Pirzola is a Turkish delicacy consisting of a fine cut of lamb, exquisitely seasoned, and quickly seared in a pan to preserve all its inherent flavor. It is one of the true delights of Turkish cuisine, which is saying a lot, because Turkey is a country renowned for its many fine, tasty dishes. Located on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey has long been a kind of middle ground between Europe and Asia.
That makes it only natural to have had a long history of cultural exchanges – in the arts, the sciences, in customs, and in cuisine. A great many influences have been imparted to the country, having been ruled in the past by the Seljuks, Romans, Greeks, Hittites, and Persians. Today Turkey is governed by a secular and democratic body, although its people have retained many of those influences from other nations that have touched the population at some point in history.
History of Pirzola
Like many other Turkish delights, pirzola had its origins during the early days of the Ottoman Empire, which dominated the country from 1453 all the way up to modern times, in 1909. With literally centuries of influences to draw upon, Turkey developed some of the finest cuisine in the entire world, and was the talk of all Europe and Asia. Dishes originally created in Turkey spread throughout both continents to become popular over a vast area, for instance fish cooked in olive oil, yogurt salads, sweet syrupy filo desserts, stuffed vegetables roasted with vine leaves – and pirzola.
Preparation of Pirzola
The extra thin cuts from lamb are the primary ingredient used in cooking a fine dinner entrée of pirzola, but there are definitely some pointers to observe in order to make this the culinary delight beloved by so many people in the Middle East. The most highly preferred cuts are lamb and sheep chops, while ribs can also be obtained from cutting the sleeve part off mutton. These mutton sleeve cuts are known as ‘pencil chops’, and are considered to be the softest, tastiest parts of mutton. Otherwise, the needed lamb chops are commonly removed from the back area, as well as the ribs.
To prepare an entrée for your guests featuring pirzola, you’ll need the following:
- 8 extra thin lamb chops
- Olive oil
- 5-6 springs of thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 sprigs of mint
- Lemony sumac seasoning
- ½ cup of fresh parsley
- 4 servings of small potatoes
- Black pepper
- Additional vegetables of your choosing
All the vegetables, including the potatoes, should be sliced to taste and placed in a baking dish with a few tablespoons of water on the bottom, to prevent burning and sticking. With an oven temperature set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the vegetables should be roasted for approximately one hour, or until tender. Before placing these in your oven, the vegetables can be given a light pinch of salt coating, or any other favored seasoning you prefer.
Next, puree all the seasonings together in a blender, to make a sauce which you can then rub into each of the lamb chops before placing them in the skillet. The important part of this meal preparation is, of course, the lamb chops. The secret to preparing perfect pirzola is in sealing in the natural juices of the lamb, so that each bite is a true taste experience for the consumer: tender, juicy, tangy, and loaded with flavor. The way to do this lies entirely in the method of cooking.
On your stove top, place your skillet over a high heat burner, and let it warm for one minute. Then add a light coating to each chop of salt, pepper, and olive oil (you can do more chops if you have room in your fry pan), and place them in the skillet. Let the chops cook for only three to four minutes, and then flip them so you can repeat the process on the other side. This technique has the effect of sealing in all the flavor and juices of the lamb chop, while not overcooking to make it dry and tough.
Because the chops have been cut thin, they do not need much exposure on a high heating surface to become fully seared and cooked. Another important point in this preparation process is that you should not poke the cooking chops with a knife or fork to see if they’re done or not – this will in fact, puncture the surface of the chop and allow for some of the juices and flavor to drain out. It is far better to simply trust in the recipe and not poke or probe the delicate chops.
Assembling Your Pirzola Masterpiece
Once you’ve cooked the lamb chops to perfection, you can place each one on a serving-sized plate, in the center. Around the cooked pirzola, you can place the potatoes, onions, parsley, and whatever other vegetables you’ve baked in your oven. You needn’t wait for the lamb chops to cool down – since they were thin to begin with, they will quickly drop to room temperature after being retrieved from the skillet. Voila! – a true culinary delight, perfected through centuries of preparation.