Dead Easy Rack of Lamb
A rack of lamb consists of one side of the ribcage of a lamb with its
enclosed muscle (meat). When cut into individual chops these are usually
called lamb cutlets. When cooking individual cutlets you tend to lose
juices. With a rack of lamb the juices remain in the one larger piece of
meat during the cooking process. A rack of lamb is usually nowadays sold
'Frenched' - i.e. with external fat removed and the protruding ribs
scraped clean. The bones will have been sawed through so that it is easy
for the diner to separate the individual cutlets with a table knife. In
order to keep the rack in good condition the butcher might only do that
final cut at the time of purchase. If in doubt just ask the butcher.
Racks are sold in varying sizes, typically from 6 to 13 cutlets in a
rack. These are sometimes referred to as "6 point", "13 point" etc.
You can currently (July 2009) pick up a reasonable quality 9 point rack
of Lamb at the Queen Victoria Market for about $8. As usual expect to
pay up to double that in a supermarket.
The White Hat
Recipe for Dead-Easy Rack of Lamb
(This recipe was first published in the White Hat Melbourne Newsletter
No.272 of the 24th July 2008)
This is a great dish with which to impress a dinner guest.
You will need:
- One Frenched rack of lamb (say 9 point)
- One or two cloves of garlic
- several sprigs of fresh rosemary and mint
- One lemon
- Olive Oil
- Freshly ground salt & pepper
Ensure there is space in the meat between the individual cutlets to
receive some ingredients. If not use a sharp knife to deepen the cuts
between the bone into the meat itself. Be careful not to cut more than
about two-thirds of the way through. In each slit place:
- one or two thin slices of garlic
- a sprig of rosemary. If it is on a hard woody stalk, just strip
the leaves and push the in there
Place in a low flat bowl, drizzle over some good olive oil and grind
over plenty of salt and pepper. This much can be prepared in advance and
placed in the fridge, but there's hardly any need since it only takes a
Before your guest arrives
If you are going to be using a barbecue, you may choose to cut up
some potatoes and parboil (half cook) them. Drain and set aside. Then go
to you pantry and get out some of your more exotic ingredients. We would
suggest maybe pomegranate molasses, rose water, star anise and baby
capers in salt. Arrange those around your dish containing the lamb so
they are close at hand. In the photograph above we have laid the lamb on
a bed of kohlrabi so in that case keep the rest of this impressive
looking vegetable handy as well.
When your guest arrives
Pour them a drink and make the appropriate smalltalk. Indicate that you
are going into the kitchen area to get the meal under way. Your guest
will say "Can I give you a hand?" - they always say "Can I
give you a hand?" The correct answer is "No, no, no, no no.
Everything's under under control. But maybe if you could just give me a
little hand with . . "
Once in the kitchen slice a lemon into very thin circles. Place one
circle in each of the slits. You could have done this earlier but it is
very important that you are seen performing part of the preparation. If
you are using a barbecue, place the lamb in a double layer of aluminium
foil, add the parboiled potatoes, tear over some mint leaves and add a
little more olive oil, salt and pepper together with any juice left from
the lemon. Form the aluminium foil into a sealed parcel that won't leak
and place on the barbecue at medium heat. If you are using an oven, just
squeeze over the lemon and place the dish in an oven at 190.
Usher your visitor back to the living area and make sure their drink is
topped up. Return to the kitchen and put away the pomegranate molasses,
rose water, star anise and baby capers in salt - they were only there to
impress your guest. It is important to remember that entertaining like
this is much like playing guitar in a rock band. Anyone can learn the
three chords in less than half an hour. The real skill lies in making
the playing of the three chords look really difficult.
Depending on the size of the lamb, the temperature of the oven or
barbecue and just how pink people like their lamb, the rack will take
between 20 and 35 minutes to cook. When it has cooked, set aside for 3
or 4 minutes in a warm place to rest.
If you used the barbecue be careful to preserve the juices from the
foil. You can reduce them a little in a pan and maybe add some butter
but rack of lamb does not need a heavy gravy.
If you have used the oven and a bed of kohlrabi, toss out the kohlrabi
(or put it in the fridge to add to soups). It is too bitter to eat cooked
that way and was only there to impress your guest. If they were
particularly taken by it you can always make up a mash of
potatoes, a little parsnip and some horseradish and tell them there's
kohlrabi in there - you'll get away with it 9 times out of 10.
Frozen peas go well with rack of lamb, and since your guest saw the
trouble you went to with the preparation of the lamb what they will
taste is lovingly freshly shelled peas. Similarly you could make the
mint sauce yourself but most commercial bottled varieties aren't too bad. Shake the bottle, remove the top and pour some into a small jug and
warm it slightly in the microwave. Add a little vinegar to freshen it
up, tear over some fresh mint leaves and you have home-fortified mint
Serve up and start eating, but quickly make an excuse to disappear
for a minute. From a distance observe whether your guest is regarding
the flavourings between the cutlets with suspicion and carefully
scraping them to one side. Do you really want to work with a person like
The next test comes when most of the meat has gone. Some will
negotiate around the remaining bones with a knife and fork to remove
what they regard as a respectable amount of the meat. Others will ask
Do you mind? . . before picking up each bone and stripping it
clear of every last nourishment. If you are looking for a sensuous
relationship, you can eliminate the knife and fork character.
In fact if you are looking for a new employee you could spend
hundreds of dollars on submitting them to a Myers-Briggs (or whatever
your favourite franchised psychographic system is) test to determine
whether they are suitable. Similarly if you are looking for a meaningful
personal relationship you could spend hundreds of dollars on theatre
tickets to try to get an idea if they are suitable.
Here at White Hat we prefer to use the $8 Rack of Lamb test.
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