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Jul 24, 2018
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WINE WITH…Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint Sauce

No matter how hot or dry or humid the summer weather gets, one thing we can always depend on is our fresh mint.  It has flourished and expanded in a clay pot on the patio for many seasons, ever since we brought the first few sprigs back from a mountain stream in Oregon.  It has wintered over for years--until this spring when, as the weather began to warm up, it looked as if all that was left in the pot was dead dirt.  We had experienced an unusually rough winter, which knocked out even the usually hearty rosemary, but this was the first time the mint failed to return.  And then, one April morning, we noticed that a single green leaf, the size of a baby’s thumbnail, was poking up through the damp soil.  We decided that instead of dumping out the dirt as we’d planned, we would just wait another few days and see what happened.

Within a week that tiny leaf had morphed into a healthy stem of mint, and by mid-June several more minty tendrils had appeared.  Today the entire pot is choc-a-bloc full of healthy, fragrant mint to be used in cocktails, tea, and fruit salads, as well as in a fresh mint sauce to go with lamb. 

This is not your Grandma’s sweet, bright green mint jelly.  Traditional fresh mint sauce, an ancient and still popular condiment in Great Britain, is slightly sweet, slightly acidic, and provides a refreshing counterpoint to the meaty richness of lamb chops or roast lamb.

Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint Sauce
                                                 
Makes enough sauce for up to 4 chops.

Fresh mint leaves lose their bright green color once they have been chopped and mixed with vinegar, so you might want to serve the chops with spinach or another green vegetable, or a green salad.  We accompanied ours with pureed peas and watercress.

The sauce may be made several hours before serving.

About 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Chop the mint leaves and combine them in a small bowl with the remaining ingredients.

Grill or broil the lamb chops, and when they are done top each with a small spoonful of mint sauce.  Pass remaining sauce at the table.

*         *         *

Because the fresh mint sauce is quite vinegary, there is no need for the wine you choose to display a high level of acidity.  Instead, focus on fruit--rich, ripe, succulent red and black flavors.  We found that fruit-forward New World wines paired better than earthier European ones, and so recommend that you simply let the wine strut its stuff alongside this equally bold-flavored dish.

Questions or comments?  Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

Selection

 

Approx. Price

Comments

 

Cuvaison,

Carneros

Napa Valley

(California)

Pinot Noir

2016

 

$42

Though a tad light when paired with this dish, Cuvaison’s Pinot tastes legitimately dry.  Its seductive cherry fruit flavors made it especially appealing.

 

Duckhorn,

Carneros

Napa Valley

(California)

Merlot

2015

 

 

 

 

 

$75

 

A very classy Merlot (as the price tag suggests), this is a sophisticated because multi-layered California red.  Though it shows the potential for long aging, its soft texture makes it very exciting to drink now.

 

J Lohr,

Paso Robles

(California)

“Hilltop”

Cabernet Sauvignon

2015

 

 

 

 

 

    $35

 

    

 

                                                                                        

Showing plenty of sweet, sun-drenched so very ripe fruit, this is a crowd-pleasing Cabernet.  With just enough tannin for structure, it tastes sexy.

           

 

Ravenswood,

Russian River Valley

(California)

Zinfandel

“Belloni Vineyard”

2015

 

 

 

 

$39

 

A surprising wine because not especially true to the variety, this is a claret-styled Zinfandel from a company that still performs magic with the grape.  Very long on the palate, it may be intellectually confusing but is also undeniably delicious.