Friday, February 15, 2013

Lemon Smothered Chops

One day I had a gift certificate for books and spent it on whims.  Sometimes I just pick a likely-looking cookbook based on its cover or a brief description and buy it, just because it intrigues me.  That is how I got this book,

ISBN 0-8070-0964-4

The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro
"The classic yearlong celebration of black heritage from
Emancipation Proclamation Breakfast Cake to Wandering Pilgrim's Stew".

It was published by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. in 1958 and this is a reprint from 2000.  The idea for the book originated with its editor, Sue Bailey Thurman, who "proposed developing the cookbook as a means of stimulating awareness and appreciation our [the American Negro] history. ... Knowing the positive potential happenings around food, Mrs. Thurman designed the cookbook around the birthdays of persons and events in the calendar year, rather than the traditional groupings of recipes.  She called it a 'palatable' approach to history."  (page vii, in the foreword to the reprint edition).  Here is a short biography of Mrs. Thurman:

The recipe (page 47) that attracted my attention was designed for Mother's Day,  May 1946, in honor of Mrs. Emma C. Clement who was chosen as "Mother of the Year". 

Lemon Smothered Chops

2 pounds lamb chops, cut thick -- put in large covered skillet or chicken fryer. 

Cover top of meat closely with --

2 unpeeled lemons, sliced
1 large sweet onion, cut in rings
1 green pepper, cut in rings
1 teaspoon salt

Pour over all:
2 cups tomato juice.

Dot with flakes of fat cut from meat or butter.  Cover and cook on top of stove 1-1/2 hours or until done.  Lift onto a hot platter, being careful to keep lemon, onion and pepper slices in place.  The meat cooked like this way acquires a chicken texture and color, while the lemon, onion, pepper and tomato make a delicious sauce accompaniment.

I couldn't get two pounds of lamb chops so I settled for 1.5 pounds.  They were thickly cut.

I will admit now that I am not a fan of green peppers.  I stayed true to the recipe by using them but the rings were intentionally kept small to minimize their influence.

Putting the lemon, onion, and pepper rings over the top of the chops (each chop got its own set) made a very pretty sight.  I picked out the lemon seeds!  Then I sprinkled the salt on top.

I used the full 2 cups of tomato juice, making sure each chop got doused and the extra going around the chops, and then dotted each chop stack with a few flakes of butter.

The recipe just says to cook them for 1-1/2 hours, so I set the heat under the pan to medium until the tomato juice started to bubble and then I turned the heat down to low.  I checked in on the chops a few times and everything looked like it was cooking nicely and slowly as intended.

When the timer rang, I decided it was done and dished two chops out onto my plate.

As is, without any sauce or side dishes

The Verdict:  I will call it a success because nothing went wrong.  However, it is not going to be a dish I repeat.  The lamb chops were small and so the rings of lemon, onion, and pepper covered them.  This is not a problem visually but I think the flavors were out of proportion.  Boy, am I glad I used little pepper rings.

The meat was tender and flavorful.  I tried it alone and I tried it with the toppings.  What I found was that eating the lemon rind was too strong and I couldn't taste anything else.  Maybe it should have been a thinner slice!  So what I liked was a piece of meat with a bit of pepper and onion with it and before I put it in my mouth I rubbed it into the lemon slice.  That was good, even with the pepper, whose flavor was definitely muted from the long cooking.

I visualize this as being served with a big bowl of fluffy white rice and the tomato sauce from the pan served alongside to moisten everything.  If you happen to like the cooked green pepper - tomato flavor combination, then you might like this dish.  I found it okay but not exciting.

This idea of covering the meat with the flavors and simmering in the tomato sauce is a good one for pork chops, I think.  But I will leave out the green peppers.

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