costolette d’agnello a scottadito con inguazato; mizuma

Thursday’s meal started with some really luscious inguazato (basically a tomato couscous with capers, chilis, and green olives) left over from an earlier meal. We both thought that a grilled meat might give it a fresh take the second time around.  Then I thought of a Roman dish that had always sounded intriguing, but had so far eluded me: lamb chops scottadito. The problem had always been finding chops thin enough for the authentic experience (about one centimeter, or less than a quarter of an inch thick), since so many prosperous Americans have long been accustomed to thick chops, lamb or otherwise, and that’s all that can be found today, even among the meats offered by local farmers in the Greenmarket.

That day I was headed that day for Ottomanelli’s anyway, to order a wild hare for Thanksgiving dinner, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask our local – and very traditional – master Italian butchers to cut some chops exactly for ‘costolette d’agnello a scottadito, last night con inguazato.

My inspiration was Lorenza de’ Medici‘s simple outline inside her beautiful book, ‘Italy the Beautiful Cookbook‘.

The tradition would be to use rib chops, as they would be juicier than loin chops, less likely to dry out while cooking on a hot grill (or grill pan in my case), and because they would be easier for the diners to pick up, although risking the ‘burned fingers’ of the dish’s title, but Frank left a good amount of fat on each, and we were expecting to eat with knives and forks anyway.

I resisted the temptation to add something, an herb or a spice, to the lamb, because I wanted the dish to be authentic, and the taste of some very good lamb to be fully appreciated. It all worked, and the dish was delicious, but I might not be so restrained the next time.

  • six lamb loin chops, cut one quarter of an inch thick, with a good amount of fat retained and including the flank sections, tucked in and secured with toothpicks, placed in one layer inside the well of a large plate, the juice of almost half of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market squeezed over the top, followed by a 3 tablespoons or so of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, allowed to marinate for almost an hour, turning several times, removed from the plate and dried on paper towels, pan grilled on each side, on a 2 burner-size cast iron ribbed pan for about a total of 6 minutes, turning several times, arranged on the plates, seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper, and a little more lemon juice drizzled on top
  • a handful of fresh mizuma from Alewife Farm scattered on the plate and dressed with olive oil , sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
  • inguazato remaining from an earlier meal, reheated in a little olive oil, and also drizzled with a little water to loosen the couscous and its sauce (and the mix tasted at least as wonderful as it had 2 days earlier)
  • the wine was an Australian (Barossa Valley) red, Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz/Grenache 2012, the gift of a visiting Australian artist friend
  • the music was an extended broadcast of work by Elliott Carter, from Counterstream Radio, streaming