Slow cookers combine the best qualities of a conventional oven and a Dutch oven by creating a tight seal that holds moisture well and retains heat at a near-constant temperature. You can use slow cookers for everything from moist cakes to tough roasts, so it comes as no surprise they handle tender lamb chops and onions with ease. But you can take your slow-cooked lamb chops and onions to another level by buttressing them with something the slow cooker doesn't offer: dry heat. A slow cooker can't sear anything, so if you simply follow the common slow-cooker adage, "set it and forget it," you'll never get the luxury of the caramelized, golden-brown exterior that sautéing beforehand provides.
Things You'll Need
Broth or stock
Stew tomatoes (optional)
Aromatic vegetables (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Onions or shallots
Remove the lamb chops from the fridge and place them on a plate. Allow the chops to reach room temperature. You get the best sear on meat when you start it from room temp.
Pour about 1/2 cup of broth or stock and one can of stew tomatoes, if desired, in a pot for every four lamb chops you want to slow cook. If you choose not to add tomatoes, use 3/4 cup of broth or stock for every four lamb chops.
Add 1 tablespoon of fresh spices or 1/3 tablespoon of dried spices to the pot for every four lamb chops. Slow cooking lets you really infuse the lamb with layers of flavor, so you don't need a heavy hand when seasoning.
Add about 1/2 cup of other aromatic vegetables, such as carrots and celery, for every two lamb chops at this time, if desired. Bring the pot of braising liquid to a simmer.
Heat 2 tablespoons or so of the oil of your choice in a sauté pan on the stove over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Blot the lamb chops dry with a paper towel and lightly dredge them with flour.
Season the lamb on both sides to taste. Use about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper for each chop if you're unsure of how much seasoning to use.
Lay the lamb chops down in the sauté pan gently and away from you to prevent splattering the oil. Sear each chop until golden brown on each side, using tongs to turn them over. Only turn the chops over once when searing so you don't interrupt the browning process.
Remove the chops from the sauté pan and transfer them to the slow cooker. Add one large, peeled and quartered onion or four peeled and halved shallots to the sauté pan for every two lamb chops.
Saute the onions until slightly browned, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onions to the slow cooker with the lamb.
Pour the simmering pot of braising liquid over the lamb chops and onions and cover with the lid.
Program your slow cooker to cook on high for 30 minutes, to bring everything up to temperature. Set the slow cooker to cook on low for 6 or 7 hours.
Check the lamb's tenderness after 6 hours and adjust the seasoning as needed. Let the lamb sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Spice mixes that bring out the best in lamb include herbes de Provence, which consists of thyme, basil, tarragon and fennel seeds, fines herbes, which has chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon, and just about anything with cumin.
To make gravy, remove the lamb and onions after cooking. Transfer the braising liquid to a pot and skim the fat from it with a spoon. Add a thickener, such as a roux or cornstarch slurry, and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve over the lamb chops and onions.