What Makes Keens Steakhouse's Legendary Mutton Chop So Iconic

In the heart of bustling New York City lies a culinary gem that has stood the test of time — Keens Steakhouse. Nestled amidst the urban frenzy, Keens Steakhouse serves up a dish that has become an institution the Legendary Mutton Chop. As you dive into this delectable masterpiece, a revelation unfolds — this isn't your ordinary mutton, nor is it just a simple cut. It's a throwback to an era when dining was an experience, an ode to historical authenticity that resonates with modern palates.

In a world of culinary experimentation and boundary-pushing, Keens' menu may read to some like a relic, but to others, it is a time capsule of a bygone era in American dining when opulence reigned supreme. There are nods to modern palates such as fried calamari and blistered shishito peppers. Yet what stands out here isn't the innovation so much as those things that have stood the test of time. That isn't to say, though, that Keens rests on its laurels; no, it still puts culinary care and thought into crafting every single mutton chop.

Keens Steakhouse's legacy is carved in clay

To truly appreciate the Legendary Mutton Chop, one must delve into the history of Keens Steakhouse itself. Established in the late 19th century, Keens has etched its name in the annals of New York City's culinary heritage. Its roots run deep, intertwined with the fabric of the city's past. As you step into its hallowed halls, you're stepping into a time capsule — a journey to an era when dining was an art, a social ritual that brought people together.

One of Keens' most fascinating attractions is its collection of clay churchwarden pipes and its pipe club. These pipes, adorned with the names of illustrious patrons, reflect the bygone era when distinguished figures like President Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Will Rogers would gather to savor not just the food but the camaraderie that Keens — once known as Keen's English Chop House — fostered. This tradition adds a touch of historical allure to the dining experience, connecting diners to a time when conversations flowed as freely as the wine and intertwined with billowing pipe smoke.

Mutton's evolution in American dining

The story of the Legendary Mutton Chop is intricately linked to the shifting culinary landscape of America. Once a staple on tables across the nation, mutton and lamb have seen their popularity wane over the years, particularly since the end of World War Two. Historically cherished for their robust flavors, these meats adorned menus in various forms, from stews to chops. However, changing tastes, urbanization, and the rise of other protein sources led to a decline in their consumption.

Keens Steakhouse's mutton chop harks back to a time when these flavors were celebrated. It invites us to reconsider our palates and embrace the depth of taste that mutton and lamb offer. As culinary trends cycle, there's a revival of interest in heritage ingredients, and the Legendary Mutton Chop stands as a testament to the enduring charm of classic flavors. It's more than a dish; it's a journey through time. This culinary masterpiece encapsulates the essence of authenticity and craftsmanship, inviting diners to savor the rich tapestry of tastes that history has to offer.

How is the Legendary Mutton Chop made?

Picture a plate adorned with a generously sized chop, cooked to perfection — a masterpiece that is the embodiment of culinary craftsmanship. Contrary to its name, the Legendary Mutton Chop isn't technically mutton; it is a culinary alchemy, made from the tender saddle of lamb that is nearly on the cusp of being mutton, which is any sheep over 12 months in age. This choice ensures a succulent texture and a depth of flavor that elevates it beyond any ordinary cut.

Behind this culinary marvel is a meticulous process. Each Legendary Mutton Chop is carefully butchered and aged in-house from Colorado lamb. Since it's been harvested at a slightly older age than most supermarket lamb, it has a robust color and intense flavor profile. Though it isn't technically dry-aged, the saddle for the Legendary Mutton Chop spends some time in Keens' dry-aging room, lending it some further beefiness as it rests beside ribeyes and strips. Leaving nothing to waste, the trimmings from the saddle are skillfully combined with veal stock, shallots, and garlic, resulting in a luscious jus — finished with fresh mint — that envelops the chop in a rich embrace. 

Accompanying this opulent creation is a side of escarole sautéed with lemon, garlic, and butter. The freshness of the escarole cuts through the richness of the young mutton, creating a harmonious balance that ensures each bite is a celebration of flavors and textures.