mustard/fennel-coated lamb rack; grilled tomato; cicoria

We were anxious to find a good day for enjoying the second of the 2 racks of lamb I had gotten from Walter Adam‘s farm stall in the Union Square Greenmarket 3 months ago, although I hadn’t expected it would happen during a New York August. What made it possible was a new split-system AC that turned out to be fully up to the challenge of an oven set at almost 500º. I didn’t even work up a sweat; it was an impressive performance (referring to the unit).

At least the vegetables observed both the look and the warmth of the season (the colors were right, and only one of the 2 asked to borrow any heat at all).

  • one 18-ounce rack of baby lamb from Shannon Brook Farm, trimmed (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), cut into two 4-rib sections, seasoned generously with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and the oven lit and set to 475º (reduced to 375º once the lamb was put into the oven), 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, followed by all the other surfaces in turn, for about one minute per side, removed and all sides but the ends rolled in a shallow bowl which held a mixture of one fourth of a cup of whole yellow mustard seeds [less than 2 tablespoons would actually be enough] and 2 teaspoons of Sicilian fennel seeds, both toasted together inside a large vintage seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat until they had become fragrant, at which time they were immediately transferred to the bowl in which the lamb was to be rolled, in order to cool slightly, the meat now returned to the pan in which it had been seared, from which most of the fat had been poured out, transferred to the oven (now set at 375º), roasted until a thermometer inserted into the center of the lamb registered 135º, or medium-rare, or roughly 20 minutes [I left them in the oven a bit too long this time, although there was still some red when they were first set onto the cutting surface], removed from the oven and the pan, allowed to stand at least 10 minutes, each of the 2 sections cut into double chops, arranged on the plates and drizzled with Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, finished with a garnish of micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • two ‘Opalka‘ plum, or paste tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm, halved, dried thoroughly, placed cut side down on a plate sprinkled with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled and finished with a dab of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar,
  • more puntarelle, or cicoria di catalogna, from the tied bundle I’d purchased from Tamarack Hollow Farm, prepared as they had been the first time, meaning thoroughly washed, the leaves separated and placed inside a large bowl of ice water where they were allowed to sit outside the refrigerator for about an hour, or a little more, drained and dried (using a kitchen towel), placed inside the now emptied and dried bowl, and some of the vinegar mixture that was prepared but not used a few days earlier poured over it, the greens seasoned very lightly with sea salt, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil added, along with freshly-ground black pepper, the salad mixed or tossed at the last minute and arranged on the plates
  • the wine was a California (El Dorado) red, Matt Parish Pilot Hill Gang El Dorado County Red Blend 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Haydn’s ‘Die Jahreszeiten’ (The Seasons), Philippe Herreweghe conducting the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees and the Collegium Vocale Gent