I totally nailed a roasted rack of lamb this weekend. It was unbelievably fantastic. I'd wanted to make a rack of lamb for the cooking club, and ended up finding a recipe for a Moroccan lamb with Shiraz-honey sauce. In the process, I learned a few things that I thought I'd post here.
First of all, the lamb itself. A rack of lamb is just half of the rib cage of a lamb, with the attached meat and (plenty of) fat. It's about 7 ribs, which serves about 3 people. American lamb is considered better than New Zealand lamb, but it's also more expensive. I made rack of lamb twice, once with some fresh lamb from a neighborhood butcher's shop, and once from a shrink-wrapped package from Australia. The rack from the butcher's shop was quite a bit more expensive, mostly by being quite large, presumably from an older lamb (sheep?). There were several layers of meat and fat against the ribs which were not present with the packaged lamb. In both cases I got the ribs Frenched, which means that the ends of the ribs had the surrounding fat removed so that the bones are exposed. Among other things, with Frenched ribs the bones make good handles once you've sliced the meat into chops!
The easiest thing to do with a rack of lamb is to roast it with a cast-iron pan. Basically, you salt and pepper the lamb, then sear the meat on all sides to brown it, then toss it in a hot oven and roast until it's 130 degrees or so (medium-rare). Let it sit on a plate for 10 minutes under a sheet of tin foil, then slice the ribs into chops and you're done! Fantastic.
The recipe I used added two steps to this process that made it even better. First, in addition to salt, you can rub a spice mixture into the meat before searing it. I used ras el hanout which is a Moroccan mixture of many different spices (the word means something like "top of the shop"). You can buy it at gourmet groceries or Middle-Eastern markets, or if you have a spice grinder (electric coffee grinder, $15) at home and a good supply of whole spices, you can make your own. Google is full of recipes -- here's the one I used.
Second, after the meat comes out of the oven, I made a trivial pan sauce. Add a cup of hearty red wine (Shiraz/Syrah) and a third of a cup of honey to the roasting pan, bring to a boil and reduce while you're waiting for the lamb to be ready to serve.
Serve with herbed mashed potatoes and maybe a sprig of mint or rosemary for garnish, and you've got a plate you'd pay good money for at a restaurant...
Here's what mine looked like, with mashed rutabega and a rose petal. Photo courtesy of Jen!