Friday, February 11, 2011

Once Upon A Lamb

Once upon a time my beloved and I cooked meals together.  Back in the days, he even cooked for me.  He really did! Well, that was when he was still trying to win my heart.  He cooked me steaks and pork chops, and quite impressed me as he pulled off some tricks learned from a chef friend.  On some date nights we watched cooking shows and we tried a few that intrigued us.  This dish is one of them and our first try left us feeling like gourmet chefs.  It was so good we decided it would become our specialty. We would cook it every time we get a hand on a good rack of lamb (thanks Costco!).  My sweetheart would sear the meat and be in charge of the reduction, while I would do the breading and then cooking it to perfect medium rare.  On top of that I was to make the side dishes - asparagus, mashed potatoes, salad.  All these preparation going on while the Kinks played in the background.
But these days beloved is more preoccupied with boxing blogs, Twitter and of course goofing around with our 2 year old daughter.  I am fine with it except from time to time I miss the good old days - there was a sense of romance to it that I miss.  These days my beloved cooks more with my daughter, well pretend cooks that is.  They make wooden sushi,  stew plastic vegetables and bake wooden cookies for dessert.  All while watching Special Agent Oso on Disney channel on-demand.
The recipe was from the show Chef At Home by Michael Smith.  A rack of lamb sounds sophisticated and intimidating but really it is just lamb meat with bones attached to it.  It is similar to beef ribs, but it's lamb not beef.  Get the picture?  They sell it at the market all ready - Frenched, meaning the meat and membranes connecting each individual bone is already removed.  If in any case it isn't, feel free to ask the butcher to do it for you.  On the other hand, you can always learn how to french a rack of lamb  yourself.   I

Roast Rack Of Lamb With Grain Mustard Crust And Zinfandel Sauce

2 racks of lamb, cleaned (save trimmings)
Coarse salt and cracked pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup of red Zinfandel wine or other big bodied red wine such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon
1 cup of chicken or beef stock, homemade or canned
3 bay leaves
1 bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped (save a few sprigs for garnish)
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup of grainy mustard
1 cup of course bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Season the meat with course salt and freshly ground pepper. Preheat a sauté pan large enough to hold both lamb racks over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the lamb racks, meat side down and brown well. At this point you're not trying to cook the meat through, you're just adding rich caramelized flavour to it that would be impossible to do once its insulated by the breadcrumb crust. Using tongs, turn racks and brown the bone side. Place on a plate, resting on its bones while preparing the crust and sauce.

Toss the lamb trimmings into the sauté pan and brown until well caramelized. Drain excess fat and then pour the Zinfandel into pan, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. This is known as 'deglazing.' The brown bits are caramelized juices from the meat and will add a ton of flavour to the sauce. Add the stock and bay leaves then simmer until the liquid reduces by two thirds to a sauce-like consistency.

Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the tarragon, egg yolk and mustard together. Pat this mixture around the meaty part of the lamb racks, applying pressure to make it adhere. Pat on the breadcrumbs. Place the lamb racks onto a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, when it reads 140 degrees F (70 C), it's a perfect medium rare.

Rest on a rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. This will allow the meat that's stressed out from the heat of the grill to relax and reabsorb the juices that are driven to the center of the cut. By letting it rest you won't end up with a platter of juice and dry meat!

With a sharp knife, slice the lamb racks between every second rib bone. Place two pieces in a warm bowl and spoon some Zinfandel sauce around them.

But to be honest, we get greedy so we usually just dip each piece of lamb on a bowl of wine sauce.  :)

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