an illuminating lamb post
I mentioned in an earlier post finding a French rack of lamb for about $11.70 at Trader Joe’s, and after stashing it in the meat drawer for a couple of days, it was lamb time.
As Max and I are on a pretty tight budget, we don’t get lamb too often. The last time we bought some, it doubled our grocery bill total for the week! The Trader Joe’s lamb was from New Zealand, where it is legal to give antibiotics to animals only if they are sick, as opposed to here in the US where many slaughter farms feed their flocks and herds antibiotics on a daily basis. This is supposed to make them less likely to get sick, but most infectious disease experts think that eating meat that’s been raised on antibiotics increases antibiotic resistance in people who eat it. You can read about it here.
Our last lamb was from Whole Food’s, where we actually got Icelandic lamb. It was cheaper than the grass-fed American alternative which was more than $20/lb, and the way livestock is raised in Iceland intrigued me. Max said it was the best lamb I’d ever cooked, however I was eager to try a less costly alternative.
This was actually my first rack of lamb to cook. Normally, I buy individual rib chops which cook faster, but the rack has a beautiful look to it, don’t you think? The next “level up” is the crown cut, which is really just several racks tied together in the shape of a crown (left). It does look very regal!
Most of the fat has already been trimmed away and the bones have been cleaned up. You could do this yourself, I suppose, but it’s a heckuva lot easier to have a butcher do it or buy it this way. I actually think it’s a great deal, too, because having the fat trimmed means it weighs and costs less, and I always discard the tough and chewy fat that comes with rib chops anyway.
It’s generally recommended that you plan 1 rack per 2 people (though this is a pretty generous portion), and most racks have 8 ribs on them, which means less fighting over meat!
I roasted the rack for about fifteen minutes before crusting it with mustard and herbs. Then it went back in the oven for broiling.
After savagely ripping apart these ribs like neanderthals, there was not a morsel uneaten. Make sure to floss afterward!
This recipe would also work really well for romantic settings. It looks delicate and beautiful with exposed bones, but it’s also hunks of medium rare meat, so you can make this dish work for you no matter what cooking-stereotype you want to embrace (unless one of you is vegetarian. Then it’s awkward.).
French Rack with Herb-Mustard Crust
1 rack of lamb (you might need to order this from a butcher in advance)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
≈1/8 cup herbs of your choice. I minced a sprig of rosemary and mixed it with a few sprigs fresh thyme and a pinch of dried marjoram and dried oregano plus our perennial friends salt and pepper. We also added a tsp of garlic powder.
3 tbsp butter (less than half a stick)
2-3 tbsp mustard (we used Dijon)
Step 1) preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Step 2) arrange lamb in a roasting dish. We have a small cast-iron roasting rack that helps cook the meat evenly and lets the juices drip.
Step 3) rub lamb with olive oil, and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper. When the oven is preheated, put the lamb in and let it roast 15 minutes.
Step 4) while the lamb is roasting, melt the butter and stir in the herbs you are using.
Step 5) Take the lamb out of the oven and let it stand about 10 minutes. In the meantime, switch your oven to broil and move an oven rack to just about 3 inches under the heat.
Step 6) Spread the mustard in an even layer over the lamb. Stir up the herb butter, and layer than evenly over the mustard.
Step 7) Put the lamb in to broil for about 7-10 minutes. This will yield rare chops, depending on the size of your rack, of course (ours was a little over a pound). Internal temperature for rare lamb is about 140 degrees, medium is about 150 degrees, and well done is about 160 degrees. IF YOU WANT MEDIUM OR WELL DONE CHOPS: only broil for about 5 minutes. Then turn your oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 5-10 minutes.