Roasted rack of lamb ラムのオーブン焼き

japanese cake
Some years ago, we visited “Hagi city” 萩市, which is located in the “San-in” district 山陰地方 (meaning “shade of the mountains”), the southwest portion of mainland Japan or “Honshu” 本州. After reading the wonderful books “Tales of the Otori” 鳳物語 written by an Australian author Gillian Rubinstein using the pseudonym of Lian Hearn, we decided to visit Hagi. Although this story takes place in an imaginary place, it closely resembles “sengoku” or the civil war period 戦国時代 of Japan. The author reportedly got inspirations from Hagi and the surrounding countryside and, actually, wrote her stories while she were staying there (at least portions of it). She used names of the places such as “Hagi” 萩 and “Tsuwano” 津和野, which are actual names of the cities in the area. In addtion, my wife has been a big fan of “Hagiware” 萩焼 pottery for some time and collected quite a few pieces. It was not easy to get there as compared to cities along the bullet train lines. We ended up taking a tour bus from the New Yamaguchi station 新山口駅. This worked well providing us a guided tour of the beautiful country side as well as a visit to Tsuwano and Hagi.

We stayed in a hotel/Japanese inn at Hagi, which I found through the Internet. This inn had been a grand and traditional Japanese inn some time ago but, now, under the management of the 2nd or 3rd generation owner, it was not doing well and the “new” building looked run down (their web site was very well done and consequently “misleading”、this is a picture from their web site of the very room we stayed. Looks very nice in the picture).  It appears that we may have been the only guests. They had a restaurant next door and our first night dinner was served there but we were the only customers. The decor had a 1960’s kitschy look; Under the curving central stair case, there was a small fountain with a fake Greek goddess statue and few turtles crawling about in the water surrounding the base of the statue. They gave us a quite spread totaling 10 or 12 separate dishes all displayed on the table. As we started eating, Don Ho’s “Tiny bubbles” wafted across as background music. We looked at each other and started laughing. In any case, although it was raining the next night, we said we did not need dinner at the Inn (the proprietor wanted to know why but we weren’t telling). We took off to a small drinking place we had found through an internet search. It should have been within walking distance. We entered a small bar/Izakaya type place. (Later we found out this was not the one we had meant to go). Two young girls were serving at the counter and the small kitchen in the back was totally closed off from view. It was essentially a Japanese style drinking place but some of the menu items are more Westernized. Since my wife is fond of lamb, we ordered lamb chops (This is where this long preamble will connect to the dish for this posting). As my wife always complains, Japanese do not like the taste of lamb and tend to cover it up with soy sauce and other flavors. This lamb was no exception. It was a bit over cooked as well. Overall, this night’s experience was not too bad. Certainly it was much better than staying at the Inn for dinner. 

Now this long story is over, we can talk about how I prepare a rack of lamb. I sometimes serve several ribs as a dinner with vegetables, rice or couscous or serve only one rib as a dish with a drink.

Depending on how you get the rack of lamb, you may have to do some additional preparation. This rack of lamb was very well-prepared and came in a vacuum-sealed pack. The ribs were nicely Frenched, the fat cap was only present between the meat and the bone (see below). The only thing I needed to do was score the fat cap in a cross hatching pattern, so that the fat would render and baste the meat.

I used a classic French method of cooking (based on Julia Child’s “The way to cook”). This way, the lamb flavors are not masked by any means.

Marinade:  Dijon mustard (smooth kind) (4tbs), lemon juice (4 tbs), herb (finely chopped fresh rosemary is most classic, thyme or oregano will also do, I used 1/4 tsp of dried thyme since I did not have any fresh herbs), good olive oil (1/4 cup or more), salt and black pepper. I mix the all ingredients except for the olive oil. While mixing it with a whisk, I drizzle in the olive oil like I am making mayonnaise until the consistency of soft mayonnaise is reached. I brush the marinade all over the meat including the fat cap. I place it in a preheated 480F oven for 10 minutes on a metal rack in a roasting pan.

Crumbs: I put enough “Panko” bread crumbs in a small bowl (about 1/2 cup or more) and add about 2-3 tbs of olive oil and rub between your fingers to distribute the oil and make the bread crumbs moist. After about 10 minutes, I quickly spread the bread crumbs over the top of the meat and fat cap and place it back in the oven with the temperature lowered to 400F. I cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and the internal temperature reaches 125F.  This results in a nice rosy medium rare (see below). Let it rest for 10 minutes and cut between the ribs.

Since the meat is flavorful with the mustard marinade and bread crumbs, I did not add any sauce and served it with simply boiled and sautéed (in butter) broccoli. Although this can go with sake or any other drink, we are partial to a good red wine for this, especially Syrah or Shiraz. John Duval Wines Entity Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006 was perfect for this. I noticed that, although I gave my wife the largest end piece, she went back for more, I assume she liked it.

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