Rack of Lamb
By Charlie Burke

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Few dishes are elegant, flavorful, and suitable for a formal meal, yet easy to
prepare. Rack of lamb fits this description and always impresses.

A single rack consists of eight chops, and we serve two chops per person. Two
or more racks can be cooked in a roasting pan, placed with the meaty part of the
chops at the side of the pan and the ribs interlocking in the middle.

Butchers will gladly divide a rack if you need fewer than eight chops.
Commonly the bones are “Frenched” -- meaning the fat and strands of meat are
trimmed from the ends of the bones. This makes a pretty presentation, but some
enjoy the crispy meat on the bones. As always, fresh lamb is preferable to
frozen, and if you can get young lambs locally in the spring you will have the
highest quality.

Many recipes for rack of lamb are somewhat fussy, with instructions to brown
the meat in a sauté pan, then to add seasoning and place into the oven. I’ve
found we get excellent results simply roasting in a hot oven with a flavorful
coating. Add the coating and bring the meat to room temperature, and all that is
left is to pop it into the oven a half hour or so before you plan to serve it.

We like to serve it with roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach (see our recipe
archives) which match well with the robust flavor of the meat. It is essential that
lamb be served pink; well done lamb is dry and has a less agreeable flavor.
Cooking times is approximately 20 minutes for rare, and a few minutes longer
for medium, which I think is the ideal temperature (remove when the meat
reaches a temperature of 135 and let rest for 10 minutes, during which time the
temperature will increase).

For four:

1 rack containing 8 chops – request that the butcher remove the thick fat over
the meaty part of the chops, leaving only a ¼ inch layer, and that he cracks the
bones between the ribs so that individual chops can be easily sliced

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ cup fresh bread crumbs.

Mix all the ingredients of the herb coating well, adding the bread crumbs last.
Spread coating over rack and bring the meat to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees; if your oven does not reach 500, roasting at 450
degrees will be fine but cooking time will be 5 – 10 minutes longer. Place rack
in roasting pan with ribs up. Place pan on lowest rack position and check
temperature at 20 minutes.

Check frequently and remove at 135 degrees for medium. Let stand for 5 – 10
minutes before serving.

A full bodied red wine such as Chateau Neuf du Papes or other Rhone wine
pairs well with lamb. The potatoes and spinach can be prepared ahead and
reheated while the meat is resting, so you can spend time with your guests and
present an elegant meal with little stress.

About the author:
An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of
the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
www.nhfma.org) and helps
run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne, he grows
certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton,
NH.  Do you have a food-related question?  Write to Charlie at
crjoburke@earthlink.net
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