Friday, January 20, 2012

Silence of the Lamb

I love dinner parties.  What can say?  I'm Roman Catholic.  We built an entire religion around a dinner party.  Jesus knew that sitting around a table sharing food creates something special.  Good wine paired with good food creates good conversation  and that leads to good friends.  That is, of course, unless you cook the wrong thing.  Then all bets are off.  In fact, maybe that's what was up with Judas.

I've had my share of mistakes.  I once made salmon cakes for a group of people that hated fish.  Instead of raucous laughter and banter all I got was awkward looks as people pushed the food around their plate and asked politely for more bread.  Fortunately, I was allowed to redeem myself.  The next time I got this crew over I had sufficiently interrogated them ahead of time to know everything about their food preferences.  Then there was the lamb debacle.  I had made a couple of gorgeous racks of lamb, and I invited a couple over to share them with us.  Maybe they thought we said "racks of spam," but either way they were so fearful  of the menu that they passed on the invite altogether.  From their perspective, I suppose they figured that if I willing to serve up lamb--or spam, then dog and cat couldn't be far behind.  I never realized that some people think of lamb as some kind of weird ethnic delicacy.  Just for the record, it tastes nothing like chicken.  In any event, we never could bridge the culinary gap, and I never got them back over.  Suffice it to say that dinner that night was very very quiet.

Despite it's history, I love this recipe for roasted rack of lamb.  I still make it for guests--albeit with plenty of advance notice and express approval.  Make this recipe at your own risk.  It cost me a couple of friends, or at least a really good dinner party.

Roasted Rack of Lamb

1.  Gently saute a fine dice of about 6 large shallots until they are nicely caramelized.  Shallots are a weird little onion about the size of a small head of garlic.  They have a mild onion-garlic flavor, but pack the same punch as a regular onion when you are cutting them; prepare to cry.

2.  Add 6 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and boil until all of the vinegar evaporates or is absorbed by the shallots.

3.   Add 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs and 3 Tbsp of fresh thyme.   Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Trim all the visible fat from two racks of lamb.  They are fatty little devils, but fortunately most of the fat rests right on the top of the rack.  It's a time consuming step, and when you're done you'll look like a surgeon at a M*A*S*H unit, but you'll be amazed at how much fat you'll pull off.  Your heart will thank you.

5.  After trimming the lamb, spread about 1 tsp of Dijon mustard on each rack.

6.  Generously coat each rack of lamb with the shallot-bread crumb mixture.  Actually, you'll have a lot of this stuff and you sort of wind up packing it on top of, and all around, the lamb.

7.  Roast in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes for medium rare.

8.  Serve with roasted fingerling potatoes and a seasonal green vegetable.  Pair with a nice Syrah or Shiraz.  Marvel that someone would pass on this meal.  Their loss.

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