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Sous Vide: Double Cut Lamb Chops

With Easter upon us, lamb chops are another testimony to the beauty of simplicity. Festive and novel, a little style goes a long way.

Ingredients

Lamb Rack, 1/2 each, approximately 1.5 lbs./0.7 Kg.
Note: We used Oregon lamb racks for this tutorial, which are about twice as large as New Zealand and Australian lamb racks. Because of the unique characteristics of sous vide in this case, “size doesn’t matter.” Allow 12 oz/350 g per person.

Kosher salt, 2 tsp/lb, 4 tsp./Kg.
White pepper, a pinch as needed.
Parsley, chopped, fresh or dried, 1 Tablespoon.
Vegetable oil, 2 oz/60 ml as needed.
Butter, melted, a few drops.

Optional components:

Pickled vegetables: peppers, cauliflower, carrot, etc.–this is also referred to as “Gardiniera,” used in Italian antipasti, etc. and readily available in most markets; as needed.

Tomato, 1 each.
Ground black pepper, as needed.

Garlic, one head.
Smoked paprika, a pinch.
Butter, a few drops.
Kosher salt, as needed.

Spinach, 2 oz.
Cream, 2 oz/60 ml.
butter, 1 oz/30 ml.

Equipment requirements

Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Heat rated sous vide bags.
Channel or chamber vacuum device
Pastry brush.
12″/300 mm skillet.
Oven.

Note: For this demonstration, the half rack on the left side of the picture above is best suited. While it is not as lean as the other half, the high temperature searing will remove the excess fat.

How do you like your lamb?

People are usually a little less sure about how they want their lamb cooked–many are somewhat surprised even to be asked. Because of the pasteurization capabilities of sous vide, lamb can be safely served at almost any level of apparent doneness,

There is debate as to the exact definition of “rare,” “medium rare,” “au point,” etc. A little practice will help you learn just exactly what temperature achieves your preferred appearance of doneness.

Here are some basic temperature setting guidelines:

Rare: 129 F/54 C.
Medium rare: 135 F/57 C
Medium to Medium well: 140 F/60 C.
Well done: 150 F/74 C.

Procedure:

Serves 1-2
Level of difficulty: 2.0

Preheat the water in your sous vide bath to the temperature that most closely matches your preference.

Processing the rack/chops

After vacuum sealing the half rack of lamb, process at the appropriate temperature for

4-8 hours,
as per your scheduling convenience and regardless of the size. There is no “moment” before which the lamb is not ready and after which it is overcooked. Even though the process of tenderization continues, the conversion of collagen to gelatin at sous vide temperatures is extremely slow–a difference of 2-3 hours is usually undetectable to the diner. As the temperature used increases, the tenderization process accelerates. Even so, a rack of double lamb chops processed at 140 F/60 C for 8 hours will not be noticeably different than one that was processed for 4 hours.

While you are waiting for the lamb, prepare the other components as described below. Once the lamb has been removed from the sous vide bath, it will be ready for service within half an hour.

Tomato heart:
Cut the tomato into a small square and reserve the substantial amount of trim for stock. Sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Braised garlic bulb:
Cut enough of the stem end off to expose all the cloves. Bring 2 cups/ 0.5 l to a furious boil, drop in the garlic and remove from heat. Wait five minutes, remove bulb from water and set aside to cool. Sprinkle the exposed side of the cloves with smoked paprika. Melt a pat of butter in a skillet and simmer the exposed side at low heat for one minute–high heat will burn the butter and the garlic. If you hear the garlic cooking, the heat is too high. Remove and set aside.

Creamed cured spinach.
Toss the spinach with a teaspoon of salt. Wrap in a clean towel or paper towels and vacuum. This will cause the spinach to wilt and weep. Wait ten minutes and remove the spinach from the bag. Bring the 2 oz/50 ml. cream and 1 oz/25 ml. butter to a simmer in a pan. Add the spinach, stir, and remove from heat. If heat is applied longer than directed, more water will come out of the spinach and it will also discolor. Don’t worry–we will make sure it’s hot, the easy way!

Set the warming function on the oven 180 F/82 C. Use a slotted spoon to arrange the spinach on the center of the plate. Put the plate in the oven–the other components are served at room temperature.

Remove the lamb from the bag and pat dry. Cut into chops with two bones per chop. Since the size of different species of lamb varies, adjust portion to anywhere from 2 double chops to 3. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and coat or spray lightly with vegetable oil. Preheat the skillet or broiler pan to 350 F/176 C. Arrange the chops in the pan but do not crowd–there should be at least 1″/2.8 cm between them–do more than one batch if necessary. Sear until the desired color is achieved–usually between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Remove from the hot pan and allow to rest on a plate for five minutes.

Remove the plate(s) from the oven and arrange the rest of the components as shown above. Shingle the lamb chops from right to left (always!).

The picture above clarifies how everything is arranged–but this is not the way the item should be served. If you can imagine the plate as a clock, I always serve the protein at the 6-7 o’clock position, as shown below.

This is a very vibrant and mouthwatering presentation. The gardiniera vegetables bring a surprising amount of “pizzazz”…

Another definitive angle.

One last example, the money shot! This model was processed at
132 F/55 C

It should not be hard to tell that lamb is one of my favorite things!

Norm King

About

A rack of lamb can be divided into two distinct halves. Anatomically identical to what we call a beef standing rib roast, the cut proceeds from just behind the shoulder to the middle of the saddle. The bones of the front half are closer together and form the lamb's sternum. The rear half is somewhat leaner and the bones are much farther apart. It is for this reason that the front half is usually used to create the familiar "double cut lamb chop."
Since lamb is popular in many countries and in many cultures, its flavor profile is complemented by almost any starch or vegetable--potatoes, rice, or polenta, and eggplant, spinach, or fresh or dried legumes.

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