THE SAVE MART 350 at Sonoma Raceway is where the full-throated, everyman roar of NASCAR meets the refined tastes of California wine country. Few understand the intersection as well as chef Douglas Keane. He grew up in Michigan, where his family regularly attended the Detroit Grand Prix, and since 2003 he's cooked for some of the most discerning palates in Napa Valley.
Keane's family would partake in "a loose version of a tailgate," he says, bringing takeout from a Greek restaurant owned by a family friend on their visits to the track. "I still dream of his food!" says Keane. No surprise then that for those looking to cook out trackside or just eat as if they are, Keane recommends something more upscale. He favors lamb because the chops are "one of the best local products around," he says. Another reason? "The sauce helps encourage drinking."
1 MAKE THE SAUCE
Warm the oil in a small sauce pan. Add garlic, green onion, ginger and cook until soft, about five minutes. Add black beans, water, vinegar, kecap manis and sriracha. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Transfer to a blender and blend on high. If the sauce is too thick, add a touch of water. Serve or refrigerate for up to a week and reheat.
2 PREP THE CHOPS
Season the lamb chops liberally with oil and salt. Allow to sit at room temp while the grill heats up.
3 GRILL THE LAMB
Over medium heat, cook the chops for four to five minutes on each side. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
4 GRILL THE ONIONS
While the lamb is resting, coat the green onions with sesame oil and place on grill. Cook for two to three minutes, until lightly charred. Remove and season with salt. Squeeze lime juice over the onions and arrange them on the plate as a bed for the chops.
5 SERVE THE DISH
If desired place the chops back on the grill briefly to rewarm. Brush the sauce on each chop and place it on top of the onions.
Douglas Keane is a chef-owner of Two Birds/One Stone, the Season 5 winner of Top Chef Masters anda judge on Hell's Kitchen.
GRILLED SONOMA COAST LAMB CHOPS WITH FERMENTED BLACK-BEAN SAUCE AND SESAME-GRILLED GREEN ONIONS
4 double-cut Sonoma Coast lamb chops, Frenched
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
FOR THE GREEN ONIONS
2 bunches green onions
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE SAUCE*
½ cup fermented black beans
2 tablespoons oil (rice bean, grapeseed or canola)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 green onion, minced
½ inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
½ cup water
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons kecap manis (a thick, sweet Indonesian soy)
1 teaspoon sriracha
* Fermented black-bean sauce can be purchased, but making it yields a better result.