mustard/fennel-crusted lamb rack; roast potatoes; spinach

here’e another, closeup shot (couldn’t decide which image to use, so I uploaded both)

It was great.

The story behind this meal began about 2 weeks ago, when I stopped by Walter Adam‘s farm stall in the Union Square Greenmarket, mostly to say hello. I didn’t really need any lamb at the time, but I asked him if he carried racks of lamb. He said he couldn’t give me a straight answer because, while he did, and had 2 on dry ice right there, there was a catch: HIs butcher had neither fully trimmed them nor cut through the chines, the latter  making them very difficult to cut and serve, so they were going to  be a very hard sell. He must have suspected I could spare the time for, do the research on, and be up to the task of, a ‘post-butchering’ operation, so he offered me a very good price if I would take both of the 8-ribbed frozen roasts he had on dry ice in his cooler.

I couldn’t resist the opportunity. Also, it seemed a chance to relive my years of home schooling with Julia Child’s books and their meat diagrams.

As the days passed by, realizing the weather might soon be too warm to really enjoy an oven roast, even a short-termer, I started looking for an opportunity to enjoy the challenge and the fruit of the challenge.

Until yesterday afternoon I had no idea how I was going to perform the operation. Originally I thought I’d have to use a small antique   meat saw I own. Searching about on line I was disabused of the notion, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of the advise I did see, and I had almost given up when I came across 2 sites that [only when viewed together] gave me what I needed. The first was this page of the Leiths Cookery School site, but I didn’t understand the chine bone removal part until I watched this video on Martha Stewart’s site.

I was pretty happy with myself.

Most of the recipe I used last night comes from Martha Stewart as well.

  • *one 20-ounce rack of baby lamb from Shannon Brook Farm, the weight reduced to sixteen ounces after I had trimmed it (removing the ‘bark’, or skin covering the fat; cutting off all excess fat; ‘Frenching’, conservatively, and cleaning the ribs of all meat and fat; removing the rubbery tendon that runs along the spine; cutting out the chine altogether), then returned it to the refrigerator, from which it was later transferred to the kitchen counter and allowed to come to room temperature, cut into two 4-rib sections, the oven set to 475º (but reduced to 375º when the lamb was put into the oven), seasoned generously with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, one tablespoon of olive oil heated inside a small heavy, enameled cast iron pan until hot but not smoking, the lamb placed inside to brown, the arced, bone side down first, then all the other surfaces in turn, about one minute per side, removed and then all sides but the ends rolled in a shallow bowl which held a mixture of one fourth of a cup of yellow mustard seeds and 2 teaspoons of Sicilian fennel seeds that had been toasted together inside a large vintage seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat until the seeds had become fragrant, when they had been immediately transferred to that bowl to cool slightly, the meat now returned to the skillet, from which most of the fat had been poured out, and transferred to the oven (now set at 375º0, roasted until a thermometer inserted into the center of the lamb registered 135º, or medium-rare, or roughly 20-24 minutes, removed from the oven and the pan, allowed to stand at least 10 minutes, each of the 2 sections cut into double chops and drizzled with Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, garnished with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • *one pound of so of Peter Wilcox potatoes (purple skin, golden flesh) from Tamarack Hollow Farm. scrubbed, skins left on, halved, tossed with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, rosemary leaves from Stokes Farm, a few fresh sage leaves from Citarella Market, and a dusting of dried myrtle (It. Mirto), leaves, from Buon Italia,  arranged, cut side down, on a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at 375º for about 30 minutes, garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • five or 6 ounces of delicious young spinach plants from Migliorelli Farm, the bottom of their root ends removed, washed in several changes of water, drained, very gently wilted (that is, not reduced too far) inside a large, very heavy, antique, high-sided tin-lined copper pot in a little olive oil in which one cut up stem of spring garlic from John D. Madura Farm had first been allowed to soften, the spinach seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, finished on the plates drizzled with a little juice of a Whole Foods Market organic lemon and a bit more of the olive oil
  • *the wine was an Italian (Sicily) red, Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2016, from Garnet Wines 
  • the music was the John Luther Adams string quartet, ‘Everything That Rises’