It always puzzles me why we tend to do all or nothing. Eat only vegetables or be meat and potato fanatics. Food is so pleasurable, and every ingredient has something different to offer. Why not embrace them all? That’s why I think that while a preponderance of a variety of fresh vegetables should constitute the backbone of everyone’s diet, a little red meat now and again is not a bad idea. Choose lean and organic or hormone free, if possible. Red meat contributes high-quality protein; iron, an essential mineral in appropriate quantities; B12, which is hard to come by in completely vegetarian diets, as well as B1 and B6. Lamb contains one quarter to one third of an adult’s daily requirement for zinc.
Rack of Lamb with Herbed Garlic Crust is one of my favorite dinner party dishes, because it can be completely assembled in advance. While the chops on the plate you see look hefty, they constitute at most 4 ounces of meat, albeit so flavorful and well seasoned, the satisfaction level is high. And notice, as recommended by the powers that be, three quarters of the plate are filled with vegetables.
I like this recipe primarily because it is so delicious, but also because its do-ahead aspect removes as much fat as possible from the lamb and the smell from the initial browning will disappear by the time your guests arrive. For my plate, I’ve included Yukon gold potatoes roasted with onions, roasted beets, and steamed baby broccoli and asparagus. You can choose your favorite accompaniments. And look for dessert in an upcoming blog.
Rack of Lamb with Herbed Garlic Crust
Baby racks of lamb from New Zealand are available in most parts of this country. Because they are from young animals, the flavor is mild, and if you allow one rack for 2 to 3 people, portion size is appropriate. Those prepackaged at Trader Joe’s are already heavily trimmed. Whole Foods also carries them, but be sure to ask the butcher to trim off any excess fat.You can brown the meat, layer on the crust, and finish the dish in the oven within an hour and a half of serving; or brown ahead and refrigerate until one to one and half hours before dinner. Serves 2 to 3
- 1 rack of baby lamb (12 to 16 ounces)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley sprigs, tough stems removed
- 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Trim any visible solid fat from the lamb. Season all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet just large enough to hold the rack. Add the rack meaty side down and brown over moderately hot heat for about 3 minutes. Turn over and brown the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lamb to a plate. Pour off all the fat from the skillet, and carefully wipe it clean with paper towels. If you’ve done this preparation well in advance, cover the meat and refrigerate. If you are within an hour and a half of serving, set aside to cool slightly.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a mini-food processor, combine the panko crumbs. parsley, rosemary, garlic, and shallot. Pulse, then process, until the parsley is chopped and the breading evenly mixed.
- Paint the meaty side of the rack and the ends with the mustard. Spread the seasoned crumbs over the rack and onto the sides, pressing it firmly but gently with your hands to help it adhere.
- Return the rack to the skillet and roast until the center of the meat registers 139 degrees F for medium rare, about 15 minutes, or slightly higher if you prefer it better done. (The flavor is best if the meat is pink.) Remove from the oven and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to finish cooking. Divide into double chops to serve.