Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cooking with Books: Rack of Lamb with a Cumin and Salt Crust, Lemon, and Cilantro

You've probably heard me say that Food & Wine is my favorite foodie magazine. Well, they also come through in the cookbook department. Every year, their editors compile a cookbook with sample recipes from THEIR favorite cookbooks of the year. It's called Best of the Best and is a great way to preview a book or two and decide whether or not you want to buy the whole thing. (And, more often than not, you'll want to.)

This particular recipe is from a cookbook that is itself a compilation. Melissa Clark's Chef, Interrupted takes dishes from some of the nation's best chefs and makes them simpler with easier-to-find ingredients and simpler techniques. This one is a great example. I haven't bought the book yet, but others I have marked to try include a braised Basque chicken and a shredded Brussels sprouts salad.

Lamb chops are wonderful prepared this way. And they are, quite frankly, delicious crusted and roasted without the pan sauce if you're looking for an even easier way out.

Rack of Lamb with a Cumin and Salt Crust, Lemon, and Cilantro
Serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 racks of lamb (1 1/4 pound each)
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500°F and place a heavy-duty metal roasting pan in the oven to heat up.

In a bowl, combine the cumin seeds, salt and pepper. Rinse the lamb and shake it dry, but don’t dry it completely– you want the seasoning to stick. Put the lamb on a plate and rub it all over with the cumin mixture. Let sit for about 20 minutes while the oven and pan preheat.

Meanwhile, put the garlic in a pan and cover with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Bring the mixture to a bare simmer and let cook gently until the cloves are very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

When the roasting pan is very hot, carefully add the remaining 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and place the lamb, fat side down, into the pan. Roast the lamb until nicely browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes, then flip the racks and cook about 5 minutes on the other side for rare (about 120°F on a meat thermometer), or cook it more or less to taste. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat. Add the chicken broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pass two of the roasted garlic cloves through a garlic press into the sauce or smash them in a bowl and add the paste to the sauce. Add the wine and lemon juice and simmer until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Whisk in the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the lamb with the pan sauce, garnished with cilantro leaves.

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