Add a pop of char and smoke to your Thanksgiving feast with this recipe for cumin-rubbed grilled lamb chops, grilled acorn squash wedges, dill and fennel tzatziki, and pomegranate arils. This post is sponsored by The Home Depot, where you’ll find everything you need to cook outdoors, regardless of the season.
Over the past decade, Brian and I have continually shaped our Thanksgiving traditions. We’ve settled on most of the key aspects of the feast like serving pumpkin and apple pie, classic stuffing and giblet gravy, and two kinds of cranberry sauce (relish for me and my oldest daughter and traditional sauce for everyone else.). But one thing that continues to evolve is the role of the turkey.
I love the showiness of roasting up a big heritage breed bird, but I also miss the big flavor that other meats bring to the meal. So this year, we’re changing things up and adding grilled lamb shoulder chops and acorn squash to the menu.
Cooking an extra dish on our charcoal grill is a small act of genius since the oven is in high demand on Thanksgiving. Brian and I have long been dedicated to charcoal grilling with Kingsford original charcoal briquettes. Kingsford charcoal is shaped with grooves to promote airflow and ensure the coals are ready for cooking quickly. Kingsford charcoal also brings wonderful smoky flavor to meats and vegetables coming off the grill, and provides a reliably hot, consistent heat source, even when we’re grilling for a crowd.
Over the years, we’ve found that a basic charcoal chimney is the simplest way to heat coals. This method saves the trouble (and giant flare ups) of lighter fluid, while also ensuring the charcoal heats evenly. We also love the small footprint and simplicity of the kettle-style Master Touch Weber Charcoal Grill. Depending on the dish, you’ll want to either arrange the hot coals in the center of the grill or over to one side to create zones of direct and indirect heat. Because this recipe calls for a lot of searing over intense heat, we centered the coals, seared the squash, and then moved it to the outer edge while searing the lamb.
I love how these grilled lamb shoulder chops and acorn squash wedges bring a hint of charcoal and smoke to the Thanksgiving table. Beautifully marbled lamb shoulder chops cook up wonderfully on the grill with a perfectly charred exterior and a rare center. Though shoulder chops are not as expected as other cuts like rib chops, I really fell in love with the marbling and exceptional flavor. I rubbed the lamb chops with freshly ground cumin seed, black pepper, and sea salt – just enough to elevate the flavors of the meat. The acorn squash wedges were roasted in the oven and then finished on the grill. (To save time and oven space, consider pre-roasting them a day ahead, so they can be finished quickly on the grill.) To accompany the grilled lamb chops and acorn squash, I whipped up a simple dill and fennel tzatziki and then scattered everything with pomegranate arils.
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
- Zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons juice
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, reserve additional fronds for garnish
- 2 tablespoons minced dill
- 1 large acorn squash, stem trimmed, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 lamb shoulder chops, about 2 pounds (or sub smaller un-frenched rib chops – see note*)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- Reserved fennel fronds
Working up to three days ahead of time, make the tzatziki. In a medium-sized bowl, combine garlic, lemon zest and juice, cumin, and sea salt. Let sit 20 minutes, then fold in yogurt and herbs. Add sea salt and more lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate.
To make the squash, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss acorn squash wedges with olive oil, chili powder, and sea salt, and arrange on a large baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. (Squash should be cooked enough to just accept the tines of a fork – if overcooked, they may fall apart on the grill.) If making squash ahead, cool completely and then refrigerate; or on the day-of, just set aside until they're needed.
45 minutes before serving, prepare a hot grill.
Set lamb chops out to come to room temperature. Combine ground cumin, pepper, and sea salt, and rub over chops on both sides.
Arrange hot coals in the center of the grill. Arrange squash wedges on the grill, cook 2 minutes, then flip and cook 2 minutes more. Remove squash to the outer edge of the grill.
Place lamb chops in the center over the hottest part of the grill, sear 3 - 4 minutes, then flip and cook 3 - 4 minutes more. Check after temp 6 minutes total and pull when lamb has an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If lamb is nicely seared but not quite up to temp, set lamb along the outer edge to warm.
Rest lamb 10 minutes (see note**), then serve alongside acorn squash wedges and tzatziki. Garnish with fennel fronds and pomegranate arils.
*If using un-frenched rib chops (about 1/4 pound each), reduce cook time to 2 - 3 minutes per side.
**Timelines can be tough on Thanksgiving, and owing to a nice amount of fat, shoulder chops will keep 20 minutes in a 200 degree F oven if things aren't going as planned.
Disclosure: I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in the promotional program described above (the “Program”). As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
I love the idea of grilling on Thanksgiving, especially in more temperate climates like Virginia and Texas. You have a way of bringing class and vibrance to meat dishes. And the pops of pomegranate makes it next level. Wishing you an abundant, healthy holiday season, Elizabeth. xo!
You are speaking my language with this recipe! Fennel tzatziki…you are a genius!
Sonja Overhiser says
Those grill photos are INSANE! Love the idea of grilling on Thanksgiving!