There’s no tradition of eating lamb in Japan—there has never been pastureland to support grazing herds—but in recent years lamb from New Zealand has been sold in some supermarkets in large Japanese cities. Perhaps it’s the slightly gamy aroma of roasted lamb that keeps most Japanese home cooks from trying it. Since imported meat is expensive in Japan, I’m sure a certain reluctance to experiment with costly ingredients has also contributed to the lack of popularity of lamb in Japanese home cooking today. But Japanese food professionals—chefs trained or experienced in cooking outside their homeland—have discovered the versatility and meaty pleasures of lamb. Lamb dishes appear on many menus in Japanese–French restaurants in America. I’m particularly fond of the following rendition, in which the garlic, saké, and soy marinade tenderizes and tames any inclination toward gaminess, while the fresh wild mushrooms add an elegant touch to the dish.
Trim as much fat as possible from the chops and render it in a heavy skillet (wrought iron is best) until it yields about
Lay the lamb chops in a single layer in a glass or ceramic dish. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour them over the chops, allowing 20–30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 3 hours in the refrigerator, for full flavor to develop. Turn the chops once or twice if the marinade doesn’t cover the meat.
If using enokidaké mushrooms, rinse gently under cold water, then shake dry. Trim and discard the bottom halves of the stalks. If using shiitaké mushrooms, remove the stems and save them for enriching stock, if you wish, or discard. Rinse the caps under cold water to remove any dirt or sand, and gently press them between the palms of your hands to get rid of excess moisture. Slice the caps into
Lift the chops from the marinade and pat dry on paper towels. Heat the rendered fat in the skillet and quickly sear the edges of the chops. Brown the sides of the chops, about 1 minute per side. Lower the heat, pour in the marinade, and partially cover the skillet. Cook the lamb chops for 1 more minute if less than
Remove the chops from the skillet to warmed plates. Toss the prepared mushrooms into the skillet and stir them over high heat until just barely wilted. Divide the mushrooms among the four plates, draping them over the chops. Moisten the chops and mushrooms with any remaining pan juices.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.