There are many recipes for rack of lamb that include marinating, making mustard crusts, or spearing the meat to insert garlic and herbs—and if you do not have good lamb, I would suggest following one of them. My preference, however, is to buy great meat and allow it to be the star. Rack of lamb is simply the ribs— chops that are not cut apart but roasted together and then separated before serving. Roasting in a rack tends to make for juicier and more tender chops than broiling or pan-sautéing them individually. In the case of lamb, “less is more.” Large racks mean that the lamb is larger and older and closer to the strong-tasting mutton than the mild-flavored baby lamb.
Each rack is made up of eight lamb chops and serves three people. (Serve two chops per person, and when you pass the plate around for seconds, many people will take a third). Ask the butcher for racks that weigh less than a pound and a half each. Have them “Frenched” so that the meat at the tips is cut away to expose the bones and the backbone is cracked between the ribs to make it easy to carve before serving. Lean two Frenched racks standing up against each other, with the bones’ tips on top and interlaced.
Rack of lamb should be cooked rare or, at most, medium- rare.
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin) 2 racks of lamb, each less than 1½ pounds
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400° F. Arrange the oven rack so that the lamb will be in the middle of the oven.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and sear the racks on all sides in a hot pan so that the outer layer of the meat gets a crisp, cooked look to it. Place the seared racks in a roasting pan with fresh rosemary in between them. Place the pan in the middle of the preheated oven for 12 minutes, and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Cook until the thermometer reads 125° F for rare or 130° F for medium-rare. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for five to ten minutes.
If you have only one oven, prepare the following side dishes an hour before roasting the meat. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm and return to the oven to reheat while the lamb is resting.
Zucchini au Gratin
3 lbs. Zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
8 oz crème fraiche (Marona’s has Ronnybrook, Adam’s has
or mix heavy cream with sour cream) Vermont
5 ounces grated Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper
Rinse and dry zucchini (do not peal). Cut into large cubes. Cook in salted boiling water for 15–20 minutes. Drain and squeeze in a colander to remove excess water. Place zucchini in a buttered oven dish and mash with a fork. In a separate bowl, mix beaten eggs, crème fraiche, three-quarters of the cheese, and some salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add mixture to zucchini and mix with a fork. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Place in preheated oven (350º F) until golden brown (30- to 40 minutes).
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
9 pearl onions, unpeeled
18–24 baby potatoes, unpeeled (all the same, or a combination of Yukon Gold, white creamers, small reds,
or fingerlings—but try to get them all the same size)
Salt and coarse pepper
Place the onions in water and bring to a boil. Remove immediately and peel off their skins. Wash the potatoes, scrubbing off any dirt, but leave the skins on. Coat a roasting pan with the olive oil and salt and coarse pepper. Dry potatoes with a paper towel. Roll the potatoes and onions in the seasoned olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and place in the preheated oven (350º F) to roast until golden brown (about 45 minutes).