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What's for Dinner: Melissa Clark's Turkish Lamb Chops

by Melissa Clark

One bite, and you're by the beach in Bodrum. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

When it comes to our pal New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, our general attitude is "I'll have what she's having." Needless to say, we're thrilled about her latest cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game, which we'll be consulting on the regular. She gave us a recipe from the book inspired by her travels.

The three food memories that have stayed with me from past trips to Turkey are the sweet and gamy lamb, the heady spices, and the hundreds of different variations on the eggplant. This recipe uses two of the three — thick juicy lamb chops covered in whole spices, which not only add flavor, but a crunchy texture too. One bite send me straight to an Istanbul meyhane. The only thing missing is the eggplant on the side — and the free-flowing raki.


Given my very high regard for a grilled naked lamb chop, all juicy and charred, when I do go for something more elaborate, it's got to be worth it. This dish is. Here, the meat is coated in toasted whole spices — fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds — that have been very lightly crushed. The seeds retain their texture, giving the meat both a heady scent and a good crunch. For serving, a tahini-lemon sauce adds a rich nuttiness, while a dash of sumac provides its berrylike tartness.

Serve this with Green Beans with Caper Vinaigrette (page 377) or Citrus Salad with Olives (page 375).


For the Lamb

1 tbsp. Turkish red pepper or Aleppo pepper (or use red chile flakes)
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 lbs. bone-in loin lamb chops, the thicker the better
Extra-virgin olive oil, for grilling

For the Tahini Sauce

1/3 c. fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. tahini
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
4-6 tbsp. ice water

For Serving

Fresh dill sprigs
Ground sumac (optional) 

Total Time: 35 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes marinating.

Serves 4 to 6


1. Prepare the lamb: Combine the Turkish red pepper, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds in a small bowl. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat, add the spice mixture, and toast until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a mortar or spice grinder, add the salt and black pepper, and either pound or briefly grind until you get a coarse-textured spice mix. Don’t overdo it if you’ve gone electric here—the coarse texture is an essential part of the dish.

2. Pat the spice mixture all over the lamb chops, and let them marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or uncovered in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

3. Make the tahini sauce: While the lamb is marinating, in a food processor, blend the lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Then add the tahini and ground cumin, and blend until a thick paste forms. With the processor running, gradually add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is smooth enough to drizzle.

4. Heat a grill or broiler to high.

5. Drizzle the chops lightly with olive oil. Grill the chops until they are charred on the outside and cooked to taste within (or broil the chops on a broiler pan or rimmed baking sheet). Cooking time will depend on how thick your chops are, so watch them carefully: 2-inch-thick bone-in chops will take at least 3 to 5 minutes per side for rare. You’ll need less time for thinner chops, and more time if you like them cooked medium rare or beyond. Let the lamb rest for 5 minutes before serving.

6. To serve, drizzle the tahini sauce over the chops, and garnish them with the dill sprigs. Add a dusting of the red sumac if you like.

Dinner, Melissa Clark\


There are so many more recipes to fall in love with in Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark.


What Melissa Clark Eats on a Plane
Fathom's Favorite Spring Cookbooks
More Global Recipes on Fathom

Reprinted from Dinner. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.