There are a few recipes that I consider my “coming of age” recipes. A roasted rack of lamb is one of them. I can’t quite remember what possessed me to purchase my first rack of lamb, but I’m sure my mother gave me the encouragement I needed to give it a try. After all, a rack of lamb doesn’t look like the easiest thing to prepare when you are walking down the meat aisle (or at your butcher, if you are fortunate enough to have a butcher). That’s what makes preparing it at home so awesome. It feels like you are getting a real treat!
I’ll admit that I love meats with gaminess. Duck and lamb could be my two favorite sources for animal protein. When we lived in Indiana, it was hard to get a rack of lamb. Now, we can get a decent quality rack of lamb at Costco that is already frenched. Frenching means that the fat and meat are cut away from the lamb so that the bones are exposed. It makes for a beautiful presentation.
I usually roast my rack of lamb on high heat, with no browning. It is the fastest way, but also the easiest way to over cook the meat if you are not careful. The recipe that follows is one of my go-to recipes and if you’ve been to one of our dinner parties there is a good chance you’ve had it. I always make it on a bed of roasted potatoes, and you can also add carrots, parsnips, onions and mushrooms to the mix. I’ve made this on weekends for guests and weekdays in a hurry. This recipe is quick, easy, impressive and delicious!!!
HERB-CRUSTED ROASTED RACK OF LAMB WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES
1 rack of lamb frenched, with 7-8 ribs, about 1-1½ pounds, at room temperature
3-4 cloves of fresh garlic
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
about 2 tablespoons fresh flat leafed parsley, leaves only
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
1 cup of baby carrots
1 pound of small potatoes (your choice, Yukon Gold, Red New Potatoes work well)
Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Rinse the rack of lamb and pat dry. Depending on what you’ve purchased, you may need to trim some additional excess fat off of the rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside. You want to have the meat at room temperature before cooking. America has an obsession with food safety and while I don’t disagree with it, I think it sometimes creates paranoia that leads to overcooked foods. Honestly, if you are cooking with clean hands in your own home where you have a lot of control over contaminants, don’t worry. I’m not telling you to leave your lamb chops out for days, but it can handle an hour or even two on your counter at room temperature. According to Harold McGee in his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, rancid meat alone doesn’t necessarily make us sick, it is the bacteria that does.
Remove the rosemary and mint leaves from the sprigs. Pulse the garlic, mint, rosemary, parsley and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small food processor with the blade attachment until all of the garlic and herbs are finely minced together. You can do this with a knife and cutting board if you don’t have a food processor. See below for desired texture.
Reserve a ¼ of the herb mixture and rub the remaining ¾ of the herb mixture all over the lamb chops. Set aside and cover loosely with foil.
Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining ¼ of the garlic herb mixture with the potatoes, onions, and carrots. If you have bigger potatoes, you can halve them so you have even pieces and can shorten the cooking time. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the veggies. Make sure all of the veggies are well-coated with the oil and herbs, adding more olive oil if necessary, but don’t douse it with oil because the fat from the lamb will also drip onto the veggies later. On a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the veggies in one even layer and place it on the middle rack of the oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the roasted veggies and add the rack of lamb on top of the veggies, with the fat side facing up. Yes, plop the raw meat on your half-cooked veggies! Roast for about 20 minutes for medium rare. Remove lamb from oven and let the lamb rest for about 10 minutes. Test the potatoes, by pricking them with a fork. They should be soft all the way through. If not, stick the veggies back in the oven while the meat rests on a cutting board.
After resting, slice in between the bones to serve. One serving usually consists of 2-3 chops. Pour a glass of hearty red wine and enjoy!