Rack of Lamb

Rack of LambMany people consider lamb to be a special occasion meat, which can make sense. A roast leg of lamb can feed a crowd, and a rack of lamb can be a once-in-a-while treat because of the price tag. However, lamb is a versatile, flavorful, and tender meat that is perfect for every day eating.

For a long time farmers have been breeding their sheep specifically to produce higher quality meat, so most of the lamb we buy today is tender and easy to cook using high dry heat. There are a few exceptions: the shoulder area cuts and the shanks are better cooked using a moist heat method, or braised to make them tender.

Lamb comes from animals that are between five and twelve months of age. Since lamb is much smaller than beef, it’s cuts are easier to understand. The five primal cuts are: Shoulder, Forelegs and Breast, ribs, loin, and hind leg.

Leg of lamb can be extremely versatile. A boneless leg of lamb is great on the grill or stuffed, rolled and roasted. In a pinch, it can even be cut into cubes for stew.

By far, the most tender cuts come from the ribs and loin, and the most well-known of those are loin chops and rack of lamb.

Roasting a rack of lamb is super-easy. If you choose to give it a shot, make sure to ask your butcher to remove the chine bone, so that you will actually be able to cut the rack into individual chops when serving.

All racks of lamb come frenched which means that the fat between the bones has been removed. A frenched rack of lamb weighs approximately one to one and a half pounds, and should feed two people.

Herb-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb
Adapted from The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly

Ingredients
For the Lamb
1 seven or eight bone rack of lamb, trimmed and Frenched (about  1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season lamb
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Herbed Bread Crumb Crust
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (any combination of rosemary, savory, thyme, and/or oregano)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Directions
Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Make the Herbed Bread Crumbs
Finely chop the fresh herbs, and combine them in a mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. You can crush any larger pieces with a mortar. Mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil to moisten the bread crumbs, and allow to sit.

Sear the Lamb
Season the rack thoroughly with salt and pepper.

Place a heavy 10-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat and coat the bottom with the oil. Put the rack in the skillet fat side down, and sear for I to 2 minutes. Next, supporting the meat with tongs, hold the rack with the bones vertical and sear the top meat for 1 to 2 minutes. Finally, sear the bone side for 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the lamb rest uncovered, for a few minutes.

Apply the Crust
Using a pastry brush, coat the lamb with the mustard. At this point you can and either roll the coated lamb in the herbed breadcrumbs, pat the breadcrumbs onto the lamb, or a combination of both.

Arrange the rack bone side down, in the same ovenproof skillet. Place foil over the bones to prevent charring.

Roast the Lamb
Roast the lamb in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your desired degree of doneness. Take a reading in the center of the meat after 12 to 15 minutes, and remove the meat, or let it cook longer to your taste.

Here is a good rule of thumb for thermometer readings:
Blood-rare 115º to 125º F
Rare 125º to 130º F
Medium-rare 130º to 140º F
Medium 140º to 150º F

Remove the pan from the oven, and let the lamb rest for 5 to 7 minutes, loosely covered with foil.

Carve between the ribs, and serve 3 to 4 chops per person.

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