Let’s get this out of the way: We know Father’s Day seems to be filled with endless tropes of dear old dad stationed in front of the grill, pawing at his new set of barbecue tools and swigging a couple of cold beers.
But you know what? There’s a reason the image, at least the grilling part, is baked into our collective conscious.
There’s just something about that primeval desire to cook, to provide, and I think this recipe for grilled lamb chops with salsa macha will prove satisfying, succulent and downright perfect for a Sunday celebration.
We begin by making the versatile salsa macha, a nutty, spicy and rustic salsa consisting of chopped-up dried red chile, oil, garlic, nuts and seeds. Here, I’ve added a splash of apple cider vinegar and dried herbs to the mix.
Spooned over the grilled chops, it pairs beautifully with the rich fullness of the lamb.
A quick note: As with beef steaks, lamb chops have the best texture and the liveliest flavor, in my opinion, when cooked directly (and briefly) over rather high heat until they’re no more than medium.
Stem the chiles, then break or cut them open and scrape/brush/let fall out most of the seeds; cut into 1/4-inch pieces - you will have about 1 cup. (Simply use chiltepin or pequin whole.) In a large (4-quart) saucepan, combine the nuts, sesame seeds, garlic and oil over medium-high heat and cook until garlic and sesame seeds are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chiles. Let cool 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar with the salt until dissolved, then add it to the pan along with the herbs. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a blender or food processor and pulse until everything is chopped into small pieces. Run the processor for a few seconds until everything is finely chopped—but not pureed.
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or build a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with grey ash and quite hot. Brush both sides of each lamb chop with a little oil from the salsa macha; sprinkle generously with salt. Grill the lamb chops over the hottest part of the fire until as done as you like, usually about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let them rest on a cool part of the grill for several minutes before serving with the warm salsa macha for each guest to spoon on al gusto.
Here, we take our cues from those ubiquitous roadside stalls in Mexico serving Sinaloa-style chicken — that’s a butterflied bird marinated in classic Mexican spices and slow-grilled over charcoal — and bring it to the backyard grill.
The marinade adds an interesting, complex punch of chile, citrus and spices, while a long stint over indirect heat contributes flavor and succulence to the chicken.
Perhaps best of all, this dish is relatively low maintenance — just remember to baste from time to time. If you’re using charcoal, you’ll have to replenish with more coals after about 30 minutes to maintain the temperature.
In a small bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.
Light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash (and about medium hot); bank half the coals to one side of the grill, half to the other. Or, heat a gas grill: You’ll need a grill with three burners, so that you can turn heat the outer two to medium and leave the center one off.
While the grill is heating, remove the giblets (if there are any) from the cavity of the chicken. Flip the chicken onto its breast. Using poultry shears, cut down through the backbone from tail to neck, staying as near as possible to the center of the bone (to keep the skin attached). If you don’t have shears, lay the bird on its back, insert a long heavy knife into the body cavity and press down hard with a rocking motion to cut through the length of the backbone. Open the bird out onto your work surface, breast side up. Make sure that the legs are turned inward. Using your fist or a mallet, wallop the bird on the breast—hard enough to dislodge the center bones and flatten out the breast. Twist the last joint of the wings up over the breast and then down behind the “shoulders,” tucking them in firmly to keep them in place during grilling.
Smear both sides of the chicken with the marinade. Lay in the center of the grill (it will not be over direct heat). Cook without turning, basting from time to time with any remaining marinade, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced deeply with a fork (an instant-read thermometer should register about 160 degrees when inserted at the thickest part of the thigh), about 45 minutes. If you’re cooking over charcoal, you’ll want to add more charcoal to the fire every half hour or so—the internal temperature of the grill should stay at about 325 degrees.
About 10 minutes before the chicken is ready, brush or spray the green onions with oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill directly over the fire, turning frequently, until tender and browned.
Remove the chicken to a cutting board. It will loose less juice is you cover it loosely with foil and let it rest 5 or 10 minutes. Cut into quarters (or smaller pieces). Transfer a portion to each of 4 dinner plates. Top with the grilled onions and you’re ready to serve. Pass the salsa separately.