Culinary art in Rome: abbacchio alla scottadito and secrets for its perfect cooking
Those who know Rome and its culinary tradition know how tasty the lamb chops are. The "abbacchio a scottadito" is one of the most favourite dishes the restaurants in the capital offer. The secret of the preparation is simple, you just have to strictly follow the traditional recipe with high quality ingredients. The culinary art of Rome is an exact science: to cook lamb chops and obtain a perfect cooking, relying on tradition is fundamental.
Whole generations of Romans know how to cook it and are aware of the secrets of its preparation. They feel the "responsibility" of putting a dish on the table, so well known and loved everywhere (by the residents of Trastevere, by tourists, and by anyone who loves the Eternal City and wants to taste the lamb in Rome). It is a pleasure connected to a precise desire: to fully satisfy the culinary experience of tourists who love lamb chops. In the next paragraphs, we will introduce two ways of cooking the "abbacchio a scottadito" - the classic dish - and that with artichokes and honey lavender sauce.
What is the meaning of the term "scottadito"?
The name means "burnt fingers", a reference to what happens when you take a glowing chop with bare hands, (just try to resist), and refers to the particular way the dish should be eaten: warm and using only your hands, almost burning fingers. This way of eating the dish comes from the Jewish-Roman cultural tradition, just like the artichokes "alla Giudia".
Secrets for the preparation of the original and basic "abbacchio alla scottadito"
Wash the meat and dry it with kitchen paper, removing excess water. Skim the fat off and spread the chops with a meat tenderizer. Peel the garlic and chop it into strips. Put the chops on a baking sheet, pour a little oil, add the garlic and the rosemary. Add salt, pepper and lard (as indicated following the original procedure) and mix together. Let it marinate for about 10 minutes. Heat the grill and place the lamb chops for a few minutes, turn them and cook them on both sides; serve hot with lemon slices. The temperature of the grill is very important: it must be very hot to generate the Maillard reaction, and to better improve the aromas of the meat. Baked potatoes, artichokes or even a simple and fresh salad are perfect as side dishes. And how about wine? We recommend a good glass of Valpolicella or Amarone. The lamb chops are served with a honey, lavender and shallot sauce, in addition to a simple side of roasted artichokes. The name of the Italian style used to cook it actually is "scottadito", with chops individually cut, marinated and grilled. The style is often attributed to Rome and the surrounding region of Lazio, but it is popular throughout central Italy.
The accompanying sauce should be a little full-bodied, the famous chef Brandwein recommends to reduce the consistency of the maple syrup, which means letting it sizzle on the stove in the pan for about 15 minutes. The dish will still be good if you don't have the time or the patience to let it reduce, but the process will reward you with a greater concentration and a texture of better taste, which will better embrace the meat. Marinate the meat in a mixture of rosemary and thyme and grill it for a few minutes on each side. Ribs are easy to be prepared, just a little attention; traditionally, they are eaten as a lollipop, with the hands, but feel free to enjoy them as you prefer.
Ingredients of the "abbacchio a scottadito" (lamb ribs with artichokes and sauce of honey and lavender)
8 ribs cut in two parts
12 great segments of garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup of fresh fine minced rosemary
1 spoon of fresh thymus finely minced
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
3/4 of cup more 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 spoons of unsalted butter
4 scallions, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of dried lavender
A pinch of minced coriander
A pinch of minced cumin
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
8 artichoke hearts, canned or fresh and cut
3 branches of thyme
In a bowl, add garlic, rosemary, thyme and cayenne pepper. Add 3/4 cup of olive oil and stir to create a dough. Rub the dough on both sides of the lamb chops. Transfer it into an airtight container, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 - 24 hours, ideally about 6. Remove the lamb from the fridge and dry the excess oil without scraping the herbs. Let the meat reach room temperature before grilling, about 20 minutes. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, add the shallots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, occasionally stirring, until the shallots get completely translucent, for about 10 minutes. Add honey, lavender, coriander and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and cook over low heat until everything is slightly reduced, for about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, to make it slightly thick: the sauce should have the consistency of maple syrup. Let it cool.
Preheat oven to 375 ° F. Cut the artichoke hearts into quarters or halves. Place the thyme on a baking rack covered by an aluminium foil and add the artichoke hearts. Season with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until the artichokes get tender (about 10 minutes). Preheat a grill or a pan, meanwhile wrap the lamb chops with aluminium foil to prevent them from burning during cooking, from 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Depending on the size of the grill, it may be necessary to roast the meat a little per time, so it is very important to understand the amount that can be cooked. Transfer the chops to a serving dish and remove the aluminium foil; then season them with honey and lavender sauce. Serve together with the roasted artichokes as a side dish and the sauce. Quantity for 4 people.
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