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RBR Tailgating: Lamb Loin Chops with Mint Pesto

I can’t tell it like he would. Dammit.

Norm Macdonald died.

That came at me sidewise. Apparently he suffered for years before succumbing to cancer. Darn it.

He was great at hitting you with the out-of-nowhere punch line, but he was better at drawing out a joke. He would talk you through an extended version of a joke that we all knew the punch line to, but he made the story a conspiratorial endeavor where the joy was in the telling and he would wind his way through with a grin toward the knowing audience. It was the telling that was the telling. He was amazing.

My brother can pull this off on occasion. I remember an Easter dinner in particular. He had a joke and the wrong audience and that made the joke that much better.

We eat lamb in my family all holidays not called Thanksgiving where turkey is assumed. Christmas meant roasted leg of lamb. Easter meant roasted leg of lamb. Dad’s birthday - roasted leg of lamb. Mom’s birthday – spaghetti with meat sauce, and that goes for my birthday too, but we’re the outliers. Pretty much any celebratory meal was lamb. I love it.

Do you remember Alf Van Hoose? He was a sports writer for the for the Birmingham News and a friend of Bear Bryant. His daughter was a brilliant writer and great friend of my mother. He taught me how to gut a fish, as it happens. Good guy.

So anyway, Alf Van Hoose’s widow is over at our house for Easter dinner - she’s in her late 80’s if I’m being generous - and we’re having lamb. My brother has a joke to tell.

Lamb loin chops are simple. Like with most meats that don’t require braising or smoking, the recipe is salt. Generous salt, but that’s it.

Mint jelly is a joke to some, but it shouldn’t be. Lamb with mint is amazing. For this particular serving, I went with a mint pesto. Simple as can be. Mint. Garlic. Parmesan or Romano. Olive oil. Salt as needed and mortar and pestle, or machine it away (and for my tastes more garlic but that’s between you and whoever you interact with in the next few hours.)

We are all enjoying the chops. Salted, seared, and baked to finish them off, but the baked and seared can go in whatever order.

My brother says, “A man goes into a grocery store and picks up a few items.”

“Beer, maybe a twelve pack.” he says.

“Then he grabs a few frozen dinners. Hungry Man Stuff.”

“He gets some razors, a bit of after-shave.”

As the story goes the cashier is pretty cute. She’s kind of flirtatious.

Per my brother: “She rings up the beer, the shaving stuff, the frozen dinners, and she smiles so prettily. The guy can’t believe it.”

“Are you a bachelor?” she asks. How is he so lucky?

Lamb loin chops with salt as you like them. I’m a rare to medium rare person except with lamb chops. I think the texture at medium is best, but your call.

I like them with scalloped potatoes roasted with Gruyere and salt and pepper with heavy cream. Two or three layers. Salad is good too, but you can figure that out.

So that’s delicious lamb chops with amazing pesto. Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.

Oh. The punch line – I swear this happened – the delivery from my brother rather than the joke. My brother said that the cashier, coy and cute, and wondering at the beer and frozen food, asked the buyer if he was a bachelor. He looked at the beer and the Hungry Man dinners and smirked. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you are so fricken ugly.”

But he didn’t say fricken and the widow Van Hoose laughed herself nearly to death.

Easter dinner.

Oh. Southern Miss or something.

Roll Tide. No Injuries.