Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hawai'i Cuisine: Oriental Lamb Chops with Rotelli Pasta

Lesson #2 about Hawaiian cooking: the base of many recipes is ginger, cilantro, and garlic.
Lesson #3 about Hawaiian cooking: moderation is not a factor. A recipe for mashed potatoes, which I will not be making, involves two sticks of butter and a good splosh of heavy cream for four people. Holy moly. I'll bet it's delicious, but my conscience just can't do it.

I'm trying to decide if the recipe for Oriental Lamb Chops with Rotelli Pasta (pg 50-51) has a typo. It says that the lamb chop marinade includes 3/4 CUP of minced garlic. Whaaaaat?? Could that possibly be correct? Even if I had the patience to mince that much garlic, which I don't, the half-a-head I had on hand wasn't going to get me to 3/4 cup. I also needed some for the pasta, so four cloves went in the marinade and three were reserved for the pasta.

Also in the marinade: soy sauce, fresh ginger, a lot of brown sugar, red pepper flakes, fresh basil, fresh cilantro, and salt. This wasn't hard to throw together. I just had to remind myself at noon to do it. The instructions say to massage the marinade into the meat for 5-10 minutes. I felt ridiculous when I started doing this, but after about two minutes, I could tell that the meat was tenderizing, and by the end of five minutes, it was practically falling off the bone, uncooked. After they sit in the fridge for 4-6 hours, broil them for 3 minutes per side. The book says that will give you a medium rare. That gave me a raw. I threw it back under the broiler for a minute, and the chops came out perfectly. 
Heeeeere, lamby, lamby, lamby!
I would never want to eat a bowl of the Creamy Rotelli Pasta on its own, but with the chops, it was delicious. Stir-fry julienned carrot, zucchini, cilantro, and shiitake mushrooms in garlic, oil, and butter provide the flavor. I added basil, too, because I lopped more than I needed off of my plant for the marinade. Heavy cream and parmesan cheese are added at the end. Think of it as a dry Alfredo sauce.

The chops were sweet and tender, and the drippings that mixed into the pasta made everything even more delicious. Flavors of ginger, garlic, and soy were all there, but subtly.

As I ate this, I flashed back to a dish my Dad made just a few times when I was growing up. He'd taken a Chinese cooking class, and had a few favorites that he would make over and over. My favorite, and one that I don't remember him making often (blast!) was a sweet, caramelized fried pork. Obviously, lamb and pork taste nothing alike, but eating this lamb zapped me right to that pork. I have the binder where Dad kept all of his Chinese recipes. The ingredient list is so very very specific--as in, you are instructed not to deviate from the recommended brands--that I've just been hanging on to it as a keepsake and haven't attempted to cook from it yet. This lamb makes me want to try, though I think it's a lost cause until I can get my hands on a good Asian market.

Conclusion: I loved this lamb. I'd worried that it would be salty from all that soy sauce, but it wasn't. It was a lovely balance of salty, sweet, and herbal. We're off to a good start. I liked the pasta, but in the future, would probably just stir-fry some vegetables and serve it on rice.

I'm going to do my best to steer away from the cream and butter-based dishes. We'll see.

As a side comment, I was a little put off that the pic that accompanies this dish in the book shows none of the vegetables specified, but does show strips of red pepper, which are not in the recipe. Weird.


  1. The lamb sounds really good - but, I wonder, why are you not wanting to use cream and butter? They are good, natural fats and it is IMPOSSIBLE to eat too much fatty stuff - they simply make you feel too full (satisfied) to make eating too much a problem. Don't do it every meal, or even every day (though I'm a New Zealander - butter, cream and cheese are the law here! :-)) But, don't stress about it too much either. Make it a treat and it will be healthier for you and your family than eating processed food and sugary crap ever will be, and they are delicious - win/win! XXXOOO
    sorry to be bossy (I probably sound like someone's mother...)

  2. Glad you enjoyed the lamb despite your trepidation. And, to beat the mincing garlic task, I try and buy jars of organic pre-minced garlic when they're on sale. They're a total time saver!

  3. I've spent most of my adult life dieting, so I have some mental hurdles. Once I dropped the baby weight, I decided I didn't want to diet anymore, but I also don't want to gain the weight back. I don't mind using some cream and butter. It's the excess I can't bring myself around to--the 2 sticks of butter + cream in 4 servings of mashed potatoes, etc. If it were just one meal, I wouldn't stress about it, but since I'm cooking mostly from the one book for a month (or as long as I can stand it), there is a risk of doing it daily, which would be bad.

  4. Well happy to hear that the first recipe was a winner, certainly sounds tasty.

    As for the mashed potatoes, I believe mass quantities of butter is exactly why they always taste better in a restaurant. We home cooks simply cannot bring ourselves to use that much butter at home! I think Dorie even talks about this in her book, how she always lets her husband make the mashed potatoes because he adds more butter than she can.

  5. Sam Choy is about half the size he was when this book was published. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you toned down the butter and cream :)

  6. I COMPLETELY understand the weight/butter thing!! :-) Been there (still there) myself lol... I think onexpat is probably right, restautants probably have all kinds of such tricks :-) XXOO