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Originally published Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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A quick recipe for lamb rib chops

City Kitchen: A quick preparation for lamb rib chops. Coat rib chops in a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, then fry them gently in olive oil to give them a crisp, golden, savory crust. Recipe: Parmesan Lamb Chops

The New York Times

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We think of spring as the season of the lamb, but in truth, the term "spring lamb" is a misnomer. The lamb you see in shops now is from animals 6 to 9 months old, which means they were born last fall at the earliest. The exception is suckling or milk-fed lamb, only a few weeks old, which is a delicacy prized in Europe but rarely available in the United States. If you can find it, it is extraordinary.

Modern breeding practices make lamb available year round, and it is now relatively mild-flavored, raised to a smaller size than mutton, which is a sheep 1 to 2 years old. One doesn't see mutton much in this country — it is more often found in the British Isles — though some cooks favor its more intense taste. Generally speaking, with lamb, smaller is better when it comes to flavor.

The rack of lamb and the loin, which can be quickly grilled or sauteed, are more expensive than the braising cuts, like shank or shoulder. Yet for a splurge dinner, rib chops (the tender little chops from the rack) make tasty morsels, and cooking them at home is still far cheaper than ordering them at a restaurant.

Though you can buy individual rib chops, it is easy to cut a rack into eight chops yourself, which is more economical. (You will want to have it Frenched, that is, trimmed to expose the bones and rib-eye. Most butchers sell lamb racks that are already prepared this way.) How many chops make a portion? Two make a moderate serving, but you may need three or four for heartier appetites.

A wonderful way to prepare rib chops is to coat them in a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, then fry them gently in olive oil to give them a crisp, golden, savory crust. Served with lemon wedges and a pile of garlicky greens like broccoli rabe or spinach, they make a lovely springtime treat.

PARMESAN LAMB CHOPS

Time: About 30 minutes

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

1 small rack of lamb, Frenched by a butcher, about 1 ½ pounds, or 8 3-ounce rib chops

Salt and pepper

½ cup breadcrumbs, preferably homemade

½ ounce grated Parmesan (about ½ cup)

½ teaspoon powdered fennel seed (use an electric spice mill or mortar and pestle)

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

½ cup flour seasoned with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and a pinch cayenne

2 small eggs, lightly beaten

Olive oil for frying (or substitute clarified butter or vegetable oil)

Parsley sprigs for serving

Lemon wedges for serving

1. With a sharp knife, cut between bones to divide the rack of lamb into 8 chops. Trim chops of any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, fennel seed and rosemary.

3. Dip each chop into the seasoned flour, then into the beaten eggs. Lay the chops on a baking sheet and sprinkle both sides of each liberally with the crumb mixture. Press any remaining mixture evenly over the chops to coat well.

4. In a wide skillet, pour the olive oil to a depth of ½ inch. Heat over a medium-high burner until the oil looks wavy. Add the chops without crowding. They should begin to sizzle, but not brown too quickly. Adjust the heat so they fry gently for about 2 ½ minutes, until crisp and golden. Turn with tongs and fry on the other side for about 2 minutes. (The interiors should be pink and juicy, but not rare.) Blot on paper towels. Serve with parsley sprigs and lemon wedges.

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