BY TOM YATES
As a kid, when Easter rolled around, I was a lamb-loving boy in a ham-loving family.
I had a steep learning curve when my father retired from the army and we settled onto the family farm in Kentucky. Leaving the grandeur of Vienna and the starkness of Ethiopia for a much different life on a lakeside farm was overwhelming, to say the least. In the blink of an eye, life changed. I swapped my lederhosen for overalls, schnitzel for fried pork chops, and the Red Sea for a quiet Kentucky lake.
It didn’t take long for me to relish farm life. With rolling hills, windswept meadows, patches of shade trees, and a pristine lake, the farm was a lush playground for a weary retired kid. The roaming cattle, pecking chickens, vegetable gardens, ham shed, crooked red barn, apple trees, grape vines, tractors, barbed wire, and murky pond were all the stuff of dreams.
My grandparents stockpiled food out of necessity. We had blocks of government cheese neatly stacked in our refrigerator, a dank dark cellar lined from floor to ceiling with dusty jars of garden jewels, and ‘Not For Sale’ beef stashed in freezers from the very cows we regrettably named and loved. Still, with all of that beef stowed away and our coffers filled to the brim, we were ham people. Big time ham people. Go figure.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved each and every sticky glazed, cola braised, and crispy fried shred of ham. It’s just that by the time Easter rolled around, I didn’t crave ham. I craved my lost lamb, Frau Olga’s Easter lamb.
When I eventually moved away from the farm, I carried my familial love of ham and my familiar quest for Easter lamb right along with me.
Herb Crusted Crown Rack Of Lamb
Crown rack of lamb is a glorious thing. While almost any reputable butcher would be more than happy to fashion a crown rack of lamb, it’s fairly simple to throw together. A little prep goes a long way for a big payoff.
I positioned two frenched racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each with 8 rib chops per rack) flesh side down side by side on a large cutting board. A er slicing small slits between the rib bones for easy bending, I stitched the two racks together where they met using kitchen twine and a butcher’s needle. I flipped the joined racks over, pulled the ends of the racks together ( loin side facing in) until they met, and secured the loose ends with additional twine. A er forming the racks into the shape of a crown, I double looped the base of the crown with twine, pulled it taut, tied it up, trimmed the loose twine, and showered the meat with salt and pepper before setting the lamb aside.
I mixed 1/2 cup dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons local honey, and 1 tablespoon Makers Mark bourbon until combined before slathering the sweet boozy mustard over the outer side of the lamb.
After combining 4 minced garlic cloves, 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary to form a lose paste, I patted the garlicky herbs over the mustard coating before placing the crown rack on top of a bed of chopped carrots, leeks, celery, and onions scattered willy-nilly in a large cast iron skillet. A er adding 1/2 cup white wine to the skillet, I drizzled the lamb with olive oil, slipped aluminum foil caps over each of the exposed rib bones to prevent over browning, and slid the crown rack of lamb into a preheated 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
When the lamb reached an internal temp of 130 degrees, I pulled it from the oven to rest, removed the pieces of foil, and strained the pan juices to serve alongside the lamb.
After a 10 minute rest, I filled the cavity of the lamb with minted basmati rice and nestled the crown rack onto a bed of perky pea shoots and watercress before finishing with a shaved vegetable salad, slivered shallots, and crunchy fresh radishes.
This article also appears on page 24 of the April 2020 print edition of Hamburg Journal.
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