Lamb Chops with Sardinian Fregola and Mint Pesto (Abbacchio)

Chef Victor Casanova perfectly pairs his spicy grilled lamb chops with small balls of refreshing mint pesto fregola.

FOR THE MINT PESTO:
3 cups fresh mint leaves
2 garlic cloves
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tbsp. Pecorino Romano, grated
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 tsp. marcona almonds
Sicilian salt, to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (we recommend DaVero Dry Creek Estate)
1/2 cup ice cubes, as needed

FOR THE PIMENTÓN OIL:
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pimenton
1/2 tsp. sea salt

FOR THE FREGOLA:
1 lb. Sardinian fregola
1 carrot, finely minced
1 stalk of celery, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 tbsp. currants
2 tbsp. marcona almonds, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

FOR THE LAMB CHOPS:
16 lamb chops
Salt and pepper

1. For the mint pesto: Combine mint, garlic, zest, juice, pepper, almonds, and a couple of ice cubes in a high-speed blender and turn on medium speed.

2. Slowly drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil until you have a smooth puree with a bright green color. The ice cubes are intended to control the heat in the blender. Season to taste.

3. For the pimenton oil: Combine all ingredients in a saucepot over low heat. When the oil starts to lightly bubble, take off heat and let steep, covered, for 1 hour.

4. Strain through a chinois lined with a coffee filter.

5. For the fregola: In a large pot of boiling water, add uncooked fregola and cook until al dente.

6. Strain, reserving 1 cup of water for later use, then lightly toss with olive oil and reserve on a half sheet pan at room temperature.

7. In a small rondeau, turn heat to low and add 3-4 tbsp. olive oil to coat the pan. Add carrot, celery, garlic, and shallot.

8. Cook on low to medium heat until the mixture is blond and well developed. About 5-10 minutes. Raise the heat slightly and add almonds and currants, then mix in well. When the currants are nice and plump, add fregola. Add 1 cup of pasta water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Season to taste and reserve.

9. For the lamb chops: Heat the grill. Season all lamb chops with salt and pepper. Cook the lamb chops on the grill to medium rare and reserve.

10. To asemble: Put 4 dinner plates in an oven set at 350° for 2 minutes then bring to countertop. In the center of each plate, add 3 tbsp. of the fregola. Then top with the 4 lamb chops, drizzle the lamb with the pimenton oil, and add about 1 tbsp. of mint pesto around the perimeter of the plate.

SERVES 4