Seasonal Pantry: Sonoma County rack of lamb
For a number of years, Williams Ranches of Sebastopol had a booth at several local farmers markets, an endeavor that meant Rex and Kerry Williams rarely if ever had any time off. Farming and ranching, especially when it involves livestock, is an around the clock endeavor. When you add the packing, driving and selling that a farmers market requires, you don’t have much time for yourself.
If you love lamb, you have likely noticed that Williams Ranches no longer attends farmers markets. Instead, the Sonoma County Meat Company (35 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa) handles the retail side of business, which means you can get their lamb 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Local lamb is gracing an increasing number of local tables for the Easter holiday, and why wouldn’t it? Sonoma County also has what may be the most tender and delicious lamb in the country, with Williams Ranches lamb at the very top when it comes to texture and flavor.
Another reason lamb works so well at this time of year is that it goes so beautifully with mustard, which covers our hillsides and valleys in the spring. You can go simply, with a bone-in leg of lamb slathered with Dijon and a big bouquet of mustard flowers on the table, or get a bit fancier with, say, a boned leg of lamb stuffed with sausage and mustard bread crumbs and a suave mustard sauce alongside.
Add roasted asparagus as an accompaniment and deviled farm eggs to start, and there’s your Easter feast. For a smaller dinner, rack of lamb or rib chops is a great way to celebrate spring, served over farro and drizzled with mustard vinaigrette with wilted mustard greens alongside.
For lamb recipes, including leg of lamb with mustard glaze and sausage stuffing, and delicious accompaniments from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
Rack of lamb is typically the most expensive cut of lamb, but the trade off is that it also is the easiest to prepare. This recipe is so easy that you can easily double it to serve up to eight people or triple it for up to 12 guests. To make it a feast, add a dry sparkling wine or Russian River Valley pinot noir alongside.
Rack of Lamb Dijonnaise
Serves 3 to 4, easily doubled
1 lamb rack (8 ribs)
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
¾ cup Mustard Bread Crumbs, see Note below
— Mustard flowers, chive flowers or snipped chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper.
Set a heavy skillet — cast iron is perfect — over high heat and, when the pan is very hot, sear the skin side of the rack. Turn the lamb skin side up, transfer to the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and increase the oven heat to 375 degrees.
Brush the lamb with Dijon, applied fairly heavily. Press breadcrumbs into the flesh and sprinkle them over the skin, as well.
Return to the oven and cook for 10 minutes; test the temperature and, if it is below 125 degrees (for rare) or 135 degrees (for medium rare), cook 5 to 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes, during which time its temperature will continue to rise.
Slice the rack into separate chops, set on warmed plates, add garnish and serve right away.
Note: To make mustard breadcrumbs, cut 3 to 4 slices of day-old (or older) hearth bread into 1-inch cubes and run them through a food processor fitted with a metal blade, until they are reduced to small uniform crumbs. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet, add 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and the breadcrumbs, and stir gently until the breadcrumbs begin to turn crisp and are lightly browned. Remove from heat and either use right away or store in a glass jar for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Suggested Accompaniments: Celery root and potato puree; parsnip purée; roasted new potatoes; potato gratin; warm sausage and bread salad; poached leeks; oven-roasted asparagus; wilted spinach; braised mustard greens.
Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.