This is what my father, of late memory, would call a “highfalutin dish.” And I can understand that view. It seems, mention rack of lamb and you get immediate pictures of people in some fancy-dan restaurant with waiters fluttering about with a maītre d’ snapping his fingers and pointing at tables. Fact is, rack of lamb is very easy to cook. Granted, it’s a mite more expensive cut but, for that special occasion, it’s well worth it. And my version is, naturally, Nuyorican style. Yes, we do have rack of lamb, with the usual seasonings native to our cuisine (plus a dash or rum). Think of it as an island treat.
In the old days, cooking rack of lamb was a pain because you had to prepare the rack of lamb by getting a whole rack, cutting all of the surface fat from the meat and bone, removing the long chine bone, hacking off the ends of the ribs, and leaving about one and one-half inches of the ribs intact while separating the rest from the loin of meat. This was difficult and time consuming. Today you can buy a rack of lamb with bones “frenched” (as they say) with blade and chine bone removed. All you have to do is wash the lamb under cold running water, dry with paper towel, season and cook.
Rack of lamb can be prepared in one of two ways: you can cook atop the oven by searing the meat on each side, and then simmering in some liquid on low heat, or roasted in the oven. Some chefs sear and then roast. I go for the traditional roasting method: just coat with bread crumbs and seasonings, and roast to desired doneness. Nothing could be simpler. Given my Puerto Rican background, I serve the dish with pilaf or saffron rice; but you can also serve it with baked or puréed potatoes and/or broiled tomatoes. Hell, you can serve it with french fries, if you want. In my culture we don’t stand on ritual, just taste and satisfaction.
RACK OF LAMB – NUYORICAN STYLE
1 well-trimmed rack of lamb (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), bones frenched (blade and chine bones removed)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
3 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon dark or white rum (dark rum gives more pronounced flavor)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, oregano and pepper.
3. Rub the rack of lamb with butter.
4. Coat the rack of lamb with bread crumb mixture, pressing evenly over the meat on both sides.
5. Place in a baking dish large enough to hold the rack in one layer, sprinkle with the rum; and roast, meat side up, for 10 minutes.
6. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees. Roast for 15-20 minutes more. Check for doneness (around 135 degrees for medium rare). Let lamb stand 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 3-4 servings.