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HERB-CRUSTED RACK OF LAMB

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.

Why, What, and When 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.

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb

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.

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb

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. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Herbs, Keto, Lamb, Nut-Free, Paleo, Rack of Lamb, Whole 30
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or fat of choice, such as butter, ghee, avocado oil, etc.
  • 2 tbsps Dijon mustard
  • 2 small cloves of garlic or one large
  • 2 cups fresh herbs of choice or as needed
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

  2. Wash, dry, and chop fresh herbs. Add to a plate or wide-bottomed dish and set aside.
  3. Smash and finely chop, or crush, garlic and mix with Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Use a pastry brush to brush garlic Dijon mustard onto the lamb, and roll in fresh herbs to coat, pressing as needed to ensure they stick. (I find the easiest method is brushing the mustard mixture onto one side first, usually the long side attached to the bones, and all three edges, and placing the half-rack mustard-side down into the herbs, and then brushing the remainder of the lamb with the mustard while it's sitting in the herbs. Then continue rolling in the herbs to coat.)
  7. 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.

  8. 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.

Notes:

  • Searing: Some general tips when searing any type of meat is to eliminate as much surface moisture as possible, and to have a hot pan. If you have surface moisture, you’ll have difficulty achieving the Maillard reaction quickly. The Maillard reaction is essentially the chemical process responsible for making the meat sear. I’ll get more in depth in this in a later post, but before the Maillard reaction can be achieved, surface moisture needs to evaporate. If you eliminate most of that moisture, you can quickly achieve that good browning action. If you don’t, your meat sits in that hot pan while the moisture evaporates, before it can start to brown. The problem, is during that time, your meat can start to cook– and that’s where you start to get that gradient of doneness, resulting in an unevenly cooked rack of lamb. If you look closely at the photo of my chops, you can see that minor gradient at the edge– because I had forgotten to eliminate the surface moisture. Had I not had a piping hot pan, the effect would have been worse. Let’s use this as a teachable momentWhen searing rack of lamb, I sear everything I can make contact with, except the edges parallel to where I would slice between the bones. The reason is because while it would add some delicious flavour, it would also affect the doneness of those two end chops. The exception would be if I know I’ll be serving someone who prefers their meat a little more done, in which case I can serve them the end pieces. It’s actually a myth that searing locks in juices, so we’re not making any compromises by not searing those ends.
  • Cast Iron Alternative: If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, give your head a shake, mosey on down to any garage sale, and pick yourself one up. They are life changing. They can also be ordered online– this Lodge skillet is one that I’d recommend starting with as it’s incredibly versatile. In the meantime, don’t give up on this recipe due to lack of equipment. We are nothing if not resourceful. Simply use any skillet to brown the lamb, and then bake it on a baking sheet or other oven-safe dish. While washing your extra dishes, you may ponder my advice.
  • Diet Restrictions/Compliance: This recipe is keto, gluten-, dairy-, grain-, and nut-free. If you’re able to find a Dijon mustard made without wine (wine vinegar is ok), sugar, and preservatives, it is also Whole 30 compliant and paleo. Maison Orphee has a Whole 30 compliant Dijon mustard which I like and use. There are also a few other compliant brands out there, which may be found at speciality health or grocery stores such as Whole Foods.

 

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.

This post contains product affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these items I’d have recommended anyway.

By Alyssa, August 24, 2018 "When a mysterious illness sidelined my original plans in life, I packed up and moved home to Kenora, Ontario, Canada. With little money, the inability to work, and a whole lot to figure out, I moved into my family’s cabin on Lake of the Woods. So these are the moments, the recipes, the occasional heartache, and the adventures of a life starting over on the little island between Fox and Hare." Between Fox and Hare is the on-going saga of a 20-something Canadian whose heart is anchored in Lake of the Woods. With her love of all things wild, Alyssa chronicles her journey learning and developing her skills in hunting, fishing, foraging, and outdoor cooking. Providing culinary tips and recipes, a peek into the Northern lifestyle, and the insight of a life lived with a chronic illness, Alyssa tells her story of putting back the pieces against the backdrop of the beautiful Boreal forest. Alyssa can be found during the open-water season on the unnamed island between Fox and Hare with her two dogs, Storm and Lily. She spends the frozen months in the little city of Kenora, mostly in the kitchen, and enjoys winter hiking and ice-fishing excursions when the temperature hasn’t dropped below -30°C.
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Alyssa

"When a mysterious illness sidelined my original plans in life, I packed up and moved home to Kenora, Ontario, Canada. With little money, the inability to work, and a whole lot to figure out, I moved into my family’s cabin on Lake of the Woods. So these are the moments, the recipes, the occasional heartache, and the adventures of a life starting over on the little island between Fox and Hare." Between Fox and Hare is the on-going saga of a 20-something Canadian whose heart is anchored in Lake of the Woods. With her love of all things wild, Alyssa chronicles her journey learning and developing her skills in hunting, fishing, foraging, and outdoor cooking. Providing culinary tips and recipes, a peek into the Northern lifestyle, and the insight of a life lived with a chronic illness, Alyssa tells her story of putting back the pieces against the backdrop of the beautiful Boreal forest. Alyssa can be found during the open-water season on the unnamed island between Fox and Hare with her two dogs, Storm and Lily. She spends the frozen months in the little city of Kenora, mostly in the kitchen, and enjoys winter hiking and ice-fishing excursions when the temperature hasn’t dropped below -30°C.

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About Me
Hey, I'm Alyssa!
When a mysterious illness sidelined my original plans in life, I packed up and moved home to Kenora, Ontario, Canada. With little money, the inability to work, and a whole lot to figure out, I moved into my family’s cabin on Lake of the Woods. So these are the moments, the recipes, the occasional heartache, and the adventures of a life starting over on the little island between Fox and Hare.
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