Rack of lamb is a relatively simple thing to prepare — marinate it, or not, and roast it at a high temperature for a short time.
It is delicious, decadent and makes a beautiful presentation, so it is an ideal meal for a holiday or special occasion. We made this for New Year’s Eve. It was a special meal, a bit of a splurge, but as it was dinner à deux, we justified the extravagance.
I served “smashed” potatoes with the lamb, and an arugula-avocado salad dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, but there are any number of sides and combos that would complement this meal nicely — see the menu suggestions below. The key is to not overwhelm the lamb; it is rich and flavorful and, as a result, you don’t want to “gild the lily.”
A whole rack for two people may seem like a large portion, but the chops are quite small and there is a good bit of bone and fat on each rack. You could certainly stretch this to three servings with ample sides and some appetizers or a starter course, especially if your guests are not huge eaters.
Rack of Lamb
Serves 2 generously
1 rack of lamb (8 chops)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Generous grinding black pepper
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
Puree all the marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth. Using a sharp knife, make hash marks in the fat side of the lamb. Do not permeate the meat; just score the fat. Pour the marinade over the lamb in a zipper bag or sealable container and allow it to marinate for several hours. Before roasting, bring the lamb to room temperature.
Heat your oven to 450 F. Place the lamb in a baking dish, rounded side facing up, and pour the marinade over it. Roast the lamb for 25 minutes to an internal temperature of 125 degrees for medium-rare meat. (Beyond medium lamb will be tough and gamey, so it’s best to stop there.) Allow the lamb to rest for 10 minutes under the foil, and then carve it into chops and serve
To round out the menu, consider any of the following side dishes — feel free to mix and match to your taste and the contents of your pantry:
Roasted root vegetables
Steamed green beans with lemon zest
Sautéed Swiss chard (or other leafy green)
Baby kale salad with citrus vinaigrette
Steamed peas and carrots
Couscous, quinoa, barley, groats or farro with lemon zest and chopped fresh herbs
Shaved Brussels sprout salad
Mashed sweet potatoes
Chopped Israeli salad
Lemon and chili flake-roasted broccoli
For dessert, we had some dark chocolate bark laced with dried cherries and salted pistachios, again sticking with the “less is more” theme. Any type of dark chocolate treat delivers a nice end note to the lamb — it packs a lot of flavor, is not overly sweet and a little goes a long way.
Consider chocolate-covered pretzels, jellies or just plain chocolate bars. If that is not to your taste, look to citrusy flavors such as a lemon chiffon, a sponge cake infused with orange or lemon syrup, or even candied orange or grapefruit.
Another dessert option: fruit sorbets. The refreshing palate cleanse of a raspberry or mango sorbet is an ideal finish to the rich meal
Fresh fruit is always an option, but it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to find top-notch fruit in the dead of winter. If so, a poached pear or a baked apple would do nicely here. Poaching the fruit in cinnamon and sugar-infused wine or baking it with nutmeg and maple syrup or honey can mask less-than-ideal textures as apple and pear seasons wane and the fruit is not fresh quite off the tree.
Finally, a simple wafer or spiced cookies, either homemade or bought, is another sound choice to cap this meal. The key is to avoid heavy desserts that compete with the lamb, which is the star of the show.