The funny thing is, I wasn’t even thinking meat rub when I came up with the Mint Salt idea.
The goal was to make any food, especially salads and vegetables, taste authentically Lebanese, not to mention out-of-this-world fresh and delicious, with one pinch of the fingertips in a spice tin.
Brainstorming what to call this new spice with my sissie, we had ideas like “Salad Salt,” which hardly seemed to stress how good a sea salt with a mint profile really is. And how unique. We pushed on: Ultimate Salt? Go-To Salt? Ultimate Go-To Salt?
I know, we sound kind of, uh, not so creative. But then as the recipe-testing played out for the salts (one with garlic, one without), I realized there’s nothing more important and evocative than that one special word, meaningful to all Lebanese and even to cooks everywhere, including chefs at the highest end of fine dining:
At nearly every #rosewaterbook event, I’ve gone through my Lebanese ingredient run-down. Mint is the star of that show. I say with a smile, and with no offense to our Italian cousins, that I do believe “Mint is the new basil!” Everyone seems to get it, and to want it.
We love our mint fresh, and we grow it. Or some of us do. And we love our mint dried, and we dry it. Or some of us do.
I have found there is always a need for more mint than I dry, and I just want my spice blend at the ready. When I gave some newly minted Mint Salt to Geralyn, she got wide-eyed tasting a tomato-cucumber salad with the spice: You mean I just sprinkle a hefty pinch of this over my salad, and voila, it’s Lebanese salad? No making my own dried nana? No measuring?? OMG.
This from a girl who cooks Lebanese great like a Sitti, but has next to zero time to do it. The prepared Mint Salt takes out a whole huge process, since it is not so typical to find dried mint in the spice aisle at Meijer.
Now, nowhere on the Mint Salt tin will you see anything about rubbing it on your meats, lamb in particular. What? I know. As happens in this fast-paced world of cookbook writing and product development, we learn things after the fact that would have been great to know sooner (i.e., my new talami-making method that shuts down the method in the book in a hearbeat, it’s so much easier. My apologies!! Find it right here!).
I made lamb chops not long ago and my tin of Mint Salt was there on the counter as I cooked.
Eureka! My own eyes got wide as I rubbed the salt generously on all sides of the chops, then pan-seared them. As Geralyn would say, and as we all would most definitely say: O.M.G.!!! It’s crazy.
So let’s don’t limit ourselves to just a pinch and sprinkle of Mint Salt on salads and vegetables. Get your quality meats on, and rub the Mint Salt in but good, before and after. After all, the tins do say they’re great on vegetables, in dips, yogurt, “and more!”
Much, much more.
- 6 lamb chops (or more, or fewer)
- Mint Salt, Garlic Mint Salt, or your own combination of dried mint and sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (with Mint if you please!) for finishing
- Rub the lamb chops liberally with mint salt on all sides. Rest for up to an hour, or refrigerate over night, then bring the chops to room temperature.
- In a heavy saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until the butter is melted and hot, but not smoking. Swirl the pan to combine the fats.
- Place the lamb chops in the hot pan, listening for the big sizzle. Adjust the heat down a touch if needed. If there’s no big sizzle, remove the chops and heat the pan until it’s hot but not smoking.
- Cook the chops until they are deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook to desired doneness. For medium rare, cook for about 15-20 minutes.
- Be sure to turn the chops to sear the fatty sides so those are golden and the fat is somewhat rendered.
- To finish, drizzle with a touch of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil infused with mint, and a dusting of more mint salt.