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Food

Lamb Chops to Enjoy for Apokries & Tsiknopempti

February 21, 2021

While this year’s celebration of Apokries (Carnival) may not be as cheerful and carefree as in the past, we can still enjoy the flavors of Greece and the festive season that precedes the strict fasting period of Great Lent. Grilled meats are consumed, especially on Tsiknopempti, the Thursday during Apokries named for the grilled meat smoke (tsikno) that fills the air.

The following recipe provides the traditional Greek flavor without all the hours of roasting a whole lamb, plus it can be prepared ahead of time and left to marinade in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook. Look for 100% grass-fed, organic lamb from local farms for the best nutrient quality in the meat. 

Greek Lamb Chops

5 large garlic cloves

4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons Greek dried oregano

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

8 lamb chops

Place the garlic, rosemary, oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil and process until combined. Place the lamb chops in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to contain them in a single layer and deep enough to contain the marinade. Pour the marinade over the lamb chops and turn them to coat both sides evenly with it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for two hours or up to overnight. 

To cook the lamb chops, prepare your outdoor grill as needed. If using a gas grill, heat to medium high. An indoor grill pan or skillet may also be used to cook the chops. Remove the marinaded lamb from the refrigerator and season with salt and pepper to taste and grill to desired doneness – for medium rare grill 4-5 minutes on each side, add an additional 1-2 minutes on each side for medium. If using a meat thermometer, the USDA recommended safe internal temperature for lamb is 165 degrees for medium well. Remove the cooked lamb chops from the grill, place on a platter, tent with aluminum foil, and set aside to rest for ten minutes. Allowing the lamb chops to rest before serving helps keep them juicy. Serve with tzatziki (recipe follows) and your favorite side dishes. 

Tzatziki

1 large seedless cucumber, grated coarsely

Greek sea salt

2 cups Greek yogurt

4-6 garlic cloves to taste, minced

3 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Place grated cucumber in a strainer over a bowl, sprinkle with a 1/4 teaspoon salt and let stand for 30 minutes to an hour to drain off the liquid. If preferred, place in cheesecloth and after an hour squeeze out any excess liquid. Place the cucumber in a mixing bowl with the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and dill, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed. Cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving.

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