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Lamb - Rack of Lamb Crusted With Rosemary, Garlic and Mint
Few things are as elegant as a rack of any kind - be it pork, beef or lamb. They're festive by their very appearance. Lamb of course is one of the traditional dishes of spring - be it for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day - or just because you feel like putting a beautifully simple dish on the table. Lamb is delicate in flavor, yet pairs gorgeously with robust flavors - in this case rosemary, garlic and mint.
Find New Zealand lamb if possible - it's among the best in the world, and the price is not usually that much more than other types. Also try to get a rack that has already been Frenched - that means that the small bones at the top of the rack have been cleaned by the butcher for you. If you can't find one that has already been Frenched, the simplest way to do this is with a small paring knife. Split the membrane between the bones, then use a piece of kitchen twine (or dental floss if it's not flavored) to clean the bones. Wrap the twine around each bone and use it to strip the bone clean. Most butchers, stores and meat counters will do this for you, however. Take the shortcuts that are free!
This one is very simple - you're simply going to sear off the lamb in a hot skillet, and finish in the oven. For the entire dish you'll need:
For the Lamb:
- 2 racks of lamb, Frenched
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, stripped
- 2 sprigs fresh mint
- 4 Tbl olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, or veal stock if you're fabulously lucky
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 Tbl red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbl butter
- Combine all ingredients except the lamb in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds, until the herbs are finely chopped.
- Place the racks in a shallow baking or casserole dish. Pour rosemary/mint mixture over racks, and thoroughly rub it in. Cover racks, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large skillet with an ovenproof handle over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Sear the racks of lamb on both sides. Place the 'pretty' or rounded side down first. This only takes a few minutes per side, but you do want a nice golden exterior. Once flipped, insert a meat thermometer into the middle of one rack. Insert the probe on the 'bottom' or concave side, so that the pretty side will not be marked. If you're going to slice the racks into chops before serving, don't worry about where you put it - it won't show or matter.
- Once both sides have turned golden, put the skillet into the preheated oven. You'll roast for about 20-25 minutes, but the important number is an internal temperature of 145F for medium rare. Pull the lamb at 145F, tent with foil, and allow the racks to rest, untouched for ten minutes. You'll see an additional climb of ten degrees in temperature as it rests - that's perfect.
- While the lamb is resting, pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the oil in the pan. Make sure you hang on to the juices - just not the grease. Return the pan to the stove top, and adjust heat to medium high.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, or if you wish to skip the wine, use a little extra chicken broth. Once it comes to a boil, stir well, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom. Add the remainder of the chicken or veal stock and the vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow the mixture to simmer until reduced by half. The sauce should be thickening nicely.
- Once reduced, remove from heat. Stir in the butter.
- To serve, slice the lamb into individual chops, and drizzle with the buttered jus.
These potatoes are super simple. They can be prepped while the lamb is marinating, and finished while it's roasting in the oven. You'll need:
- 5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 cup half and half or whole milk (you might need a touch more)
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Place the potatoes into a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Salt the water with at least 1 tsp of the salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy.
- In a second saucepan over low heat, warm the butter, half and half or milk, the garlic, rosemary sprig and salt and pepper. Don't bring it to a boil - you simply want to warm the ingredients and infuse the half and half with the garlic and rosemary.
- When potatoes are done, drain them. Return them to the warm pot.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, strain about half the half and half into the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, incorporating as much of the liquid as possible. If potatoes are dry after you've used all the infused half and half, add a little more half and half or milk, a couple tablespoons at a time, until they reach the consistency you like. Try not to overbeat them though - they'll turn gluey.
- Taste for seasoning, and adjust for salt and pepper. If need be, these can be held for half an hour in a low oven - 200F.
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