I write this knowing full well that most of my meat-eating friends and peers are terrified of actually cooking meat, and to them I say two things:
a) Cheer up, you’re not alone
b) GROW UP, it’s meat, it’s less difficult to cook than vegetables
I suspect the fear comes from the cost of it, a worry that I can commiserate with. Nothing spells f-a-i-l-u-r-e like making yourself a gross dinner and having to pay a lot of money for it. No one to blame but yourself! That’s the worst.
But! Good news for those huddled in meat-cooking terror: one of the easiest things to cook is also the most delicious. Lamb! Lamb. I love lamb like most people love bacon. Lamb is contradictorily clean and meaty-tasting, stews gorgeously and looks impressive. Lamb chops, and in particular a Frenched¹ rack of lamb, for me ranks amongst the fanciest-looking meat in the world, and you can cook it in about 15 minutes with zero effort. Truth!
Perhaps most important is a pre-seasoning. A quick rub of any strong flavor – here is garlic, lemon peel, lavender and salt – pressed into the meat and allowed to sit will improve the final product far beyond its humble origins. Any mix will do, any herbs and aromatics. If the product is too dry to stick to the meat, add a spoonful of olive oil. Let it sit in the fridge for about two hours, and remove to come to room temperature one full hour before cooking. DO THIS! The coming to room temperature part, I mean. If you don’t have three hours, just do the last one hour on the kitchen counter.
The other tremendous secret is pan-roasting. I’m a huge proponent of what is basic culinary cooking school stuff: brown your meat in a pan, then put the whole thing into a hot oven to continue cooking. This radiant, even heating makes the product better, but is just easier, too. I think one of the biggest cooking philosophical pieces of advice I can give is to just decide how you’re going to fail ahead of time. This is just good life advice, actually. Will you be happier with overcooked or undercooked meat? Aim for that. There’s a good chance it will be neither, and the perfection of it will astound you.
The other secret is letting the meat sit. I’ve read back and forth all kinds of crap on whether this has any scientific merit, and the answer is: maybe? I don’t know. But it’s helpful for getting your kitchen stuff all settled and ready for serving, and that works for me. So it gets wrapped up in foil straight out of the oven and sits for five minutes.
The result? Perfectly cooked lamb. This was 100% worth the splurge ($10 for two people) and I would and will do it again soon. It was simple, took me maybe 5 minutes of active cooking time. The potato salad I’d made earlier in the day and despite looking like it’s made from a pound of mayonnaise or whatever, it’s actually that I like to mix my potato salad into almost-mashed-potatoes. This salad is just onions, lots of malt vinegar, a spoonful of mayo, two spoonfuls of sour cream, equal parts peas to potatoes and a big handful of chopped basil.
Simple Rack of Lamb, for Simple Folks
part of why I call this simple is: no breading or paste to smear and sear onto the rack, as is popular. if you google “rack of lamb” you’ll get 100 recipes for a mustard-based breadcrumb mixture to press onto the exterior, and I just… I just don’t feel it. a salty dry rub is plenty flavorful and less fussy.
1 T. salt
2 T. herbs (dry is okay too, since it’s getting rubbed back off again before cooking, but fresh tastes better)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 Frenched rack of lamb, cut into two pieces, rinsed and patted dry
- Start by cutting the lamb into two or three big pieces of 3-4 ribs each. This makes cooking easier and gives more of the coveted chewy end-pieces. Rinse halfheartedly but dry earnestly with paper towels.
- Mix together the dry rub and rub and pat all over the meat with your fingers. Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. One hour before cooking time, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. If you only have two hours total, do one in the fridge and one on the counter. If you only have one hour, do one on the counter.
- Preheat oven to 425°. While you’re preheating, rub the rub back off the meat. If you can, avoid actually rinsing the meat with water. I like to take one or two very lightly dampened paper towels and vigorously rub the meat over the sink, knocking all the big chunks of herbs off. The meat should be pretty dry when you’re done.
- When the oven is hot, heat a oven-safe saute pan to medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and immediately place the ribs with the fattiest, meatiest side down into the hot oil. Fry for about 3 minutes on that side and again on the other side, just to put a little color on the meat. Placing the meat again with the meatiest, fattiest side down in the pan, put the whole pan into the hot oven and set your timer for 10 minutes. If you want the meat more medium-cooked, add 5 minutes. Fancy people check internal temperatures of meat for doneness and shit, but you’re not at that website.
- If you think of it, you can turn the meat about 7 minutes into the cooking time.
- When the timer goes off, immediately remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a piece of foil and wrap tightly. Set aside and wait 5 minutes.
- Slice between each rib and serve. Try not to worry that your Boston Terrier will be the first ever to force her own eyeballs out of her eye sockets with the pure focused effort of sitting nicely in the hopes she will get some of whatever the fuck it is you just cooked that smells like that.
¹ “Frenching” is just a way of preparing the meat, where the mostly inedible fat and sinew is pulled off the rib bones. You can do this yourself, but most of the time lamb ribs are already Frenched. It’s just cosmetic.June 25th, 2010 | Make It So