My son and I have been on the phone several times this week planning Easter dinner for our family. We’ve been back and forth about what should anchor the meal—baked ham, roast lamb, or even grilled steaks. Even though not all of our family is crazy about lamb, I’ve been campaigning for delectable racks of lamb served with whipped goat cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes.
This recipe, which I created several years ago for my book, Sunday Roasts, is elegant, yet simple. The racks are marinated in a classic mix of olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, then quickly browned and roasted until rosy pink inside. What sets this dish apart from others, though, is its unusual garnishes. Roasted cherry tomatoes and dollops of creamy whipped goat cheese scented with lemon and fresh dill make perfect partners for the chops.
You can marinate the lamb and prepare the whipped goat cheese several hours ahead so that all that is necessary at serving time is to quickly brown the racks, then roast them for 20 minutes. The tomatoes will need about 5 minutes more in the oven. Add some roasted baby red skins and a salad of mixed greens with thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers to round out the menu. Voilà! You’ve got a glorious dinner to serve this Sunday, April 20th !
Racks of Lamb with Whipped Goat Cheese and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Whipped Goat Cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) creamy goat cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons minced dill, plus 2 to 3 sprigs, for garnish
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing the racks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
2 racks of lamb, about 1-1/2 pounds each, trimmed and Frenched (see market note)
1-1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1. For the whipped goat cheese, place the cheese in a medium bowl and, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 30 seconds, then gradually, a little at a time, beat in the olive oil. Stir in the dill and lemon zest. The mixture should be light and fluffy. (Whipped cheese can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)
2. For the lamb, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a shallow nonreactive pan. Add the lamb racks, turning to coat well. Marinate the lamb at room temperature, turning racks occasionally, for 45 minutes. (You can marinate the lamb longer; cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.)
3. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
4. Remove the lamb from the marinade and salt and pepper on both sides. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large, heavy, flameproof roasting pan, and place it over medium-high heat. When hot, add one lamb rack, rounded side down, to the pan and brown on that side only, about 3 minutes. Remove and repeat with the remaining rack, adding more oil if needed. Pour out any drippings in the pan. Let racks stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Arrange racks in the roasting pan facing each other with bone ends pointing up, browned sides out, and bones intertwined. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the center of a rack reads 130 degrees F for medium-rare, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove racks to a platter with bones intertwined, tent loosely with foil, and let stand 15 minutes. Retain oven temperature and add the tomatoes to the roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast until the tomatoes are hot and starting to shrink, about 5 minutes.
6. Garnish the racks with tomatoes, and serve them with a bowl of Whipped Goat Cheese to spoon atop each chop. Serves 8 with 2 chops each
Market note: Ask the butcher to prepare racks, French style, which means that the meat between the rib bones is removed. Also, a thin layer of fat should cover the ribs to keep them moist as they roast, but other excess fat should be trimmed.
Prep time: 1 hour, including making the Whipped Goat Cheese, plus 45 minutes for marinating the lamb
Start to finish time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, including resting time for the cooked meat
Adapted from Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2011)Print This Recipe