Rack of Lamb
Here’s a special romantic dinner for two. Of course you can buy two racks, double the recipe, and invite two others, but they better be special people. Or at least people you want to impress, like your boss or your parents.
Most often you will find racks in a vacuum pack flown in from New Zealand, and those are very good. In some other places, you might find fresh local lamb, which is even better.
The bones should be Frenched, which means scraped clean as shown in the photo. Maybe they will already be done, but if not, just use a small paring knife and scrape them clean. Some people also put white or colorful little paper caps on the ends of the bones, but personally, I like to minimize the things on the plate that I can’t eat.
After you scrape the bones, trim off any excess fat from the rack. Also trim off the silver skin, if it’s present. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees with the oven rack in the middle of the oven, or slightly below. Put a roasting pan in to pre-heat.
When the time comes to make the Rack of Lamb Sauce, you will need the following items:
2 shallots, minced (if you don’t have shallots, use three or four tablespoons of finely chopped onion)
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves (if you have to use dried, use 2 teaspoons instead)
1 cup chicken broth (I keep instant freeze-dried chicken and beef broth on hand, use 1 teaspoon per cup of water)
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut in several pieces
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil (preferably olive oil) in your skillet until the oil is hot enough to be shimmering. Add the seasoned lamb meat side down, and brown until it has a nice crusty finish. This only takes three or four minutes, depending on how hot the oil is. Then with some tongs, hold the rack on each end for a couple of minutes to brown the ends.
This pre-browning method is one you will use for roasts in general, since the oven should be used to cook the meat internally. In the case of larger roasts, the oven will be cooler to give the meat a uniform color throughout. If you cook the roasts hot enough to get a yummy crust on the outside, the inside will be well done around the edges and too rare in the middle.
In the case of this rack of lamb, the oven (at 425) is obviously pretty hot. But the rack of lamb is not very thick, so it will still cook to a uniform color inside. But to get the crust we get from pre-browning, you’d have to cook it way overdone.
For the lamb, 12 to 15 minutes should give you a nice medium-rare pink color to the meat. If you want it more done, it only takes another three or four minutes. Hopefully you have an instant-read thermometer so you can check its internal temperature. 125 will get you medium rare, and 130 for medium. Take it out a little early, though, because it will go up nearly five degrees while it rests before carving.
After you put the lamb in the oven, drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of fat from the skillet. We’re going to make the sauce right in the skillet, which is why this is called a pan sauce.
Add the shallots to the pan over medium heat. Cook for a minute to soften and add the red wine, chicken broth, and rosemary. Now you scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan (this is called deglazing) and into the sauce. Emeril calls these bits the “yummies” and he’s right. Let this simmer until it’s dark and shiny, which will take another 5-7 minutes. Now stir or whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, to incorporate it into the sauce.
Serve the sauce under the lamb, as shown in the photo, and pass any remaining sauce to pour over. Enjoy!
Along with wine, some side dishes you should consider are asparagus, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes.
Remember how to make this sauce. Next time you pan brown a roast or cook a steak in the skillet, you can quickly come up with a pan sauce. For steak, try tarragon instead of rosemary. See, for a few extra minutes of preparation you turn a piece of meat into a gourmet dinner!