimmed and sliced in even 3-inch wedges
1 stalk celery , peeled, slit lengthwise and cut in 3-inch lengths
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium leek, about 8 ounces, trimmed for roasting
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered in wedges,attached at root
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, chopped or broken into small bits
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, or more
1½ cups Vegetable broth
1 cup white wine

directions
Setting up the Roasting Pan

Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and, if possible, another rack in the top third, with enough space on both for the filled roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Trim most of the fat from the chops, leaving only a very thin layer on the outside surfaces. To divide each chop into two pieces, lay it on a flat cut side so you can see the divisions of the muscles. On one side are muscles attached to rib and backbones; on the opposite are the muscles around the thin shoulder blade bone. It is easy to see where to separate them because thick ribs tend to break apart naturally between these muscles-cooperatively, in the middle. Pull with your fingers to separate the pieces; slice apart the small section of meat that may hold them together. Sprinkle the meat pieces on all sides with salt and pat it on, using 1/2 teaspoon in all.

Put all the cut vegetables and seasonings (except the olive oil and salt) in the pan. Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt over and toss and tumble everything together with your hands, distributing the seasonings and oiling all the pieces. Put the lamb pieces in with the vegetables, turn them in the pan and rub them to coat with oil. Arrange them several inches apart from each other, with vegetables all around, so they will cook and caramelize evenly. Pour the wine and a cup of broth (or water) into the pan; if necessary, add more broth or water to bring the liquid to 1/2-inch depth.

Cover the pan with one or more long sheets of aluminum foil, arching the foil if necessary to keep it from touching the meat and vegetables. Crimp the foil around the rim of the pan and press it tightly against the sides all around, sealing the lamb and vegetables in a tent.

Roasting: Covered and Uncovered

Roast for 45 minutes, undisturbed. Remove the pan and carefully take off the foil; the pan juices should be bubbling away around the meat and vegetables. With tongs turn over each piece of lamb as well as the vegetables.

Place the pan on the upper oven rack and roast for about 10 minutes, then turn the lamb pieces over. Roast 10 more minutes and turn again (tumbling the vegetables over too). Roast another 10 minutes until the lamb is crusty brown all over and has shrunk back from the bones.

Caramelizing the Vegetables and Making the Sauce

Remove from the oven and transfer the lamb pieces to a bowl or platter-letting the juices drip back into the pan for a moment. Keep in warm place, loosely covered with the foil sheet.

Set a sieve over a saucepan and carefully pour the juices out of the roasting pan, leaving the vegetables in tact in the pan. It's fine if the small seasonings go into the sieve but you don't want the vegetables to break. Pick out the bay leaves and discard. Spread the vegetables out in the pan-they will still be moist-and put them into the oven on the high rack to caramelize.

Meanwhile, start the sauce: press the juices from any seasonings or solids in the sieve. Skim the fat off the surface of the juices and set the saucepan over high heat. Bring the juices to a boil and reduce them by about half to a slightly syrupy consistency: you should have about 3/4 cup.

After 5 minutes or so, check the roasting vegetables: turn them in the pan and rotate the pan on the rack. Roast until the wedges have crisped on the sides and caramelized on the edges, checking and turning them frequently. If they haven't colored nicely in 10 minutes, raise the oven temperature; if they appear dry, drizzle a bit of the sauce or olive oil over them.

Finishing and Serving

While the vegetables are roasting, warm a serving platter (or plates). If you want, cut out the blade bone which protrudes from the meat-just lift the cooked meat off it and remove the bone. Cut the meat off the rib pieces too or leave them intact (for those who like chewing bones).

To serve family style, heap the hot vegetables and meat on the serving platter and drizzle some the sauce over. Or arrange a portion of vegetables in the center of a warm dinner plate; lay one of the lamb pieces on top and moisten with sauce. Pass the remaining sauce at the table.