Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops and Sauteed Calabaza Pumpkin, and other tasty stuff from Puerto Rico

7 Aug

(This recipe has been corrected to reflect Kendra’s input!)

I have mentioned that I was recently in Puerto Rico at the venerable Caribe Hilton to speak on a panel (for the Triennial Convention of the American Federation of School Administrators). It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with such dedicated professionals! And everything went very well; I learned a great deal and made many interesting acquaintances.

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s in Isla Verde

I was not able to take my son and it was the strangest, and not very pleasant sensation to be so far away. In the annals of never-happy, it is an awful irony that I complain and complain that I never have a moment to myself, and then when I finally do, I am bereft. I can’t stand myself sometimes.

El Jibarito…there was quite a line at 2 p.m., but it moved FAST

But, I recovered my senses. And of course, I ate.

Pernil with mofongo de yuca and the sad, sad, salad that is a Puerto Rican criollo restaurant inevitability…

In Old San Juan, El Jibarito on Calle Sol can be counted on for good old-fashioned comida criollo. I had pernil (roast pork) and mofongo de yuca (yuca with garlic and oil, mashed and fried). I had drinks with José Luis, my beloved Colombian friend whose got the loveliest clothing boutique in Condado (Ambar) . I visited with Emilio, of Oof Restaurants for a long overdue catch-up. Had a leaisurely coffee and tea with the inimitable Chef Norma Llop, who runs much of the gastronomy end of PR Tourism. And had a long visit with my godmother, Carmen Palacios de Ramírez, with a glimpse of godfather Efrén deep in writing a book…yes, I got around a lot in just a few days!


With dear friends David and Sean, I had very good ceviche at Perurrican over most stimulating conversation.

Location, location, location – Perurrican in Condado

And then Kendra, who was for years my partner in mischief all over the Caribbean, my soccer buddy on the Puerto Rico National Team, and is still an all around lioness of a friend, not only made a delicious meal for me in the home she shares with her fabulous partner, Raúl, but showed me how it was done. Before we’d had too much wine to get the recipe down in writing! (Are you listening Adri? It can be done!)

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s at 5 p.m.

It was a wonderful trip!


The monster mash: adobo

The grill

The results!

Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops

2 lbs lamb chops, rinsed and patted dry


4 cloves garlic

1-2 sprigs rosemary – just the leaves

¾ tsp salt per pound

Grating of pepper

PLUS extra virgin olive oil, to be added teaspoon by teaspoon

After prepping the lamb chops, place all adobo ingredients except oil in a mortar and pestle and grind down to a rough paste, adding oil a half teaspoon at a time until you reach a spreadable, but non-greasy texture.

Paint both sides of the chops and refrigerate until about ready to use. Give the chops enough time to return to room temperature before grilling.

Heat your grill until just under its high temperature, then scrape grill clean if necessary. Allow to heat up for a couple of minutes, then start.

Place chops on grill. After 1.5 minutes, turn them over. Cook for another 1.5 minutes, then repeat. Stand them up on their sides on the grill for another minute, checking for the density of the chops to firm up. Remove from grill, place on a platter and tent them with aluminum foil for another five minutes. You may check for doneness with a meat thermometer (140°F will be rare, although many chefs stop at 120°-130°). The chops can rest until you are ready to serve.

Continue Scrolling Down for Calabaza Recipe

Cutting the calabaza


Sauteed Calabaza (Caribbean Pumpkin)

2lbs calabaza (acorn squash is the nearest substitute)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp butter

1 tsp honey

Wash calabaza rind thoroughly. Do not peel. Chop calabaza into 1.5” chunks. Sprinkle sparingly with salt.

Heat oil and butter in a pan at medium high until foaming subsides. Add calabaza, stir to coat and turn down to medium low so you hear a slightly sizzle. Drizzle with honey and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften, but still resistant to a fork. Turn off burner, cover and leave for at least 5-10 minutes, until a fork passes easily through, and you are ready to serve.


12 Responses to “Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops and Sauteed Calabaza Pumpkin, and other tasty stuff from Puerto Rico”

  1. Adriana Waterston October 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Or a 5 and a 6 year old. whatever.

  2. Adriana Waterston October 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Also saw that one of Kendra’s corrections is that you were, in fact, imbibing while cooking. So what about working with Kendra makes writing a recipe possible, while with me it is not? My hypothesis is, it has nothing to do with imbibing. It has to do with the fact that we always have 2 hungry six year olds who are potentially injuring each other to contend with!!!!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy October 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      I think you are right, partially. Certainly there are few moments when we are both in the kitchen paying attention to the food at the same time. Also, we do things that cook up for a while on their own, which gives us time to forget to keep track of time! However, Kendra and I got started earlier on the cooking and later on the imbibing….

  3. Adriana Waterston October 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I just read this! I got busted! This weekend, we will write everything down!!!! XOXOXOX

  4. Karen August 8, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    It sounds like a wonderful trip. I love lamb chops and the ones you had look like they were great.

  5. Kendra August 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Sweet Nata! A couple of little corrections. 1. When you make the adobo, smash the garlic with the salt and other spices BEFORE adding olive oil. Otherwise, the garlic won’t mash and the whole mixture will splash. 2. We cooked the chops for 3 minutes on each side, for a total of six minutes, before standing them up. They were flipped twice, as I love the steak house style squared scoring. i.e. both the horizontal and vertical lines criss-cross the meat. I grill everything this way. We were imbibing while cooking. Miss you. xo, K

  6. Mad Dog August 7, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Sounds like you had a great trip! That looks like a martini with a view at Kendra’s 😉

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Indeed. If you look very, very closely, you can read the brand of vodka etched into the glass….plastic actually. Very handy little things!

      • Mad Dog August 7, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        Oh yes! It was the olives that gave it away and I’m quite fond of a martini 😉

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