This is a terrific, classic Rack of Lamb recipe that makes the most of this premium cut of meat. An assertive rosemary and garlic marinade injects flavour into the meat before roasting in the oven, then finishing by basting with garlic butter. To serve, a dazzling green Salsa Verde sauce is the perfect fresh and tangy accompaniment to cut through the richness of the lamb.
Rack of Lamb recipe
Welcome to the first recipe for Easter Week 2021! We’re kicking off with a traditional choice of meat for Easter – lamb. Not just any old lamb though. Today we’re going for the Rolls Royce of cuts, rack of lamb!
Lamb rack is a premium cut of meat and a darling of fine dining restaurants, for good reason. The meat in a rack of lamb is amongst the most tender and juicy on the animal, while still retaining plenty of flavour.
Properly frenched (ie. trimmed for presentation), a whole rack of lamb makes for a seriously impressive centrepiece and screams luxury. If you’re wanting to turn a meal into an occasion, it’s hard to go past serving a rack of lamb to your lucky guests!
I believe the better the meat, the less you should do to it so the meat quality can speak for itself. And thus today we’re going with nothing more than a simple and classic marinade, and simple butter baste to finish. To serve, what could be more perfect to play against the richness of lamb than a fresh and zingy Salsa Verde? When you have meat this good, simple really is best!
What you need to cook Rack of Lamb
Here’s what you need for this recipe:
For the Lamb Rack marinade:
Rosemary – Fresh rosemary is essential, for maximum effect! The classic herb to pair with lamb;
Garlic – Another classic flavouring for our lamb;
Extra virgin olive oil – The flavour carrier! Also, to keep the meat surface moist; and
Salt and pepper – Naturally! Also, as lamb racks are not very thick, the seasoning penetrates the lamb very well.
The Lamb Rack
The lamb rack pictured above has been frenched (“a frenched rack of lamb”). This means the lamb rack has been trimmed of excess fat and the bones cleaned. Preparing the lamb rack this way is for presentation purposes so it looks neater, as well as ensuring too much fat doesn’t land on the diner’s plate. If you’re going to splurge on a premium cut of meat, this is no time to do things by halves!
To french, the fat cap is firstly trimmed from the meat. Then the meat on and between the bones are scraped clean down to where the loin meat starts (the main strip of meat).
Below is a comparison of a frenched rack of lamb (left) vs a non-frenched rack of lamb (right), and the difference is clear. Some people prefer to have the fat cap, because fat is where most of the flavour of meat is. (Fun fact: Sauté a lean beef steak in lamb fat and you’d swear you’re eating a lamb chop!)
However the fat layer shrinks and buckles as it cooks, so it doesn’t look as neat. A frenched rack looks neat and tidy, and more worthy of both price tag and occasion!
How to cook a Rack of Lamb
This classic recipe for a rack of lamb begins with marinating the whole rack overnight. The lamb is then seared on the stove to get some colour before finishing in the oven to cook to your desired level of doneness. (*“Medium-rare, medium-rare!”, she whispers forcefully!*) Finally, we give the cooked rack a quick basting in butter for that professional, restaurant-like finish!
Make marinade – Mix the lamb marinade in a ziplock bag. I use a ziplock bag because it’s the most effective way to make a small amount of marinade stay thoroughly coated on the lamb. If you prefer to use a container, use a snug one, and increase the marinade by 50%. Turn the lamb once or twice during the marinating time;
Marinate the lamb for a minimum of 24 hours, though for extra flavour you can go up to 48 hours;
Foil-wrap bones – This is an optional step for presentation purposes. The foil stops the bones from going brown so they look nicer. A little cheffy tip!
Sometimes, butchers will sell the lamb with the bones already wrapped in foil (this is often the case with Prime Rib here in Australia);
Sear the lamb rack in an oven-proof skillet. We must sear the lamb before roasting to get some colour on the meat, because the roasting time is too short for the surface to get browned in the oven. And as we all know, colour = flavour!
Sear all around the meat as well as the ends. Do one rack at a time in the pan – this should take around 3 minutes each;
Roast in oven – Arrange both racks now in the skillet and transfer to the oven. Roast in a 180°C/350°F (fan) oven until you reach your desired level of doneness. It should take 15 minutes for 2 x 800g / 1.3lb lamb racks to reach 57°C/135°F, the target internal temperature for medium-rare. The photos in this post depict the lamb at medium-rare, and this is the point at which the lamb is fully cooked to pink perfection and for optimum juiciness. No self-respecting restaurant would suggest lamb rack be cooked beyond this! (But it’s your lamb, so if you prefer it well done, I say go for it )
Herb and garlic butter baste – You thought we were done? Oh no! For a piece of meat this special, let’s go all the way and finish with butter! As soon as you pull the lamb from the oven, toss some butter, smashed garlic and a sprig of rosemary into the pan. The residual heat from the skillet will melt the butter quickly. Squish the garlic and rosemary into the butter to get the flavours infused;
Baste, baste, baste! Once the butter has melted, baste away! This truly is the high point when cooking this recipe. The smell of freshly roasted lamb in sizzling garlicky-rosemary-butter will make you delirious. If your knees don’t buckle in the slightest, you must be made of stone!; and
Rest the meat – Finally, let the lamb rest for a good 5 minutes before serving. Why is resting essential? When meat is cooked the juices are squeezed from the muscle fibres. Slice the meat fresh out the oven and these juices will pour out of the meat and wind up on the cutting board instead of in your mouth! Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making for juicier lamb.
Remove foil – Remove the foil from the bones (if you covered them), take a step back and marvel at how lovely and white the bones are. So very fine-dining-posh!
Carve – Slice the lamb into cutlets. Sometimes I do single cutlets with one bone apiece, as pictured. Other times I will cut them so each piece has two bones, then put 2 pieces (ie. 4 cutlets) on each plate, which has a more generous look. Or I cut 3 or 4 bones into one mini roast. It just depends how I’m feeling on the day!
Sauce for Rack of Lamb – The sauce I’ve chosen for today’s lamb rack is Salsa Verde. Made with fresh herbs (parsley, mint, basil), this brilliant green sauce goes exceptionally well with lamb. The fresh, sharp and bold tastes perfectly complement the rich flavours of the lamb. It also looks fabulous with its vibrant colour and is dead easy to make (a 10 second stick blender blitz). This sauce is much less effort than other classic sauces such as say, a jus where you must make stock, reduce it, mount with butter to thicken etc.
Serve! Place the lamb cutlets on a plate, spoon over the Salsa Verde then serve!
How to serve Rack of Lamb
Rack of lamb is already an elegant-looking dish with its clean bones and blushing pink flesh, so it plates up beautifully on individual plates like pictured above.
But it can also be served share-style on a big platter heaped with sides, as pictured below, with some or all of the lamb cut and ready for people to help themselves.
Can you picture your loved ones’ reactions when you place this platter on the table?? I can! (Spoiler: It involves applause and ear-to-ear smiles all around.)
What to serve with a Rack of Lamb
The herby Salsa Verde, and rosemary and garlic flavours of this lamb are broad-stroked enough that you really can pair this with virtually anything! In general, with fatty meats like lamb you’ll want a fresh salad with a nicely piquant dressing.
Throughout this post the lamb is pictured with a Spring Salad which I felt was on-theme, given that lamb is at its prime in spring and all (let’s ignore that it’s currently Autumn here in Australia! ). The crispy greens, peas, sharp goats cheese and bright lemon dressing nicely play against the richness of the lamb meat.
See here for all my Side Salad options. Some ideas: A fruity Peach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing; a traditional French Bistro Salad; autumnal Apple Salad or Fennel Salad; crunchy fresh cabbage in Our Best NO MAYO Coleslaw; Middle Eastern-inflected Pomegranate Salad or Lentil and Roasted Eggplant Salad.
Potato side dish
See here for all my other potato side dish options. Some ideas: classic Herb Buttered Baby Potatoes, Duck Fat Potatoes (you’ll need two ovens to do this with lamb rack though), Sweet Potato Casserole or classic creamy Mashed Potato.
If you want to really reach for the stars however, look no further than Paris Mash – the richest, creamiest, most decadent and luxurious mashed potato in the world. Because, well, why not? Lamb rack deserves it! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Rosemary & Garlic Rack of Lamb recipe
Allow 3 to 4 cutlets per person.
- 2 x 800g / 1.3lb racks of lamb , frenched (Note 1)
- 4 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary , finely chopped
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt , cooking/kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil – for searing (1 tbsp each rack)
- 30g / 2 tbsp butter , cut into 1cm / ½” cubes
- 2 garlic cloves , smashed (use side of knife)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 quantity Salsa Verde (see separate recipe)
Marinate lamb: Mix marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag (Note 2). Place lamb in bag, massage to coat, then seal and marinate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.
Remove lamb from fridge 1 hour prior to cooking, to ensure even cooking.
Wrap bones in foil (optional): Wrap each bone with a small piece of foil. This keeps the bones white and looks prettier.
Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C fan).
Sear: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a cast iron skillet (or other oven-proof, heavy-based skillet) over high heat. Sear one lamb rack on all sides until golden brown, including the ends. Remove and repeat with other lamb rack.
Roast: Place both racks in the skillet and roast for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 57°C/135°F (for medium-rare). Remove pan from oven.
Baste: Add butter, smashed garlic and rosemary to pan. The residual heat of the pan will melt the butter. Spoon the butter over the lamb continuously for 30 seconds.
Rest: Remove lamb from skillet and place on a rack set over a tray. Pour butter remaining in the skillet over lamb. Cover loosely with foil and rest for 5 minutes.
Carve and serve! Cut lamb into individual cutlets or several cutlets per slice. Serve with Salsa Verde!
This recipe works fine for lamb racks that aren’t frenched, they just do not present as neatly. Also, they will take longer to cook.
2. Marinating – If you prefer not use a ziplock bag, use a non-reactive container that fits the lamb snugly. Increase marinade by 50%, and turn the lamb twice during the marinading time.
3. Salsa Verde recipe – Makes around 1 cup, more than enough for four servings of lamb. Recipe here.
4. Storage and reheating – It’s possible to reheat the lamb in the microwave, however expect that they will no longer be medium-rare once heated. Alternatively, bring to room temperature and slice leftover lamb for use in salads, sandwiches etc along with the salsa verde.
Life of Dozer
Just another leisurely Sunday afternoon for Mr Dozer.