Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rack of Lamb, Take 2

Remember the practical exam in Skills 2, when my mystery basket contained rack of lamb and it intimidated me half to death? Although I did avoid disaster and present an edible plate in the end, I've been eager to cook lamb again—without overcooking it or being scared this time. I got the chance today in Meat Fab...it was Lamb Day! 

Chef K. started off with a demo, instructing us how to properly French the racks of lamb. It's really very easy—simpler, I think, than a lot of the other fabrication we've done. Even breaking down chickens is a bit more complicated. He showed us how to get the bones perfectly clean without having to scrape them, which was great because I can't stand that scraping sound of a knife against bone...gives me the creeps. 

After I mimicked his demo to French my half-rack of lamb (4 chops), I cooked it following the same procedure I'd learned in Skills 2. I seasoned the lamb with salt, pepper, and rosemary, then seared it on each side in a hot saute pan. While letting it rest, I started to put together a sauce. I found some dried apricots and figs and wanted to incorporate those, so I soaked them in wine and then cooked them down with more wine and some lamb stock that we had made. I also added a touch of balsamic vinegar. There are no recipes in Meat Fab, and I've loved the opportunity to just play around with flavors and get creative. This sauce turned out delicious—the wine and stock really balanced out the sweetness of the fruit.

Apricot-fig sauce

Then it was time for the tough part: cooking the lamb to a perfect medium-rare in the oven. Using the ovens at school is always problematic, since we're always opening and closing them to check on different things and letting heat escape. We have thermometers to temp meats in our knife kits, but I just don't trust them sometimes. Chefs are simply able to tell when meat is done by looking at it or touching it—I'm not quite there yet. 

Chef L., our assistant chef in this class, (the same Chef L. from Skills 1, if you actually remember all of these letters!) told me to take the lamb out once it reached 135 degrees and let it rest for medium-rare. I checked it after about 20 minutes and the thermometer still came out cool when I inserted it into the rack. After seven more minutes or so, I checked it again and although it wasn't quite at 135, I decided to let it rest instead of running the risk of overcooking. If the lamb was a little too rare when I sliced it, I figured I could always put the sliced chops back in the oven for a minute or two. When it's overcooked and no longer rosy pink, you can't go back.

The lamb resting

I let the meat rest about five minutes—if you cut it immediately, blood will run all over the plate, and that's not so appetizing (not to mention all of the flavor and moisture that is lost). I was thrilled when I sliced into it and saw rosy pink meat! No need to put anything back into the oven, it was ready to go. One of my restaurant vet classmates helped me plate it beautifully with some of my sauce:

Finished plate!

Chef K. also broke down a whole lamb shank today, and many of my classmates used some of that meat to make braises and stews. My favorite taste of the day was a brothy, Mediterranean-flavored lamb stew made with swiss chard and romaine lettuce—surprisingly, lettuce tastes amazing after simmering like this. It softens kind of like collard greens and picks up all of the meaty flavor of the broth. My classmate who made it is Greek and she grew up eating this dish. I was obsessed and can't wait to try my hand at her recipe. 

Greek lamb stew simmering

As proud as I was of my perfectly-cooked rack of lamb, this was the most delicious dish of the day. Thanks, Nicki!

1 comment:

  1. The lamb that you prepared and cooked looks great! No tiny chops for you.