Inner Caveman Throwback – Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

When I say “Rack of Lamb,” I’m guessing the two things that come to mind for you are “expensive” and “difficult.” No? Well, my friends, I can say confidently that you are wrong. This rack of lamb recipe is dead easy…and well, for $7-8ish bucks a person, not crazy expensive either (hello – you pay more for that when you go out to eat). But, heck, this is such an impressive recipe I wouldn’t blame you for saving it for a special occasion or only for those times when you allow your friends to come over for a fancy dinner party. You don’t want to wear this recipe out by any means (and the compliments you’ll get!).

We found a relatively cheap cut of rack of lamb at Costco honestly, but you can find lamb more and more easily everywhere (especially around the holidays). If you are in good with your Publix butcher (I have run across too many surly ones for my own good), I’m sure you could ask them to help too. Keep in mind too, that this recipe maybe took 30 minutes tops to make – the side actually took much longer to make (see the “NOT FROM A BOX Potatoes” recipe earlier in my blog posts). You definitely want your rack frenched, which basically means that the butcher has removed all the meat and fat from between the bones at the top. When you cut the chops individually then, each one has a long piece of clean bone for you to grab onto. You can do this yourself, but most racks come like this anyway and why make extra work for you? Also, like any meat, pull it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes (and no more than 1 hour) before you start cooking it so that it comes up to room temperature. You get a much better sear this way and sear = flavor.

A few more notes: we used a cast iron grill pan (you know, the one with the raised pieces in the middle) for the lamb. The recipe calls for a pan that can go from the stovetop to the oven easily, and well, cast iron is great for that – not to mention cast iron’s infamously great searing capabilities, also necessary here. We used the grill pan option because lamb is notoriously fatty (a reason I know many of my friends and family hate it), so the raised areas allowed the lamb to cook without soaking in that additional fat and to keep the crust from getting too soggy. I definitely recommend using a cast iron pan of some kind if you have it, but if you don’t, just make sure you have a pan that can go from one cooking method to another (check the bottom of the pan or just make sure there is no plastic on the pan). Also, definitely use a really good blender to make the crust. You want this to be a really, really fine powder. I don’t use my food processor because it can’t get that fine, and I hate struggling with the fact that it pushes all of my ingredients to the walls of the bowl, away from the blade (counterproductive much?) and I have to fiddle with it constantly.

Timing: 30 minutes

Servings: 3 chops per person (so it depends on what your rack comes with or how you cut your rack down…usually you can get 2-3 servings out of a rack)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 4 slices of stale or toasted fresh bread (we even used two whole (4 pieces) portions of the Arnold’s Sandwich thins and that worked out fine)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (pre-grated is fine – don’t fuss!)
  • 2 good handfuls of fresh parsley leaves (leave the bunch bundled, and tear off just the leafy top portion from the stems)
  • 4-5 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the lamb:

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched and trimmed (try to get about 3 bones per person in the rack)
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a blender, throw your bread, cheese, herbs, and salt and pepper into the bowl (you don’t have to cut anything – just make sure the leaves of the rosemary and thyme are separated from the stem as best you can). Blend until it becomes a very fine powder – this might take a bit. Add in your olive oil – just a splash, blend, and taste. If you want more rosemary, add more. If you want more thyme, go for it. It should be a vibrant green color. Pour this onto a large plate and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the rack of lamb into smaller portions – you want about 3 chops per piece. Get your knife as close to the cleaned bone at the top as possible and slide your knife all the way down, using that as a guide. Pat dry on all sides with a paper towel. Score the fat layer diagonally one way and then again diagonally the other way using the sharp point of your knife. Make sure you penetrate all the way down the fat layer on each score. Place on a plate. Salt and pepper generously all sides of the lamb. Heat your pan over medium-high heat until it’s pretty darn hot (don’t worry – you’re not actually cooking the meat, you’re just getting color on all sides, so it can be really high heat). Pour a splash of oil in there and wait for about 20-30 seconds for it to heat up. Place the lamb – fat side down – in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on the fat side. Don’t move before that point or you’ll make your meat grey. You want color (not black, but a nice golden brown is so good!). After 2 minutes, check just one piece to see if it is getting a golden brown color. If so, flip it over to the other flat side (you can actually use the bones instead to turn it instead of dirtying up tongs because they don’t get that hot, but be careful) and cook for the same amount of time. Brown the other sides quickly. Put the lamb back fat-side down and place into the oven. Cook for about 7:30 minutes.

Take the lamb out of the oven. Brush with mustard on all three visible sides – don’t be stingy with that mustard. It’s your glue! Flip onto the plate of crust and press the crust into the meat, making sure you get a thick layer that sticks. Brush some mustard on the remaining side that is facing up now and crust it too. Return to the pan, fat side down. Repeat this method for the remaining pieces. Place back in the oven for 4:30 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Your lamb will be rare-ish. You want it to look like how a prime rib is. If you cook lamb too much, it gets too tough and chewy, so bloody is actually ok. If you are nervous about it, or are just plain turned off by the fact, cook for an extra 30 seconds to a minute, but don’t overdo it. Plop those babies on a plate, serve with whatever side you choose, and bask in the applause.

That wasn’t hard was it? And it looks so hard/complicated and pretty! Definitely a showstopper. Especially since guests or diners have their own individualized pieces of lamb. You can do this. Swear.

Step 1: The herb crust for the lamb
Step 1: The herb crust for the lamb
Herb Crusted Lamb: The finished product!
Herb Crusted Lamb: The finished product!
Close up of these cavemen-coveted beauties : Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb
Close up of these cavemen-coveted beauties : Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb
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