|New Zealand where there are
9.2 sheep for every human
I’d be hard pressed to remember the last I cooked something this impressive and yet so easy. I must admit to having approached preparing rack of lamb with a degree of trepidation. This dish is restaurant territory to me and I associate it with a hefty price tag on menus everywhere. Truth be told, while not inexpensive, the lamb for 2 was about $18.00. Bless the people of New Zealand for this relative bargain. And bless whoever ‘frenches’ these racks because they involve no trimming at all and can go straight into the pan. New Zealand lamb accounts for almost 1/3 of all lamb eaten in the US. Australia is by far and away the biggest producer of lamb, responsible for 2/3 of all the lamb imported into this country. While researching this piece, I was quite surprised to discover lamb is very good for you. Who knew that Lamb is a significant source of omega-3, containing about 50 % the amount found in cod or tuna on an ounce-for-ounce basis ? Or that lamb contains something called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), that protects the heart? And it’s a very good source of immunity boosting protein, heart-healthy vitamin B 12 and niacin. Lamb is even listed as one of the World’s Healthiest Foods. And we haven’t even gotten to how delicious it tastes.
I was having lunch with my friend Monique the day I made my rack of lamb. Telling her what I was doing, she rattled off her list of ingredients for preparing rack of lamb. Her list was hardly complex: Salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, garlic, some parmesan cheese and some bread crumbs. Aside from the lamb, I didn’t even need to go to the store for this recipe. I chose to serve it with oven-baked tiny potatoes and some beautiful asparagus. The actual prep time is nothing. The whole thing comes together in about a half hour. If you are making this for a romantic dinner a deux, your partner will hardly know you left the room. Once again the cast iron skillet comes into good use here. You brown your rack in it and then into the oven the whole works goes. I put the potatoes in a cast iron casserole with a pat of butter and a couple of good grinds from the pepper and salt mills. There they stay until they emerge, perfectly cooked and brilliantly tender, when you are ready to serve dinner. You can cook the asparagus about 7 minutes into the lamb’s time in the oven. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb:
1 rack of lamb, trimmed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Season rack of lambwell on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a medium skillet over high heat and, when hot, add the oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the rack of lamb and brown well on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside to cool slightly before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the potatoes into the oven, if serving.
Using the back of a spoon, spread the mustard evenly over all sides of the lamb. Spread the minced garlic over the lamb in the same manner.
In a small mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbsand grated cheese and toss to thoroughly combine. Using your hands or a spoon, spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly all over the lamb, pressing so that the crumbs adhere to the meat.
Place the rack of lamb on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes for medium-rare. Allow lamb to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before carving into chops to serve.