As promised, Mark and I decided to cook together last night and make one of our favorite dinners: rack of lamb. We've probably made this about 7 or 8 times by now and it comes out perfect every time. It's one of those meals where you take a bite, close your eyes, make a small mmmmmmmm sound, then take another bite, and repeat. There's not much talking unless it's about how freakin' good this food is. It's that good. And the best thing about making rack of lamb is how incredibly easy it is! It is literally one of the best tasting dinners you can consume and one of the easiest to prepare. To those of you that are less experienced in the cooking arena, I know this looks difficult and intimidating - it's not. I promise you.
We decided to serve the lamb with a side dish of couscous, grilled baby portabella caps, and asparagus. Oh and yes folks, Mark made his signature red wine sauce to go along with it. This sauce compliments the lamb perfectly.
How about we take you through the side dishes first, kay? This couscous side dish is of my own creation. We'll call it Spinach Couscous with Artichoke Hearts and Pine Nuts. Or, we could just call it YUM. Whatever you prefer.
To make the couscous, I started out by heating some olive oil in a pan and sauteeing some onions for a few minutes. I then added red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, and garlic. I seasoned it with salt, black and cayenne pepper. I raised the heat to medium high and sauteed a little longer until the veggies began to slightly carmelize.
I then added about 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth to deglaze.
After the liquid came back up to a slow boil, I added 1 1/2 cups of spinach coucous, turned the heat off, and covered the pan.
About 10 minutes later, I lifted the lid of the pan and the couscous was done.
I fluffed it with a fork, added about a cup of parmesan cheese and some pine nuts I toasted earlier. A little more salt and pepper and I stirred it up. Side dish one finished.
Next, we got to work on the sauce. It's usually a Cabarent Wine Sauce, but this time we decided to use Shiraz. This particular Shiraz ended up being a little more acidic than we had anticipated, so we just increased the amount of brown sugar to balance out the sauce. Here is the basic method Mark uses to make this sauce. Nothing is completely exact, but this is the best "recipe" we could come up with:
Start by adding 2 cups of red wine (preferably cabarnet) to a small pot and bring to a boil to reduce it by 1/2. Once the wine starts to boil, add a heaping tablespoon of minced shallot. Once the wine has reduced by 1/2, turn the heat to low and add the following: 1 1/2 tbspn Balsamic Vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 small clove minced garlic, 1 tbspn brown sugar (or more if the wine is extra acidic - this will have to rely on your taste). Next, disolve a 1/2 tsp corn starch in a 1/2 cup cold water. Whisk the cornstarch water into the wine mixture. Also add a 1/2 cup of beef broth to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil again and reduce again by 1/2. (I just noticed how many 1/2's are in this post - sheesh!) Once the liquid has reduced again by 1/2, add a tbspn of butter and a pinch of sage.
Taste the sauce and adjust your seasoning as needed. If it's not thick enough for you (keep in mind, this is not a thick sauce), just add more cornstarch that has been dissolved in cold water. As the sauce cools, it will thicken a bit - just enough to lightly coat a spoon.
Now onto the main event - the rack of lamb. We buy ours from Costco and it's quality lamb. The rack comes already frenched, so all you need to do to get it ready for the grill is rub it with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, garlic and rosemary. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour, then cook it on a hot grill.
You want to watch it closely because the fat from the lamb can make the flames flare up and cook it too fast. Just keep an eye on it and allow it to char on each side. Your rack of lamb should look like this when you're finished.
Here's an example of a good way to cut the rack into chops.
Now grill up some asparagus and baby portabella mushroom caps seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and you're all set!