Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been cooking almost all our meals at home. But on weekends, I get a respite from cooking by ordering our meals out—pizza perhaps, or pancit, or Chinese food and sometimes Japanese cuisine.
For Sunday dinner, however, as has been our family custom all these years, I make it a point to cook something special. It could be paella seasoned with saffron and simmered in rich flavorful broth, or thick, juicy rib eye steak with roast potatoes, or prawn and vegetable tempura, or a favorite pasta dish served with toasted, buttery garlic bread.
Last Sunday, for the first time, I cooked roast rack of lamb. This cut of lamb comes from the ribs and has all the meat on one end and the bones exposed on the other end. Described as French cut, it comes whole, usually with eight ribs per whole rack.
Because of its size, rack of lamb can seem intimidating to cook. Or so I thought. Though the preparation takes a while, in the end, it’s the oven that does most of the work. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the lamb to reach medium rare doneness—time you can use for making sautéed vegetables and/or mashed potatoes.
Having side dishes is a must when serving rack of lamb because you have to balance its richness and well-defined flavor. You can serve sautéed vegetables, rice and mint sauce or mint jelly. Mint is especially good because its coolness lets the taste buds rest from the lamb’s texture and flavor. You can try making your own mint sauce by using fresh mint leaves, but in a pinch, just buy a jar of mint jelly. Yes, if you prefer to use mint jelly, go ahead. (Don’t let the food snobs intimidate you.)
Roast Rack of Lamb
For the lamb:
1 rack of lamb, French cut (about 1 kg)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
For the bread crumb coating:
1½ c bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp crushed garlic
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or dried rosemary
2 Tbsp olive oil
Suggested sides: Rice, mashed potatoes, sautéed asparagus and carrots, mint sauce or mint jelly
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Trim off any excess sinewy meat on the surface of the lamb. Pat the lamb dry and make 1-inch cuts between each bone (this helps to cook the lamb faster). If desired, score the lamb by cutting shallow, diamond-like patterns on the surface of the meaty side. Season the lamb with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Set aside while preparing the bread crumbs.
Make the bread crumbs: Combine the bread crumbs with the salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well. The mixture should become somewhat sticky.
Cook the lamb: Heat the 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy skillet to medium-high heat. Carefully add the rack of lamb and sear the lamb in the hot oil for about two minutes on each side. Sear also both ends of the lamb.
Remove from the heat and let cool a few minutes. Then brush the lamb on both sides and both ends with the Dijon mustard. Dredge the lamb with the prepared bread crumbs until all its surfaces are covered (do not dredge the bones). The mustard helps to make the bread crumbs stick to the lamb.
Arrange the lamb in a large roasting pan or an oven-proof skillet, bony side down (the meaty side should be up). Wrap the bones of the lamb rack with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
Roast the lamb in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until medium rare, or until it’s of desired doneness. The lamb is medium rare when the interior is a bright pink color. If desired you can also roast it until it’s medium well. It’s not recommended to roast lamb to well done.
Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and remove the aluminum foil used to wrap the bones. Let rest for five to 10 minutes. Slice the lamb between the bones. Makes about eight separate cuts of lamb. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables and mint sauce or mint jelly (available in jars in the supermarket).