Medallions of Joy

It had been too long since I spent a full day in the kitchen. I’m not beating up on myself — things like jobs and social goings-on prevent such time allocation, ya dig? But I missed my all day cookingfests: the sort where you put your iPod on shuffle, pour yourself a glass of wine, don your favorite apron, and use every dish you own in the creation of something fabulously non-routine.

Before he left for Maine, Alex made me a gorgeous dinner: pan-seared salmon, succotash, bread (from Josey!), wine. Pie for dessert, natch. I swooned, and I ate a lot of bread. I wanted to repay the favor but was stumped about what to make. I don’t have a go-to dish — not one to serve to guys, anyhow. The dishes I typically make for myself are tasty, yes, but not showy enough for company.* I consulted my cooking magz — finally, these magazine subscriptions are being put to good use! — and found a recipe for herb-crusted rack of lamb. Droooool.

You know how common sense dictates that one should not prepare a wholly new recipe when one is entertaining? Heh. It crossed my mind that maybe I should stick with a known quantity, but the promise of medium-rare lamb encased in buttery, herbacious breadcrumbs was irresistible. That, and the recipe was one paragraph long. I felt certain that I wouldn’t fuck it up.

The biggest challenge in the preparation of the Roast of Awesomeness was securing the rack of lamb. I’m close to a few grocery stores (OK, two Safeways), but neither sells quality meat. Whole Foods is a bit of a trek — an hour ride (RT) on the 71. Fortunately, Guerra Meats is right in my hood. The shop has a pleasingly old-timey awning (and similarly antiquated interior), a passable selection of dry goods, and hella friendly butchers. The dude I spoke with raised his eyebrow when I requested a rack of lamb.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have chops?” he asked. “Chops are also nice.”

“No,” I answered (hesitantly). It had to be the rack.

Looking at me, the butcher knew my plan. HE TOTALLY KNEW. Smiling, he wrapped the meat in lilac paper and sealed the bundle with tape. “Here’s what you do,” he said. “Rub it with whatever herbs you want — oil, herbs, doesn’t matter — and cook it for half an hour. Not too long.”

“Okey doke,” I said. I fairly skipped into the sunlight and walked all the way home.

How was the lamb, then? Better than even I could have hoped for. At the risk of sounding like a True NorCal Hippie (TNH), I think a higher power preordained that this roast would turn out perfectly. When I removed the rack from the oven, it measured exactly (to the degree) 130. Precisely medium rare. It rested for a good ten minutes before we broke it into chops, and then? Oh, yeah: we dug in.

Rack of lamb is my new go-to dish. I half wish I had to host a company dinner or something (bridal shower? Do brides eat meat? DON’T ANSWER THAT.) just so I could prepare it again. Or maybe I don’t need an occasion, the eating of lamb being an occasion itself. Bingo.

***

This dish is easy enough to prepare last minute (trust me) and lovely enough for whatever sort of shindig you’re throwing. Allow two chops per diner — more, if you want leftovers — and serve with a green salad.

One other suggestion: I added extra butter to the breadcrumb mixture, and I suggest you do the same. Now is not the time for dietary restrictions.

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb (from Bon Appetit, January 2011)

Ingredients

  • Rack of lamb, well trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Method

Preheat oven to 450. Brush lamb with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs. Place lamb, meat side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Mix breadcrumbs, garlic, butter, and mint in medium bowl. Press breadcrumb mixture onto meat side of lamb. Roast until thermometer inserted into lamb registers 130 degrees, about 20 minutes for medium-rare. Cut into chops.

***

*And I’m blushing a little at my admission that I wanted to make something showy, but, you know, that’s how it is! OKcool.

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