Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rack of Lamb with Mustard Crust and Red Onion Marmalade

A had to work yesterday while I had the day off, so I took the opportunity to cook us dinner. The ingredients I had to work with were the fresh rack of lamb A had bought on the weekend, a large bag of red potatoes, and two beautiful tomatoes on the vine ripening in our fruit bowl.

There was a little bit of grainy mustard left in a jar in the fridge that A wanted to get rid of, so a recipe for a mustard crust for the lamb was the first task. The Joy of Cooking is our go-to guide for most recipes and there was a simple recipe there. It called for fresh rosemary, so that was the inspiration for rosemary potatoes. There was also a little bit of balsamic reduction in the fridge, which at work we use on tomato bocconcini salad, so I decided to make that for the appetizer. Finally, the Joy of Cooking suggested an onion marmalade to be served with lamb, so I headed to the store to grab rosemary, bocconcini, basil, and a red onion.

I had quartered and boiled the potatoes earlier in the day, so when I got home with the ingredients, I put them in a large dish with a few sprigs of rosemary, a splash of olive oil, and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. I would put them in the oven after the lamb came out, just to rewarm and impart some rosemary flavour. One dish done.

Next I started the onion marmalade (recipe below) as it was supposed to take 30 minutes to cook. I sliced the onion and mixed the rest of the ingredients and left them on the stove to simmer away.

The big task was the lamb. Now, I realize this is a little weird coming from someone who wants to become a chef, but I have never actually cooked a large piece of meat by myself. When I was growing up, my dad would always be in charge of meat, and now A is the same way. Needless to say, I was a little bit nervous about ruining a nice rack of lamb. But I also figured it shouldn't be too hard - all I had to do was sear it, cover it with the mustard crust, and stick it in the oven until it was cooked.

I warmed up the pan. No oil, as instructed by the Joy of Cooking. I seasoned the meat and then put it into the hot pan. For some reason, I thought I could make the mustard crust (recipe below) while the meat was seasoning (the book said I had about 2 minutes per side, plenty of time to mix up the crust), but after I had gotten the first ingredient into a bowl, I already had to turn over the lamb because it was smoking a little. A few bits of char, but not too bad. I started adding the next ingredients for the crust, but quickly abandoned that because the lamb was now seriously smoking. I took a quick peek and there was a lot more char on that side. Yikes! Ok, I decided it was done with searing, so time for the oven. Quickly mixed together the rest of the mustard crust and slathered it on. Ready to go in the oven, but of course, the meat thermometer isn't ready (the lamb is still smoking beside me). I get the thermometer in and stick it in the oven, but the temperature is rising very quickly. We're already at 190 degrees?!? I'm supposed to take the lamb out at 130 degrees! The thermometer is obviously not in properly. Open up the oven and it's SERIOUSLY smoking in there and the bottom of my pan is black. OMG. Ok, move the lamb to a cookie sheet, redo the thermometer. 70 degrees. Better.

Take a deep breath. Turn on the oven fans and open all the windows because now the apartment is noticably smoky. Now I'm very worried that I ruined dinner and our pan. What kind of chef am I going to be when I can't even sear a piece of meat without burning it?

I then quickly slice up the tomatoes, bocconcini, basil, and a tiny bit of red onion, plate, and garnish with the balsamic reduction. Beautiful. Tidy up a little, stir the marmalade, everything is under control again.

I take the lamb out at 130 degrees, medium rare, and let it rest a bit. It actually doesn't look too bad (the mustard crust is covering up the charred spots). Potatoes head into the oven to warm up. A comes home a few minutes later and other than a cold and slightly smoky apartment, has no idea how crazy the last twenty minutes were. I carve up the lamb and it is actually perfectly cooked. The potatoes are beautiful, and the marmalade adds a nice colour to the plate. We sit down to enjoy the meal, and, surprisingly to me, everything is delicious (not even a hint of char). Maybe I'm not as bad a cook as I thought I was.

Red Onion Marmalade
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 cup
Print recipe

1 red onion, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, halved crosswise
3 tbsp dry red wine
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
juice of half a lemon

  1. Combine all ingredients except for lemon juice in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over low heat.

  2. Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Simmer, stirring often, until the consistency of marmalade, about 30 minutes.

  4. Add the lemon juice and cook until the juice is absorbed.

  5. Serve at room temperature. Can cover and refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Mustard Crust for Rack of Lamb
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Print recipe

2 tbsp dijon mustard (I used grainy mustard)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or 3/4 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients together.

  2. Using a pastry brush, coat the entire surface of the seared lamb, then roast as directed.

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