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What is that picture? Lamb ribs, lamb ribs that you just pick up with your paws and nibble on with delight.

This is NOT a quick recipe. You have to brine the ribs overnight, for example. There are lots of steps, lots to do, and lots of enjoyment. This recipe is from Estella in lower Manhattan. Chef Ignacio Mattos notes that he was not a fan of lamb and invented this dish to satisfy even people like himself.

He’s quite satisfied. You will be, too.

Lamb Ribs with “Chermoula” and Honey

Yield: serves 4-6


For the Brine and Ribs:

  • 10 cups hot water
  • 1 cup (225 g) kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons pink curing salt
  • 5 pounds Denver-cut Iamb spareribs {cut from the breast)

For the Spice Mixture:

  • ½ cup coriander seeds
  • ½ cup fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • Heaping 1 tablespoon chile flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Chermoula and Finish:

  • 2 bunches cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar 1
  •  teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons chardonnay vinegar
  • A handful of mint leaves, torn


Brine the ribs: Pour the hot water into a container large enough to hold the lamb ribs and add the kosher and pink salts, stirring to dissolve them. Let cool, then add the ribs, cover, and refrigerate overnight, ideally for 15 to 17 hours.

The next day, make the spice mixture: Coarsely grind each spice separately using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. (This takes a little extra time, but grinding them together makes for an uneven, too-fine mixture.)

Take the ribs out of the brine, pat dry, and arrange them on a baking sheet so the inner side is facing up. Press on a light layer of the spice mixture. Flip them and press and pat the rest of the spice mixture onto the top of the ribs-you really want to get a good crust on there, so much that you can’t really see the meat anymore. Return the ribs to the refrigerator for 12 more hours so the meat has time to take on the flavor of the spice mixture.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and pour½ cup (about 120 ml) water into the bottom of the baking sheet to keep the ribs from drying out. Place the ribs on the rack, then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, crimping the edges to keep the steam from escaping. (You don’t want too much contact between the ribs and the foil, but a little is okay.) Slide the ribs into the oven. Check the ribs after 2½ hours: When they are ready, the bones at the ends of the slabs will be a little wiggly, so that you could pull them out easily. If you need to, give them another 15 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven, being careful that the water doesn’t spill. Uncover the ribs-be careful of the hot escaping steam-and let them cool, then cut between the bones into 2-rib sections. (The ribs can sit in the refrigerator overnight, if you like. In fact, this will make them easier to cut.)

When you’re ready to serve, arrange the ribs on a baking sheet, meat side up; bring to room temperature if you’ve refrigerated them. Preheat the broiler.

Make the chermoula: Put the cilantro in a large mortar, add a pinch of salt, and pound lightly with the pestle. Mix in the sherry vinegar, fish sauce, and olive oil.

Mix together the honey and chardonnay vinegar, then brush or spoon about half the mixture over the ribs and place under the broiler for 3 minutes. Lacquer on the remaining honey mixture, then place the ribs back under the broiler for another 3 minutes or so. You’re just looking to add some toasty color and heat the ribs fully; you don’t want to cook the meat any further. And yet, you may need to give them a bit more time.

To serve: Place a spoonful of chermoula on each plate, top with mint leaves, then set as many ribs as you like on top.

Source: Estella by Ignacio Mattos [Artisan, 2018]