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Author Notes: Many cultures like the French really dig doing fancy stuff to the saddle of lamb: deboning, wrapping it in thin pork back fat, and rolling it up with beautiful whole sprigs of herbs and such. if that's the shape of your heart, please don't let me stop you, but I think the saddle is best represented by the simple and brutally awesome mutton chop presentation made famous by the legendary New York City steak house Keens. almost cubic in form and confrontation in size, the mutton chop lets anyone who sits down in front of it know it means business. Ask your butcher for a mutton or lamb saddle chop as long as it is wide.
Excerpted from The Meat Hook Meat Book by Tom Mylan (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell. —Tom Mylan
4 x 2 x 2-inch thick mutton chop
Freshly-ground black pepper
Large Weber charcoal barbecue grill, or the like
Medium-sized cast-iron skillet
Large cleaver or small handsaw
5-inch boning knife
- If you choose to cut chops off a whole saddle of lamb/mutton yourself, instead of letting your butcher do it like a sane person, you’ll need to get an inexpensive plastic cutting board. This is important, because it’s likely you’re going to do some damage to it. Also needed will be a boning knife and either a cleaver or a small handsaw. I prefer a saw to a cleaver here.
- To use a saw: Start by figuring out how big you want the chop to be and then, using a 5-inch boning knife, cut through the meat, across the saddle, down to the bone. Do this on both sides of the saddle, then grab your saw. Make sure that you hold on to the saddle tightly with the other hand, or get some help and have the other person hold one end of the saddle while you hold the other. Gently saw through the bone, using fluid, medium-long strokes. Don’t try to take too much at once, or the saw will bind and pop out, possibly damaging the meat—be patient! You may need to rotate the loin to cut completely through the bone without gouging the board. When you’ve finished cutting, use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape off the bone dust before you season and grill the chop.
- To use a cleaver: Using a boning knife, cut through the meat as above. Then, instead of sawing, place the cleaver inside the cut and on the bone where you want to cut. Grab a mallet and gently whack the back of the cleaver squarely and rhythmically until you have cut through to the board. Be careful not to get aggressive here, as it’s pretty easy to hurt yourself when you’re tangled up with a mallet and a cleaver. If you were hoping to hack away at the saddle with a cleaver like a cartoon character, sorry to disappoint you, but that sort of action takes years of practice. I’m trying to help you to succeed, thus the mallet. OK?
- To cook the chop, begin by seasoning it liberally with salt and pepper and then let it loaf around for an hour where you can gaze upon it but hungry pets cannot reach it.
- Fire up your grill and preheat your oven to 325°F. Once your grill is hot as hell and your oven is ready, place the chop on the grill and give it a nice crusty sear on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes a side. Then place the chop in a medium cast-iron skillet and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until it hits 120° to 125°F on an instant-read thermometer. Rest the meat for 10 minutes.
- Debone the chop by following the X-shaped bone with a boning knife until all the meat is free, then slice the meat across the grain. Plate the chop by placing the sliced portions back on the bone roughly where they came from, in the most gruesome way you can figure out. Serve with a rustic red from the southern Rhône Valley.