Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rack of Lamb


Springtime is finally here and to me, that means more than just daffodils and fresh produce in the farmer's markets. It's also a time for lamb, a meat that I love not just for its taste, but for its profound religious and artistic significance. 
The lamb features importantly in the story of Passover in the Jewish religion, and at Easter in Catholicism. Walk into many churches in Italy, and you'll see exquisite mosaics of Christ as a shepherd, with his flock. This one is in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in Rome.
Lamb is traditionally eaten at Easter time among Italian families, and I love to make a whole grilled leg of lamb when serving a crowd. Unfortunately, most Americans infrequently cook lamb, if at all.
When prepared properly, it's a flavorful meat to serve to family and always is a hit when company comes to call, especially when prepared in this style, which is fork tender and so delicious.
A rack of lamb is an elegant, albeit expensive dish to serve to company, since one serves just two to three people. Two of us had no trouble polishing off this rack of lamb in the photo below. So if you're planning on company, you'll want at least two racks. Make sure they're people you really like, and who really like lamb. 
This roast comes from a half a lamb I bought locally from a friend of a friend who raises a few lambs organically not far from where I live. It wasn't trimmed as well as I wanted, so I "Frenched" it (trimming out the fat to expose the tops of the bones) and cut away almost all traces of fat and the "silver skin" under the fat. )If your butcher can't (or won't) do this, it's not hard to do and is essential. Otherwise, the fat won't melt during the short cooking time and you'll end up biting into a layer of fat, and fighting the toughness of "silver skin" to get through to the meat, which is truly tender.
This rack weighed only 1.7 pounds before trimming, and you can see how much fat I trimmed from the roast. You're bound to trim off some specks of the meat too, but that can't be avoided. Be sure to use a very sharp, thin knife. 
This knife is one of the several treasured ones made by my grandfather for me decades ago, when he would take an industrial file of carbon steel and whittle it down on a spinning stone wheel in the basement, before inserting it into a wooden handle. 
Smear a good amount of Dijon mustard over the front and back of the roast.
Then cover it with the mixture of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and herbs.
Roast it at high heat for ten minutes, then lower the heat and roast for fifteen minutes longer.
After letting the roast rest for 15 minutes, slice between the bones and serve. 
Buona Pasqua.
************
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Rack of Lamb
serves two to three people

1 rack of lamb, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds before trimming (double the recipe for two racks) 
3 cloves minced garlic
3 sprigs rosemary, minced
grated lemon peel from 12 lemon
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper
Dijon mustard to spread on lamb

If the rack of lamb is not already trimmed by your butcher, you will need to do so, by cutting out the fat and bits of meat between the ribs (a process called Frenching) and by trimming away all the visible fat. Most butchers leave some fat on the meat, but this cut of meat is very tender, and the fat doesn't need to be there to tenderize or flavor the meat. Besides, when the roast is covered with mustard and bread crumbs, and spends so little time in the oven, the fat won't melt into the meat, leaving you a layer of unappealing layer of fat when you bite through the bread crumbs into the meat. Beneath the fat you'll find a layer of "silver skin" and it's best to trim this away too.
Make sure you leave the roast at room temperature for an hour (I left it for two) before roasting in the oven. Otherwise, you can't be assured of even cooking. 
After trimming off the fat, sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper, then spread a layer of Dijon mustard all over, top and bottom.
Mix together the garlic, rosemary, lemon peel, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Dab the mixture over all sides of the roast.
Place the roast on a rack in an oven that's been preheated to 450 degrees. Roast for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and roast for 15 minutes more if you like it cooked medium rare (as in the photos). Use a meat thermometer for accuracy - 120-130 degrees for rare (barely cooked inside) 130-140 degrees for medium rare (bright pink to red inside), 140-150 for medium (pale pink inside.) Let the roast rest for 15 minutes. It will continue to cook a bit further and the temperature will rise slightly. 
Slice between the ribs and serve. 

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13 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Absolutely mouthwatering. A great Easter dish.

Cheers,

Rosa

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Absolutely mouthwatering. A great Easter dish.

Cheers,

Rosa

daniela64 said...

Favolosa la tua ricetta di agnello , la segno e la provo. Un abbraccio, Daniela.

Chiara Giglio said...

immagino il sapore gustoso di quella panatura, ricatta da provare ! Un abbraccio cara Linda !

Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

Our family loves lamb -- We've been making lamb for Easter for many years. I think people think of mutton when they think lamb. I recently posted a recipe for stuffed boneless leg of lamb that is so tasty and moist. We've never made a rack of lamb and we'll have to try your recipe. Buona Pasqua.

Adri said...

Oh, but I bet that is one fine rack of lamb. Easter is on its way. Young lamb, especially some of the newer breeds which have been developed specifically for their light "ungamey" taste are so delicious. It is a pity Americans do not consume more. Compliments to you on the excellent prep work. You can stop buy here any time, and bring your wonderful knives!

Roz Corieri Paige said...

How perfect for Easter! Although I would love to serve lamb this year, my non-Italian family members requested ham. I'd rather have your lamb any day! I appreciate all of the tips you gave, Linda and love the knife from your grandfather!
Buona Pasqua e tu,
Roz

Unknown said...

An excellent recipe, the correct ingredients, but-it is common practice to sear the lamb rack first in a hot dry skillet, and then follow to the letter, your great recipe and instructions. What do you think?

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Unknown - no need to sear if you trim off all the fat. It cooks perfectly in the oven if you follow the directions to the letter. Thanks for your question.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I haven't had lamb in years, it always tasted too gamey to me but just recently we went to a Brazilian steakhouse and I had a lamb chop, delish! I would definitely go for yours!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Such a lovely recipe and beautiful presentation! Perfect for Easter!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

This looks lovely, Linda!We love lamb but unfortunately most of my family does not. I especially love to grill lamb with a balsamic/rosemary and oregano glaze.

Claudia said...

I always do the rosemary, garlic route. This would be a nice change. Paul and I do a small rack. Most of the family doesn't eat lamb - which is always tragic at Easter!