Rack of lamb is simple to prepare and quite elegant for a proper dinner party. Racks have become so popular and expensive in the U.S. that chefs have turned to overseas sources to supply their restaurants at a much cheaper price. There are many New Zealand producers selling lamb with no added hormones or antibiotics. Small organic and free range producers in the U.S. sell their animals whole, so you not only get two racks you get everything else, legs, shoulders, shanks, etc. as well. Lambs are very small, 35 to 40 pounds, so if you split a whole one with a friend it is easy to use up all of the cuts. The herb marinade for the rack really perfumes the meat if it is done a day or two ahead of time. The same marinade can be used for many other cuts as well. It is best to remove as many of the herbs and garlic before roasting as they will burn and create off flavors.
- 2 lamb racks (about 8 to 9 ribs each)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
- 2 (4-inch) rosemary sprigs, crushed
- 6 thyme sprigs, crushed
- 4 rosemary sprigs, for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
Clean the rib bones well by scraping off meat and sinew with a small sharp knife. Cut the racks in 1/2 so that each has four ribs. Mix together the olive oil, crushed garlic, crushed rosemary and thyme sprigs in a large bowl. Add the lamb and coat well. Grind some coarse black pepper over all. Wrap well and marinate the racks overnight.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the lamb well with salt; no additional pepper should be necessary, and sear fat side down until golden, about 7 minutes. Turn over so that the fat side is up and roast in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let the rack rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
To serve, cut each lamb rack into 4 equal pieces, 2 bones per chop and serve on individual plates or a platter with the accompaniments of your choice.