Ahh. Summer at the lake. Where the beer is cold, the fish are biting, and gas is $1.60 a litre. I wanna do this forever. Let’s quit our jobs and move here and never leave. I don’t want summer to end! Your liver and wallet would probably disagree with you, Becky. But I’m not one to ruin a buzz.
See, the thing about summer at the lake, or rather, a Canadian lake, is that it’s finite. We spend November through March pulling on various assorted pieces of knitwear to trudge through 3 ft of snow and meet at a pub to discuss the upcoming summer. Then, when it arrives, we go hard. And really, while Becky may have said she wanted the dock beers and waterskiing and farmers markets and BBQing to last forever, a part of her was screaming someone get me a pumpkin-spiced latté and Netflix ’cause I’m over this shit. Summer can be exhausting.
And really, that’s sort of what makes a Canadian summer so great. We know how precious and short it is. We indulge. We have that
fifth second glass of wine on the dock. We stay up late. We flirt. We buy the damn shoes. We go to farmers markets. We get the steak. We have this mini seasonal urgency of living each day to the fullest. But, just as those leaves eventually fall, so, too, do our bank balances, and so we throw up our hands, and say enough! Give me sweater weather. Give me hot cocoa by a crackling fire. Give me a rich, velvety venison Bourguignon with a wedge of buttery sourdough bread and a pint of stout. (Ok, maybe that last one’s just me.) But with the changing seasons we really do have a change in what we eat.
Eating “seasonally” is a bit of a marketing term, aaand it’s a bit of trend. But it’s actually something that the average person tends to do instinctually. And it’s pretty simple. There’s a reason why we tend to eat a lot of fresh salads and vegetables and steaks in the summer. Sure, it’s partly to do with it being so freakin’ hot out that we don’t want to turn the oven on. But it’s also because fresh vegetables are so much cheaper in the summer or plentiful in our own gardens. This leaves more room in our food budget to go toward premium cuts of meat, such as steaks, lamb, and prime rib for the BBQ.
Conversely, in the winter, fresh vegetables generally aren’t available locally, so they’re imported and more expensive. Have you ever compared the price of strawberries in June vs December? Yeah. Therefore, we spend more of our food budget on vegetables in the colder months. We tend to go more for the root vegetables, which are in season, keep longer, and therefore cheaper, and go for some of the cheaper cuts of meat– stewing meat, pork tenderloin, ground beef. The result is a lot of stews, roasts, grains, and just the occasional salad. And the easiest way to tell what’s in season? Buy what’s cheap.
So what’s good this time of year? Well, lots of things. But around here? Herbs. They seem to take forever to get going, but come August, with all that heat and my relentless watering, they. Are. Glorious. So let’s use ’em up. And since they’re “free” (LOL– let’s forget that garden centre bill from May), let’s pair it with a nice rack of lamb, shall we?
I came up with this recipe for Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb a few years back when I was eating #paleo, and it’s been a regular summer feature ever since. While the herbs may seem like they’d be overpowering, just trust. Lamb is substantial. This ain’t your grandmother’s chicken breast. It can hold its own against the power of the herbs, which actually really soften under the heat from the oven. This particular evening I used a combination of parsley, Greek oregano, rosemary, thyme, and a smidge of marjoram. But you can use anything you have on hand. I’ve even resurrected this recipe during the winter. Since I didn’t have an abundance of fresh, cheap herbs, I used primarily parsley, a bit of oregano, and bulked it up with peppery arugula. Just as delicious, with a bit of a twist.
The trick to getting a great sear on any meat is getting rid of surface moisture. Pat your rack dry and season with salt and pepper. I actually hold back a bit on the salt because the Dijon lends a bit of its own saltiness to the party. The second part of getting a great sear is a piping hot pan– my favourite cookware is cast iron because it’s so reliable, has even heat, is versatile, and it allows me to sear and roast all in one pan.
When you pull those racks out of the oven you’re going to be enveloped in an aroma of roasted meat and garlic and herbs. You will be ravenous. It will be enticing. You will want to sneak one little chop. Don’t do it. If you listen to one word of advice, it’s to let your meat rest. Cover with some foil and let those juices sink in for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10, before carving. No pain, no gain.
Since this is a bold dish and we’re in a crescendo of amazing, beautiful produce, I’d suggest pairing this with a large, fresh salad. The lamb really is going to do most of the heavy lifting for your tastebuds, so just add in some simple, fresh flavours. Pour your
fifth second glass of wine, soak in those final sunsets at the lake, and remember that it’s ok– there’s a little bit of Becky in all of us.
Perfect for using up those sun-soaked herbs during those final months of summer, this Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb adds a wonderful freshness to such a bold meat. Easily made Paleo and Whole 30 compliant, this is sure to become a regular summer feature.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Smash and finely chop, or crush, garlic and mix with Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.
Slice rack of lamb in half, as evenly as possible. Dry each half-rack of lamb of surface moisture with paper towel and season all over with salt and pepper, to taste. Tip: You may want to hold back a little on the salt, as the Dijon mustard will add a bit of saltiness.
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. (I usually go for a 9-10, on a scale of 1-10.) As the skillet is starting to reach its intended temperature, add your fat of choice. Add your half-racks, and sear on all sides, except the edges. Once racks are a beautiful brown, turn off and remove pan from heat, and remove half-racks from pan.
Once both half-racks are coated with herbs, place them back in the cast iron skillet, bones up, and interlock the bones so they stay upright. Place on the rack just below centre in the oven, until desired doneness. I eat my lamb rare, and it usually takes around 15 minutes. Use a meat thermometer if you'd like to be precise.
Remove from oven, place on a plate or cutting board, and cover with foil for at least 5 minutes to rest. To serve, slice between bones and serve individual chops. 1-3 chops per person is usually adequate, depending on the size of the chop, the size of the person, and the size of the meal.
I see you like good food… why not check out my favourite way to use up leftover steak? Oh, and hear the story of that time we hit a bear with a boat.
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