New pans, timeless techniques: Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tomatoes and Sage

by Terry B on September 4, 2013

Lamb shoulder chops are pan seared, then quickly braised with San Marzano tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, sage and red wine. Recipe below—plus your chance to win a Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick fry pan.

braised-lamb-chops-tomatoes-olives

I love kitchen stuff. If left to my own devices in a department store, I don’t wander over to the big screen TVs. You’ll find me in the cookware department, checking out the newest pots and pans and gadgets. Our kitchen cabinets (okay, and various attic shelves) are crammed with assorted skillets, sauce pans, Dutch ovens, stock pots… So when I was asked to review some new Calphalon pans, I of course said yes.

The pans in question are part of a new premium cookware line being introduced this month, Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick. We were given the 10-inch sauté pan you see above (with accompanying glass lid) and a 10-inch fry pan to test drive. While our aforementioned pile of cookware includes heavy French copper pieces, high-end stainless and cheap, hardworking Chinatown aluminum pots, nonstick pans are my daily go-to. So I’m well versed in the advantages of nonstick—and the drawbacks.

The main advantage is in its name—nonstick. Food releases easily because it doesn’t stick in the first place. Cleanup is easy too, for the same reason.

One historic drawback has been surface durability. I remember nonstick surfaces flaking away in some of my mother’s first pans. It’s gotten much better over the years, but most manufacturers still warn against using metal utensils. Calphalon says its Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick line is “engineered to withstand the rigors of metal whisk and spatula use.” I haven’t been exactly rigorous with my handling of the pans, but I’ve used metal spoons, tongs and even spatulas, flipping chops and scraping up browned bits—all without leaving marks on the surface.

An even bigger issue for many cooks is that nonstick cookware doesn’t always do a great job of searing meat. That quick browning is needed to seal in moisture and flavor and add color. The fry pan handled this well, browning steaks beautifully.

The Elite Nonstick has a couple of other features I like that have nothing to do with its nonstick abilities. First, far too many of our pans—cheap, expensive, nonstick or not—warp when you heat them. Either all of the cooking fat flows to the edges of the pan or, in rare cases, to the middle. These did not. The bottoms stayed flat. The other feature I like is stamped in the bottom of each pan: TOLEDO, OHIO USA. It’s getting increasingly hard to find things manufactured in the United States, and seeing that made me very happy.

As the name would suggest, Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick will be sold exclusively through Williams-Sonoma. It launches on their website on September 12, and will be available in stores on September 27. An 11-piece set will retail for $699.95. Pieces will also be sold individually. (And I’m giving away one pan here—look for details after the recipe.)

So let’s get cooking. As I said, I pan seared steaks in the fry pan, partly to see how well the cookware browns meat and partly because, hey, it’s steak. For the lidded sauté pan, I wanted to braise something. Here, the pan would have to brown meat and sweat vegetables, and its lid would have to seal properly to keep in the braising liquid.

In a bit of accidental symmetry, I had just picked up a Williams-Sonoma cookbook at the library, The Cook & The Butcher: Juicy Recipes, Butcher’s Wisdom, and Expert Tips, an unapologetic celebration of cooking and eating meat. Tapping into this book seemed perfect for testing cookware that shared part of its name.

Lamb shoulder chops are an inexpensive and flavorful cut. They can also be tough if not cooked properly. One favorite tenderizing technique is to dry brine them with kosher salt. This quick braise also does the trick, and the tomatoes, sage and olives create a wonderfully lively sauce that balances the lamb’s richness.

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tomatoes and Sage
Adapted from The Cook & The Butcher
Serves 2

2 lamb shoulder chops, about 8 ounces each
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup dry red wine
3 to 4 canned San Marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with some of their juices
6 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Pat chops dry with paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large lidded sauté pan over medium-high flame. When the pan is very hot, sear chops on one side for 2-1/2 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for 2 minutes. Transfer chops to plate.

Pour off fat in pan and add remaining tablespoon of oil. reduce heat to medium-low and let pan cool for a minute or two. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sage and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine and deglaze pan, scraping up any browned bits.

Add tomatoes and olives. Return chops and any accumulated juices to pan. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, turning chops halfway through.

Transfer chops to warmed plates. If the sauce is on the thin side, raise heat to high and reduce slightly (I didn’t need to do this). Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

And now the giveaway. Win a Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick 10-inch fry pan for your own kitchen. To enter to win it, just leave a comment on this post. On Sunday, September 15, I’ll select a random comment as the winner. Just one comment per person, please.

Update: The contest is now closed. I’ll announce the winner Wednesday. Thanks for entering!

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Shaunab September 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Yum to the nth!

michelle September 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm

This looks delicious! I haven’t tried this cut and am excited to do so!

david klehr September 15, 2013 at 8:54 am

I look forward to trying this!

Lisa September 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

I’ve never cooked with lamb shoulder. Sounds like a great easy weeknight dinner. Love the flavors.

Terry B September 16, 2013 at 7:08 am

Thanks for your comments! The contest is now closed. I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday.

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