I don't know about all of you, but I am SERIOUSLY ready for cooler weather and heartier food. So even though it's still blazing hot in SoCal, I recently put on a sweater and some boots (just kidding - it's surface of the sun hot recently) and made one of my favorite dishes of all time - rack of lamb. Lamb to me is the best of both worlds - it feels luxurious and fancy, yet I inevitably end up picking up the chops by hand to make sure I get all the goodness off of each bone.
If you've cooked lamb before you know that it is best served medium-rare. Otherwise it gets a bit tough and gamey. But lamb is also notoriously easy to overcook. It's like it goes from raw to shoe leather in a matter of seconds. While it is obviously possible to prepare a perfectly medium-rare rack of lamb in the oven or on the grill, my preferred method these days is sous vide.*
I know what you're probably thinking - ugh, another damn food blogger who can't really cook so she resorts to the boil-in-a-bag method. That's pretty much how I felt about sous vide before I started experimenting with it. But I received an Anova Nano a couple of years ago for Christmas, and I have to admit that there are certain foods (lamb being a prime example) for which the sous vide method is now my preferred cooking method. Not only does it allow me to cook the item to exactly the temperature I want, but because it requires no hands-on effort AND can be done in advance, it allows me the freedom to prepare more elaborate meals over all - without any additional effort. Win, win, win.
Alright, alright. Get to the recipe already, right? You got it.
Rack of Lamb with Mint Sauce, Crisp Roasted Potatoes, and Creamed Kale
2 Frenched racks of lamb
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons A Bite of Good Herbes de Provence (get yours here) - or your own mixture of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram, fennel, etc.
2 pounds baby fingerling potatoes, cut in half or quarters, depending on size
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon A Bite of Good Herbes de Provence - or your own mixture of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram, fennel, etc.
4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
For Creamed Kale:
2 pounds Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon honey
For Mint Sauce:
1 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup white vinegar (white balsamic or champagne vinegar work well)
Start the lamb: Trim any excess fat from your lamb racks. Season all over with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard with 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence. Using your fingers, spread the mustard-herb mixture all over the lamb racks. Place the racks in a vacuum bag with the ribs facing each other so that the two racks lay flat in the bag. Vacuum seal the bag and place it in your water bath. Set your sous vide precision cooker to 129 degrees F for 1 hour. (Note: One of the great things about sous vide is that you literally can't overcook something, so don't worry if the hour is up before you're ready with your side dishes. Your precision cooker will continue to keep the water circulating at the chosen temperature until you tell it to stop.)
Prepare the mint sauce: In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine mint, sugar, salt, and 1/4 cup boiling water, and stir until sugar dissolves. Add vinegar and cover. Allow to sit for an hour to meld the flavors.
Prepare the potatoes: Adjust your oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 450F. Fill a large pot with cold water, season generously with kosher salt, and add potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Cook the potatoes until a knife slides easily into one but they don't fall apart.
Meanwhile, combine olive oil, Herbes de Provence, and a pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic just starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Immediately strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Set herb mixture aside for now.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them carefully so that they don't all fall apart and allow them to sit in the colander for about a minute to dry out slightly. Transfer the potatoes to the bowl with the infused oil and toss to coat.
Transfer the potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer. Roast, without moving, for 20 minutes. Stir with a spatula to turn the potatoes over and then continue to roast until the potatoes are deep brown and crisp, another 30 minutes or so.
Transfer the roasted potatoes to a large bowl and add the reserved herb mixture. Toss to coat and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Prepare the kale: While your potatoes are roasting, melt the butter in a medium pot, along with a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and season with salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kale is very tender and coated in a thick sauce, about 30 minutes.
Transfer half of the creamed kale to a food processor or blender and puree until nearly smooth. Stir the puree back into the pot and season with salt and pepper. (Note: You can make the creamed kale ahead if desired. Just put it in an oven-safe dish and refrigerate until about 30 minutes prior to serving. Cover with foil and reheat at 375 until hot.)
Finish the lamb: When your potatoes and kale are nearly done, preheat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over hight heat. Remove the lamb from the water bath and take the racks out of the vacuum bag. Pat dry with paper towels. Sear the lamb on all sides on the hot cast iron. Slice the racks into chops.
To serve: If you want to present this meal family-style, simply place all elements in their own serving dishes and allow your family/guests to serve themselves at the table. This is usually my serving method of choice, but I chose to plate each dish on this occasion. Either way, this is sure to be a meal to remember.
* Sous vide translates directly to "under vacuum." It is a method of cooking wherein you vacuum seal your ingredients and immerse the sealed bag under water. Your precision cooker (I love my Anova) then heats the water to whatever temperature you've set it to and circulates the water around to ensure even temperature. In general, you sous vide at a relatively low temperature over a longer period of time, so it does admittedly require some advance planning. That said, it is entirely hands-off until just before you are ready to serve, when you remove your item from the bag, pat it dry, and sear it on a super hot skillet/plancha/etc. to give it a nice crust. So in all that downtime you have plenty of opportunity to prepare whatever side dishes tickle your fancy.