This dinner-ideas story was first published in March 2018. The holidays seem like a good time to give it a new life.
MY FATHER HAD a pure, unwavering love of lamb chops. Our freezer was full of loin chops—singles and doubles—which he loved to grill and eat with a napkin stuffed into his shirt like a bib. His absolute favorites were the lamb chops from the rack—the baby lamb chops. The only thing sweeter than eating these at home was getting them for free at weddings and bar mitzvahs.
A good “affair” was one where baby lamb chops were served during the cocktail hour. In order to procure his more-than-fair-share of chops, he would station my sisters and me, and later our husbands, by the kitchen door from which the waiters emerged with their full platters. So yes, the picture was something like this: grown women and their dates hanging out and grabbing chops. Our chop-grabbing skills, honed over the years, often eclipsed the skill of the bar mitzvah boy’s, and I know my father’s love of chops lasted longer than half of the marriages we witnessed.
Along the way, we all came to share his love for rack of lamb, although not so much his grab-and-gorge methodology. I cook my own, and I love them even more because of how simple they are to prepare. They are pricey, but so easy to make and delicious to eat that I find they’re well worth it. I can season and cook the racks in 30 minutes, or less. And as long as I pick small, tender racks, I’m not compromising anything by quick-cooking them.
There’s nothing new about cooking lamb; the classic techniques are still the best. Look for racks that are 1 to 1¼ pounds. Anything north of that tends to be gamey or too fatty. I was taught how to prepare the racks French-style, by cutting away the fat from the tips of the bones, but today racks come pre-Frenched.
- When I’m in a rush, I simply rub the racks with oil and salt and pepper and all the prep is done.
- If I have more time, I sometimes go for the classic combo of garlic and crushed rosemary.
- If I want to be fancy, I can top the seared chops with another classic—Dijon mustard and breadcrumbs.
- If I want some spice for dinner, I add garam masala to my salt-and-pepper mix.
But that’s about it. This is one case where I don’t like to go too crazy with the seasonng and risk overshadowing the taste of the lamb.
To cook in the oven, here’s my preferred method: Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the racks on all sides over medium-high heat in a sauté pan and transfer to the prepared sheet pan. Finish cooking in the oven until the lamb reaches your desired temperature, depending on the size of rack somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes. I like mine more on the medium side, around 140/145 degrees. My father was more a medium-rare guy at 130/135 degrees. Find your temp and stick with it. Let the racks sit for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing them into chops.
To cook on the grill: Carefully brown the chop over direct heat, but be ready to move to indirect heat if there is any sign of the dripping fat flaring up. Do not let the racks be exposed to the burning fat—it will leave a horrible burnt taste. Finish cooking over indirect heat.
If there happens to be chop-lover at your dinner table, splurge and make sure you have an extra rack. If it’s left over, the chops are great reheated quickly in a hot sauté pan the next day.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick