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Cook this: Balsamic-glazed rack of lamb with pistachio mint pesto from Cooking Meat


Our cookbook of the week is Cooking Meat by Toronto butcher Peter Sanagan. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author .

To try another recipe from the book, check out: Roasted leg of lamb with tzatziki ; and pork tenderloin stuffed with radicchio and gorgonzola cheese .

“Rack of lamb is a special cut,” writes Peter Sanagan . So special, it takes pride of place on the cover of his debut book, Cooking Meat .

The most tender cut of lamb, I distinctly remember the first time I ever cooked it on my own. Placing it on the grill, it felt precious — in no small part due to the cost — and I savoured every minute of both cooking and sharing it.

Sanagan typically gravitates towards leg of lamb for Easter, but this year, given the curtailed celebrations, may cook rack of lamb for his wife and five-year-old son instead.

“Lamb is associated with Easter because it’s traditionally a springtime thing, even though in Canada, Easter is not remotely in the spring,” says Sanagan, laughing. “Spring lamb is lamb that’s been raised on its mother’s milk and then just a little bit of new pasture, which we don’t get here. So what traditional spring lamb is, we wouldn’t actually get until late May.”

You can grill, pan-fry or roast rack of lamb, and serve it either whole or sliced into chops, Sanagan highlights. Here, he marinates it in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and molasses, and roasts it whole before cutting it into chops and serving alongside a pistachio-mint pesto.

Lamb’s singular flavour pairs well with other pronounced ingredients, which Sanagan illustrates in his use of anchovies and fresh mint in the pesto.

As Niki Segnit writes in The Flavour Thesaurus , “Anchovy works as a flavour enhancer for the meat.” And while some may turn up their nose at astringent British mint jelly or sauce, the herb is often paired with lamb, as in the likes of French sauce paloise (a variation on sauce Béarnaise using mint instead of tarragon) and the Azerbaijani soup dusbara (lamb-stuffed dumplings in broth).

Segnit explains: “Lamb has a natural affinity for herbal flavours and, like citrus (which Sanagan also deploys in this pesto), mint’s cleansing properties serve the useful purpose of deodorizing some of lamb’s funkier notes.”

BALSAMIC-GLAZED RACK OF LAMB WITH PISTACHIO MINT PESTO

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fancy molasses
Salt and pepper
2 (each 1 1/2–2 lb/680-907 g) racks of lamb, bones frenched (ask your butcher to do this)
4 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife
4 rosemary sprigs
4 tbsp olive oil (divided)
2 small anchovies
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
3 tbsp chopped mint leaves
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 tsp minced lemon zest

Step 1

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and molasses, then season with salt and pepper. Brush the marinade all over the lamb and place it in a large bowl with the garlic and rosemary. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Have ready two sheets of aluminum foil.

Step 3

Pour 1 tbsp of the oil into a large frying pan set over high heat. Remove 1 rack of lamb from the marinade and place it in the pan, fat side down. Sear for 4 minutes, or until golden brown on one side. Turn it over, sear the other side and transfer to a baking tray. Wipe the frying pan clean, add another 1 tbsp of oil and repeat with the second rack of lamb.

Step 4

Fold a sheet of aluminum foil around the rib bones on each rack to prevent them from scorching while they cook. Place the lamb, bone side down, on the baking trays.

Step 5

Using a slotted spoon, remove the rosemary and garlic from the marinade and chop them finely. (You’ll have to pick the rosemary leaves off the stems first.) Return them to the marinade, stir well, then spoon the mixture over the lamb loin. Roast the lamb until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loin reads 135°F (57°C), about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Step 6

To make the pesto, place the remaining 2 tbsp oil, the anchovies, pistachios, mint, parsley and lemon zest in a blender. Purée until smooth, adding more oil, 1 tsp at a time, if needed. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into a small serving bowl.

Step 7

To serve, discard the foil from the lamb. Cut between the bones and arrange the lamb chops on a serving platter. Serve the pesto alongside.

Serves: 4

Note: The flavour and texture of the lamb don’t need any help from a marinade, but I like how the balsamic vinegar and molasses complement the rack. You can skip the marinade and just season the meat with salt and pepper if you prefer.

If you plan to use the marinade, start half a day ahead; if not, this is a very quick recipe.

Recipe and image excerpted from Cooking Meat by Peter Sanagan. Copyright © 2020 Peter Sanagan. Photography by Peter Chou. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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