Making this rack of lamb for my family’s Christmas party was a great experience because it really let me test out my skills as a cook that can adapt and understand how to really cook and not just follow a recipe. Normally when I cook for the most part everything kind of goes to plan but cooking rack of lamb was a first for me because my wife doesn’t eat lamb. So I had to wait for a family event where others would want to eat lamb to give me the opportunity to cook it.
So the good news is that this dish ended up tasting great and everyone that ate it loved it. The bad news was that this dish was almost an epic fail that I had to pull a recovery on to save Christmas dinner. So here is a breakdown of what I did right and what I did wrong:
The first thing you need to do is have all the right ingredients and cooking tools. So here is a list of what you will need: French rack of lamb (x2), Dijon Mustard (2 Tbs), Olive Oil (1 Tbs), Coordinator Seed (1 Tbs), Dry Thyme (1 tsp), Dry Rosemary (1 tsp), Black Peppercorn (1/2 tsp), Kosher Salt (1 tsp), a spice or coffee blender, 9×9 baking dish, some cooking twine and a probe thermometer. You will also need Dijon Mustard (2 Tbs) and 1/4 cup of Sherry Vinegar for the sauce which you will add into the meat drippings.
To make the marinade/paste use a coffee grinder or spice blender and grind your spices/herbs and salt into a fine dust. If you are using non-dry Thyme and Rosemary than use twice as much as you would with dry herbs. Mix 80% of your dry ingredients in with 2 Tbs of Dijon Mustard and 1 Tbs Olive Oil until you have a uniform paste. Set the extra 20% of your dry powder aside because you will use it for the sauce later on.
Next you want to clean your rack of lamb and pat it dry. If you want to serve your rack of lamb as a Crown Rack of Lamb than use the twine and tie your two racks of lamb together on one end. Then use a plastic cup as a prop to wrap your rack of lamb around and tie together the other end of the rack of lamb. Once you have both sides tied together you want to wrap the twine around the rack of lamb under the lip that forms below the bone. If you look at the picture below you will see the rib bones that run from the top of the rack down to the bottom next to the baking pan. Just below the bottom of the bone is the rib eye meat and just below the rib bone there is a small lip that you want to use to hold the twine in place as you wrap it around the entire rack. Make sure to pull the rack tight to get it to stay in the shape you want it in then tie off the twine onto one of the rib bones. Use the marinade paste and evenly coat the entire rack focusing on the meal areas only.
Once you have your Crowned Rack of Lamb coated in marinade loosely cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.
Now to cook your Crowned Rack of Lamb you want to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and cook your lamb until it is 130 degrees on the inside. If you want it more medium than cook it till 140 degrees, remember the temperature will continue to climb a few degrees after you pull it out of the oven and let it rest under a layer of foil. Now here is where I messed up, what you want to do is preheat the baking dish without the lamb then once the oven is at the right temperature place the rack of lamb on the backing pan without… just make sure to remove the plastic cup before you start cooking. During Christmas dinner I forgot to preheat the baking dish so I just removed the plastic cup and I put the rack of lamb in the oven when it was at the right temperature. What this did was it created a cool pocket of air that was trapped inside of the middle of the rack of lamb which caused my rack of lamb to be undercooked at the bottom of the pan. So in the picture below the meat towards the top and on the outside were all cooked perfectly but the middle bottom area was still raw.
So to recover from this mistake what I did was I cut apart the Crowned Rack of Lamb and I laid the racks down so the middle was facing upward. I let the racks cool down until the internal temp dropped down to 126 degrees. My probe thermometer registered at 130 degrees but it was reading the temperature from the cooked part of the meat and it didn’t read the raw part that was towards the bottom of the pan. The reason I let the meat cool down instead of immediately placing it back into the oven was because if I placed the rack back into the oven right away the parts of the meat that were already cooked to rare would overcook into the medium range. By letting the meat cool back down before reheating it I was able to keep the rare parts at medium rare and the raw parts cooked to a high rare/low medium rare. So once the lamb dropped back down to 126 degrees I laid the racks flat with the bone side facing down. That way the raw parts were facing upward and I placed the lamb back into the oven set to 400 degrees. The reason I set the temperature higher was because I wanted the raw parts to cook quickly to prevent the already cooked parts from getting too dry. I replaced the prob thermometer into the raw section of the meat and cooked it until the internal temperature hit 130 degrees. At that point I immediately pulled it out of the oven and covered it with foil to let the meat rest.
While the meat rests take the backing pan with the drippings and add in your remaining Dijon Mustard, Sherry Vinegar and the remaining 20% of dry spice powder. Whisk the sauce together and pour it into a sauce serving dish. After your meat has rested for at least 15 – 20 minutes cut your rack of lamb into single serving pieces. If you want to serve the rack of lamb as a Crown Rack of Lamb than just plate it and service then carve it at the dinner table. Just make sure to remove the twine before you serve the crown. Personally I think it is better to cut the lamb into single serving pieces because that way when the plate hits the table people can start grabbing the meat.
For Christmas I ended up serving two racks of lamb along with ox tail stew. The rest of my family made clam linguini and some additional vegetable dishes along with some soup. I like to serve lamb rare because once you add the hot sauce it ends up cooking the meat to medium rare by the time you eat it (just like prime rib). If people like their lamb cooked more you can always cook it more but you can never go back and make it less cooked. Well, that was my Christmas rack of lamb experience so if you want to try it out yourself I recommend you either just cook the racks flat on a backing dish with the bone facing down, just place the probe thermometer in the center of the rib eye section of meat. If you want to cook the rack of lamb as a crown than either preheat the baking dish before you cook your meat OR instead of using a baking dish use a bunt cake pan. The metal center of a bunt cake pan is perfect for holding the shape of your crown and it will also heat up better to help cook the center of the lamb. The next time I make Crown Rack of Lamb I will definitely try this method out but during Christmas I just didn’t have two bunt cake pans around to use.