We have had a lot to celebrate this holiday season, in addition to Christmas and New Years, one of my loyal blog followers celebrated her 75th birthday. For the birthday, we had a little family get together for dinner, with rack of lamb, roasted squash, and orzo. The hardest part of the dinner was peeling butternut squash… which was good since I made a trip out to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens (along with my visiting sous chef), and didn’t get home until 4:40 (and people were invited over at 5-ish for a 6-ish dinner). A quick digression -- the Chihuly exhibition in the garden is really worth the trip, I will be going again (after the bowl games and during the week). Thankfully, one of the guests brought some yummy appetizers (including chopped liver, which I didn't even know I liked).
Butternut squash is easy to roast once the peeling is done. After peeling, removing the seeds, and cutting into cubes, just put on a large sheet pan prepared with a piece of parchment paper, add some olive oil (not too much, maybe a tablespoon per medium/ large size fruit), salt and pepper, and pop into a hot oven (425/450) for a half hour or so.
The orzo is even easier… just cook like rice. I use 2 parts liquid to 1 part orzo, (the liquid can be water or broth or a mix… just remember to add salt if you use mostly water). After bringing the liquid to a boil, add orzo and cook (covered) until it’s done, most of the liquid should be absorbed. Finish with a sprinkle of herbs and olive oil (alternately, butter or Parmesan cheese could be added).
The star is the rack of lamb. I did 2 1/2 racks for 7 of us (which worked just right, there were a couple of chops left for a salad the next day). Warning… if you spend more than $100 on one package of meat at AJ’s, the cashiers screen flashes red, with a note to the effect “are you sure this is correct?”
The only trick on the lamb is to cook to the right point. The lamb should still be nice and rosy pink inside. If your racks are on the small side (or – if doing for 2 and splitting one rack to still allow interlacing the bones), pull a couple of minutes early and check the temperature. If you don’t have a instant read thermometer (or like me, don’t trust the one you have), the “squishy-ness” of the meat is also a good indicator, just like when you are grilling a thick steak. They are quite pretty on a platter, with a few sprigs of rosemary tucked around. My New Years resolution -- take more pictures!
Roast Rack of Lamb with Herb Coating
Serves 4 - 6
2 racks of lamb
1 cup fresh French bread crumbs (put big cubes of bread in the Cusinart)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Place the racks in a roasting pan with a rack, facing each other with the meaty chops on the bottom. Interlock the bones to support. Roast in a preheated 450F oven for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together the bread crumbs, herbs, and salt and pepper. Pull the roasting pan out of the oven. Paint all sides of the lamb with mustard. Turn the racks so the meaty side is facing out, with bones together at the top. Press the bread crumb mixture onto the surface. Put back into the oven for another 10 minutes*. The outside crumb coating should be lightly browned and the meat rosy. Internal temperature should be 135 – 140 F. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into chops and serve.
* plus or minus a couple of minutes. Pull early and check the temperature.