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A New Spring Flame

March 23, 1997|JOAN DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Flaming with Cognac adds a little drama--and flavor--to lamb chops. You might even want to try this menu for entertaining if you've got unexpected guests.

To flame, a spirit must be at least 80 proof (a measurement of alcoholic strength). Alcoholic content is equal to half the proof, so if only that figure is on the label, be sure it's 40% or more.

The higher the proof, the easier the spirit is to ignite and the larger and longer lasting the flame. For this menu, residual heat in the pan used to cook the lamb chops will warm 80 proof Cognac to the 160 degrees necessary for it to flame when ignited with a match.

As a safety precaution, have a cover for the pan nearby in case the flames need to be extinguished quickly. Allow the flames to die down, burning off some of the alcohol and leaving the subtle flavor of the Cognac. Once the chops are removed, enhance the potatoes by tossing them in the pan drippings.

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Menu (30 minutes or less)

Lamb Chops Flamed with Cognac

Boiled Red New Potatoes

Steamed Broccoli

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COUNTDOWN

30 minutes before: Bring water to boil, scrub potatoes and place in water to cook.

25 minutes before: Prepare broccoli for cooking. Season lamb chops.

20 minutes before: Start heating cast-iron skillet.

17 minutes before: Begin cooking lamb chops and steaming broccoli.

8 minutes before: Reduce pan juices with Cognac and flame chops.

3 minutes before: Halve cooked new potatoes and toss in pan juices before serving.

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INGREDIENTS

STAPLES

Cognac

Garlic

Coarse salt

Peppercorns

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SHOPPING LIST

3/4 pound broccoli florets

8 center-cut lamb chops

12 small new red boiling potatoes

1 bunch fresh rosemary

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Kitchen Tip

To prepare fresh broccoli florets for steaming, rinse well under cold running water, trim the bases and cut into individual florets. Place in a steamer above water. Bring the water to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and steam 8 to 10 minutes, until just tender when pierced.

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SHORT CUTS

* Buying just the broccoli florets costs a little more, but saves time because the stems don't need to be peeled, and there's practically no waste.

LAMB CHOPS FLAMED WITH COGNAC

8 center-cut lamb chops

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup Cognac

Sprinkle each chop with garlic, pepper and rosemary, then press into meat.

Preheat cast-iron skillet 2 to 3 minutes over high heat. When water dances on surface, sprinkle with coarse salt.

Place chops in skillet, cover pan with spatter guard and reduce heat to medium-high. Sear chops about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare, turning once.

Remove pan from heat. Transfer chops to warm plate. Add 2 tablespoons Cognac to pan and stir to loosen any browned bits.

Return chops to skillet. Add 2 more tablespoons Cognac and carefully ignite with long match. As soon as flames die down, remove chops to platter and serve as quickly as possible for best flavor.

4 servings.

430 calories; 367 mg sodium; 94 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 21 grams protein; 0.05 gram fiber.

BOILED RED NEW POTATOES

2 1/2 cups water

12 new red boiling potatoes, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter

Pan drippings from lamb chops

Bring water to boil in 3-quart saucepan. Scrub potatoes.

Add potatoes to pan, cover and boil gently about 20 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain and cut each potato in half.

After removing lamb chops, place potatoes in skillet and toss to coat with pan drippings.

4 servings.

140 calories; 65 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.48 gram fiber.

"Western Birch Bark" project paper backgrouind from Noteworthy at the Beverly Center and Santa Monica.

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