I don’t know about you, but my memories of lamb chops as a child were pretty dreary. My mother pan-fried the little guys and pretty much cooked the heck out of them. Then they were served with that scary green sticky mint jelly….ooohhhhhh….such memories. I also remember the smell of the lamb chops cooking and that rather muttony aroma that I will never forget.
Well, for years, no one around me was ever served lamb chops, rack of lamb, leg of lamb or anything that came from a young sheep. Any thoughts related to lamb conjured up the smells from my childhood and the dried up piece of meat on my plate! I would refuse to eat any wonderfully prepared lamb of any kind at any restaurant or cocktail party for fear that it would taste just as I had remembered it. What a waste of all those delectable nibbles! I even refused to eat a portion of a Mixed Grill entrée one evening at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York after deciding I would give the little guys a try once again. I could not get past that certain taste….
It took a trip to Europe about 5 years ago to really change my mind. We were in Provence and it seemed that many restaurants only served lamb! My choice was some scary fish or body part I had never heard of or lamb stew, leg of lamb, rack of lamb, lamb shanks, lamb chops or lamb any other way you can think of! So, guess what…I ate lamb and I really liked it! I actually chose to order it several more times while we were there.
The difference was the lamb was from New Zealand or Australia and it really had a very different flavor. It was milder; not nearly as gamey or muttony. It was really good and lent itself well to other flavors. The meat itself did not stand out as I had remembered.
Armed with this new option for cooking and dining, I began to prepare leg of lamb, rack of lamb and lamb shanks (I have an amazing recipe for them I will share at some point). This pleased my husband and my guests as well, since most people really enjoy lamb. I would also venture to say it is a special dish when served and not on the nightly dinner menu (in our house anyway).
So, I guess last night was special. I prepared a Rack of Lamb Persillade that I have served many times over the last several years. It is adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten. It is of French origin (so, of course, I would like it). I served the lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. The little chops were perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was a wonderful dinner to close out 2009.
I purchased a rack of lamb from Australia for this dinner (I only did half of the recipe for 2 of us). I also used Arnold’s Country Oven white bread to make fresh breadcrumbs (Arnold or Pepperidge Farm are my choices). You want to be sure to use a really good bread with some texture.
You should have lamb that is perfectly cooked (the chop should be slightly pink throughout) if you prepare it as the recipe suggests. It is elegant and makes a beautiful presentation whether you are serving it to someone special (like you!) or guests.
Traditionally, you would serve a French Bordeaux or an Italian Barbera to accompany lamb, however, another interesting choice is a medium to heavy-bodied Burgundy (Pinot Noir). This is the wine that we had last evening to accompany the Rack of Lamb Persillade. This wine has the depth of flavor to match the lamb, garlic and other seasonings. If you choose to go with a Pinot Noir, be sure to ask your wine merchant for one that is more earthy and bold in flavor (many Pinots can be on the slightly sweet side which will not do well with lamb).