- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Doesn’t a rack of lamb sound like an elegant and massive hunk of meat? If you’ve never prepared one, you probably envision hoisting a silver tray festooned with meat to a hungry horde.

You’re half right. Rack of lamb is a celebratory meat cut, one of the crown jewels of the butcher case. It is succulent, flavorful and very impressive.

However, it is not oversized. The average rack of lamb weighs in at slightly under 1 pound. This cut from the rib section is usually sold as an eight-rib piece of meat. Slice the rack into individual chops and you have two servings.

And what an entree you’re offering. Lamb, like steak, lobster or shrimp, signals your dinner partner that this isn’t going to be an ordinary meal.

Expect to pay about $10 to $12 for the meat at a better butcher shop. With that kind of expenditure, I’d recommend cooking rack of lamb as a whole for presentation’s sake.

The whole rack is actually easier to cook than individual chops. All you have to do is brown it in a skillet, then roast it. Bring the meat to the table, then carve it.

Lamb goes well with many flavorings, but during November, when cranberries are so plentiful, I recommend pairing it with cranberry sauce.

The slightly tangy flavor and ruby color are perfect with lamb.

To round out the meal, add roasted potatoes. Both meat and potatoes will come out of the oven together if you partially cook the potatoes first. Boil six small new potatoes in water to cover. When you can insert a knife tip, drain the potatoes, brush with olive oil and add to the roasting pan.

With minimal effort, you have an entree that’s generous, extravagant and incredibly delicious.

Roast rack of lamb with cranberry-maple sauce

1 rack of lamb

Salt, pepper

Cranberry-maple sauce (recipe follows)

Place rack of lamb in a preheated, heavy-bottomed skillet. Brown for 2 minutes per side. Season lamb with salt and pepper to taste. Place fat-side up (bone-side down) in shallow roasting pan.

Roast in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes for rare. Remove lamb from oven, loosely cover with foil and set aside for 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile prepare cranberry-maple sauce.

To serve, cut rack of lamb into individual chops. Serve with Cranberry-Maple Sauce on the side. Makes 2 servings.

CRANBERRY-MAPLE SAUCE:

1 cup cranberries

1 cup cranberry juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

⅛ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Combine cranberries, cranberry juice, maple syrup and rosemary in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Cook over high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.

Mash the berries with the back of a spoon to thicken sauce.

Stir in balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook 1 more minute.

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