Tender, juicy racks of lamb, cooked to perfection, are truly a holiday-worthy treat. How fortunate, then, that they are relatively easy to prepare and make such a stunning statement!
Racks may have seven or eight chops (ribs), but can vary greatly in size. Small racks– those that are just a wink over a pound each– are lovely to serve as individual chops (sometimes referred to as lollipop chops) for an appetizer or passed hors d’oeuvres. Racks that weigh 1 1/2 to 2 pounds each are more suitable for a main course; each rack this size will feed 3-4 people.
When you buy the lamb, ask the butcher to “french” the racks. That means the rib bones are scraped clean, which makes the rack look elegant and dressy.
There is only one key to cooking racks of lamb to perfection: temperature. They are at their most tender and juicy at medium rare; take them out of the oven as soon as they hit 125 degrees. (The temperature will go up about another 5 degrees by the time they are served). To take the temperature, simple insert an instant read meat thermometer right through the center of the chops, parallel to the counter.
One of the great things about serving racks of lamb is how easy they make the timing. Two racks will take about 22-26 minutes (and then rest 5 minutes): that means you can put the rack in just before you ask everyone to sit down for the first course and they will be ready right on cue.
Roast Racks of Lamb
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 (1 3/4-pound) racks of lamb, 8 chops each
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. Combine the oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Pat evenly over the meaty part of the chops. Allow the racks to stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Season evenly with the salt and pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Place one rack with the bones facing up and the meaty part of the chop facing outward on the pan. Lean the second rack on the first, again with the meatiest part of the chops facing outward. Alternate the bones from each rack to interlace them. Roast 22-26 minutes, until ta meat thermometer inserted through the center of the chops (parallel to the counter) registers 125 (for medium rare). Allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting into chops. (The temperature will rise another 5 degrees).
Makes 6-8 servings
Nutritional analysis for each serving (2 chops, 8 servings): 367 calories, 29 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 26 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 424 mg sodium