Of all the things that you can rely on when you want to make dinner special, the rack of Lamb should be high on your list. It’s astonishingly easy to cook and requires very little effort. That’s especially true with this method of cooking from the New York Times Cookbook. Basically, you sear the lamb in a cast iron skillet, slather the rack with mustard and top it with an aromatic and flavorful herb and parmesan breadcrumb mixture. Into the oven it goes where it cooks for about 20 to 25 minutes and emerges as a perfect dinner party dish even if that dinner party is only for two.
Trader Joe’s offers racks of lamb for about $14.00. Eight little loin lamb chops are enough for two people. Trader Joe’s lamb is imported from New Zealand where they know a few things about lamb. At any given moment there are actually more sheep than people in New Zealand. At last count there were 6 lambs for every man, woman and child in the country. Believe it or not that’s down from a few years ago when there 20 sheep for every human in New Zealand. Trader Joe’s racks come ‘frenched’ a technique used to cut away the meat from the end of rib or chop, exposing the bone. In many restaurants, the exposed bones are covered with Frilled paper ‘sleeves’. No one seems to know who invented the technique but it’s purely an American term. Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French cooking, doesn’t even contain a recipe for Rack of Lamb. Try as I have, I cannot find the origins of the cut. But never mind, it’s well worth cooking. And here is the recipe:
Recipe for Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb
1 Rack serves 2 people. This recipe can easily be scaled up. Takes all of 25 minutes active time and a little over an hour in total.
3/4 cups of fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Reggiano Parmigiano Cheese
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 ½ tbsp. olive oil
1- 8 rib rack of lamb (about 1 ½ lbs) trimmed and all but a thin layer of fat removed, at room temperature.
2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
Special Equipment: An instant-read thermometer
1. Stir together bread crumbs, parsley, mint, cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl, drizzle with 2 ½ tbsp. olive oil and toss until well combined.
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
Brown one rack at a time, turning once, about 4 minutes per rack. Set aside rack if you are cooking multiple racks. Spread the fatty side of each rack with 2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard. Then top the rack with the breadcrumb mixture, gently pressing the crumbs to adhere.
3. Roast the lamb in the oven until thermometer inserted 2 inches into center (without touching the bone) registers 130 degrees for medium rare, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil, then cut into individual chops and serve.