Every food is associated with a word or image in one’s mind. And although the words change from culture to culture, some are pretty consistent in the U.S.
Chicken is ‘common’; when you go to someone’s home for dinner and they cook chicken, the subconscious perception is that the person is inviting you into their everyday, ‘common’ life. On the other hand, if your friend cooks a duck with orange sauce, you’re ‘special’.
Milk is often considered an essential part of the diet; if it’s not in the refrigerator, the kids will say there’s “nothing to eat”. A fresh apple is a ‘snack, a banana is common, a pineapple is exotic, a passion fruit is odd. A chocolate covered strawberry is romantic. An oyster means get ready for love! Prime rib roast is for successful people. But when it comes to rack of lamb, the image is this: royalty.
Every exclusive restaurant has an impressive rack of lamb on their menu for holidays and often throughout the year and although you may not order it yourself, when someone at your table orders it, the feeling at the table will be that your group is extraordinary. Heads will turn as the rack of lamb is served and during the entire meal, there’s a feeling that everyone is accessing their “inner king” or “inner queen”.
You Can Cook a Rack of Lamb and Do It Well
It may sound crazy, but just try cooking a rack of lamb this holiday for your guests and see what happens yourself!
“Cook a rack of lamb? Me? It looks too difficult!” – these are words often heard from the mouths of many who are a little shy about taking on such a big endeavor.
However, cooking a rack of lamb is really not that difficult. There are some basic principles you should know to get started.
- The most difficult part of cooking a rack of lamb is taking the meat and trimming it to look like a lamb rack, which is called to “french” the lamb rack. The good news is that your butcher can do this for you! Watching him do it a few times is a great way to prevent mistakes that result during the learning process when you do it on your own in the future. So step 1 is to buy a rack already frenched.
- When cooking a rack of lamb, always make sure you have enough lamb for your guests. Allow about 2 to 3 servings per rack, depending on the size of the rack. As your butcher frenches the rack, ask for verification that you’ll have enough for the guests.
- The beauty of the rack of lambs is accentuated with the bones sticking straight up. The bones must be covered with tinfoil during the cooking process; otherwise what sticks up on the finished serving platter will be burnt bones, not beautiful bones. The bones do not need to be covered if you’re searing the rack before baking; cover them only during the baking process.
- There are two ways to properly cook a rack of lamb: 1) sear it first in a hot pan with oil on high heat, then transfer it to the oven for the remainder of the cooking or 2) bake it at two different temperatures – 450 degrees F first, then 375 degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time.
- Some chefs prefer to stuff the crown of the rack with stuffing; others use breadcrumbs with herbs to coat the lamb after searing. Experiment with both methods; they both work well.
- Different sauces will add a lot of flavor to the lamb; these can be brushed on the rack of lamb before it goes into the oven for cooking and also immediately after the rack is removed from the oven. The sauces used are up to your wildest imagination: try raspberries with blackberries sauce, wasabi-garlic-mustard-ginger wine sauce, cranberry-fennel-thyme-orange sauce or nut garlic sauce.
- Cooking a rack of lamb is fun, but what’s more fun is creating the accompanying vegetables that add the sense of royalty to the dish. You can’t just have a rack of lamb on a serving platter – it would look absolutely naked! To give the illusion of royalty, you need vegetables strategically placed around the rack. This could include any of the following combinations:
- Sautéed long strips of carrots, parsnips, fennel and sweet potatoes
- Placing mashed potatoes into a piping bag, ‘pipe’ out the potatoes in flower shapes and garnish with olives, steamed green beans, red pepper strips, and other colorful vegetables.
- Asparagus spears, small red potatoes, artichoke hearts, steamed carrots, and other bright red or orange-colored fruits or vegetables, all on top of a bed of kale.
With this knowledge of cooking a rack of lamb, you’re now ready to proceed, full speed ahead. Your royal family and friends are awaiting your unique creation. Now go make some great memories!