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Sous Vide: Rack of Lamb

American, New Zealand, and Australian lamb differs in size, species and age. Sous vide allows us to use the same parameters for all three.

Ingredients

Lamb Racks, 1/2 each, the half with the bones farthest apart, 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, 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.
Mustard–Dijon, whole grain, or your choice, as needed.
Bread crumbs, fine, 0.5 cup/100 ml., as needed.
Parsley, chopped, fresh or dried, 1 Tablespoon.
Vegetable oil, 2 oz/50 ml as needed.
Butter, melted, a few drops.

Optional components:

Sous vide mashed potatoes: Linked HERE

Arugula Chimichurri:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 0.5 cup/100 ml.
Fresh arugula, 1 oz./30 g.
Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon.
Garlic, fresh, 1 clove.
Use a generic blender to combine all the ingredients, store in a squirt bottle.

Rosemary Pepper Brochette:
Bell peppers, red, green, and orange, cut into 1″ squares, 3 pieces each.
Onion, cut into 1″ squares, 3 pieces each.
Rosemary sprigs, 2 each.
Bamboo skewers, as needed.
Skewer the vegetables as shown, alternating colors three times. Drizzle with a few drops of vegetable oil and roast in a 450 F/230 C oven until the peppers blister. Insert the rosemary sprigs in each end for service.

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.

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.

Note: For this demonstration, we are using the half rack on the right hand side of the picture above–the one with the bones farthest apart.

Serves 1-2
Level of difficulty: 2.0

Procedure:

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

Processing the rack

After vacuum sealing the 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 rack of 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 lamb 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 we described them or whatever you plan to serve as accompaniments. Once the racks have been removed from the sous vide bath, they will be ready for service within half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 450 F/230 C. Remove the rack from the bag and pat dry. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Score with a sharp knife just to help the fat melt during the searing process. Preheat the skillet to 275 F/135 C and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Put the rack in the pan fat side down and fry until the desired color is achieved–usually between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Use tongs to push down the bones so that the surface is evenly caramelized. Turn the lamb over and sear the other side for 10 seconds. Remove from the hot pan and allow to rest on a plate.

Combine the bread crumbs with the parsley. Use a pastry brush to paint the seared side of the lamb with a  light coating of mustard. Sprinkle with the crumbs and drizzle with a little melted butter.

Stage the rack into the hot oven for 5-7 minutes until the crust sets and browns, as shown below.

Remove the rack from the oven and let it sit for a minute to make it easier to handle. Place the brochette and the mashed potatoes (if applicable) on the plate. Use a sharp knife to cut between the bones and arrange the chops starting on the right and shingling towards the left. I call this the “7 o’clock rule.” If you imagine the plate as the face of a clock, the idea is that most people are inclined to take their first bite from 7 o’clock position on the plate–whether they are using a fork or their fingers. Clearly, there are exceptions. Long ago, I was strongly encouraged to adopt the habit of following this rule.

Drizzle a little bit of the chimichurri on the front of the plate and serve.

Most restaurant cooks consider the assignment of assembling the brochettes to be a form of benign punishment, or at least a tedious chore. If you only do it once in a while, it can be kind of fun!

This dish is timeless. We were serving it just like this as far back as the 70’s, and it was not new then. Some things just never get old.

Norm King

 

 

 

About

Home cooks are apprehensive about preparing lamb. It has an ill deserved reputation of being strong in smell. A high level of stearine makes the fat feel like candle wax and causes it to burn and smoke at much lower temperatures than other proteins like beef and pork. Sous vide minimizes the time spent exposed to the high heat of an oven or skillet. Sous vide simplifies, streamlines, and balances the cooking process. It also assures precise control and consistency of the desired appearance of doneness.

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