Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spicy-Crust Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mashed Minty Potatoes and Peas

One of our favorite "stay in on a Friday night" activities to do together is find a complex recipe, open a couple bottles of wine, and spend the night navigating the dish. This ended up happening quite often this winter, due to the obnoxious amounts of snow DC received (I’m saying this as someone who grew up with 3 feet of snow covering the ground all winter, so it’s legit). I had had the urge to cook a rack of lamb for awhile, and just so happened to receive the “Food for Friends” cookbook by Fran Warde from my roommate and long-time friend for Christmas, which also happened to include a recipe for rack of lamb dish. We decided to go for it, but being ill-prepared, ended up not actually eating anything until 11 pm that night. It was worth the wait, I had an “oh my God this is so good” food moment (I always treasure those, you don’t get that from every dish). Unfortunately, I'm unsure if our tastebuds were under the influence of the copious amounts of wine we drank prior to eating (what else do you expect us to do while we are cooking for 3 hours??), or if it was just really that good.

If you are not trying to spend your entire night cooking this dish, I recommend starting the day before. Buy the rack of lamb, create the marinade below, and let it chill in the fridge overnight. The potatoes take hardly any time to cook, so this meal should only probably take 1-1 1/2 hours total the day you serve it. Or, if you are like us and have the entire night to waste (although really it's not wasted because this is sooo good), you can let the lamb marinade for 2 hours, and spend another hour cooking. I do recommend 2 sets of hands working on this dish the night of if possible, unless you are great at mulitasking.

Serves 4

Spicy-Crust Roasted Rack of Lamb

3 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
4 small dried chiles
2 tablespoon course salt (we typically use Kosher salt for everything)
Grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
2 racks of lamb, 6 chops each (that means you each get 3 lamb lollipops) - we got our lamb at Whole Foods, it was already cleaned for us
3/4 cup red wine

Mashed Minty Potatoes and Peas
3 lbs. boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into equal pieces (this helps the potatoes cook faster)
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
10 oz. frozen baby peas, 2 cups
A bunch of fresh mint, chopped
Course salt and pepper

Prepare 1 day in advance:
1. Heat a dry skillet on medium-low. Add the cumin seeds, coriandor seeds, peppercorns, cloves, and chiles. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from pan and crush (a mortle and pestle is recommended, we don't have one so we just crushed everything in a bowl using a spoon).

2. Add lemon zest and juice, salt, and olive oil to another bowl (if you actually did use a mortor and pestle, make sure you put the crushed contents into the new bowl as well).

3. Put the rack of lamb into a large roasting pan. Rub the mixture into the lamb, smear all over. Cover and chill overnight (we only did 2 hours and it still tasted awesome).

Dinner time:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Start boiling a huge pot of water on the stove over high heat (add salt to the water, like you would cooking pasta).

3. Cook the lamb in the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees. Cook further for 20 minutes for a rare lamb, 25 minutes for medium, 35 minutes for well done. Lamb is a meat that tastes a lot better when it is tender, so we cooked medium-rare. Also, if you have an unreliable oven like I do, watch the lamb! You don't want that baby overcooked. This is always my biggest fear when using the oven at my place.

4. Add the peeled and cut potatoes to the boiling water after the lamb has been cooking for 20 minutes (by then your water should be boiling, and will match up the end cooking time with the lamb's end cooking time). Boil potatoes in the water until they are fork tender (approximately 20 minutes).

5. Steam peas (you can do this in the microwave if you want - just put the frozen peas in a microwave safe dish, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover with saran wrap and cook until done).

6. Drain potatoes and return to the pot over low heat.

7. Remove the lamb from oven, transfer to a cutting board, and let rest for 5 minutes.

8. Add the wine and 3/4 cup water to the roasting pan and set it on the stove over high heat. Stir to scrape up all the roasted bits on the bottom, and boil until reduced by half.

9. Add butter, egg, milk, salt, and pepper to pot. Stir briefly, then remove from heat. Crush the potatoes with a potato masher, or the back of a wooden spoon.

10. Add mint and cooked peas to the mashed potatoes.

11. Cut the lamb into individual chops. Place over minty mashed potatoes, spoon sauce over the top, and serve.

Ugh I love this dish.

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