This particular round of yum, was the result of… a mixture of a GW2-induced food funk and fate, I suppose~ You see, every time I browse the Crystal Desert recipes, I can’t help but pause, lean back, shake my head and sigh at the Sugar Rib Roast. The dish’s picture on the menu is, in my book at least, screaming “Crown Roast!!!” at the top of its lungs loud enough to drown any and all of my attempts to think around the one method of preparation I can’t really pull off in my kitchen…
Until, one fateful day, I skimmed over it fast enough to reach the Elon Red recipe, which is where it all clicked together. As soon as the “Elon Red” lentil dish tickled the memory of my spicy, warm and truly yumtastic Lentil & Quince salad awake, the somewhat Arabian-Nights’y theme of the salad instantly made me think of turning the dreaded, ritzy Crown Roast into a bunch of honey-glazed lamb chops to go with the lively bunch in an off-the-white-tablecloth scenario.
With that particular knot in my brainwaves blasted out of the way I instantly went to work on a recipe for the pair late last Autumn, and after two test-runs I proudly presented the final version to a couple of happy experiment victims. Green lights for a blog version were given and… a resounding cricket noise greeted me when I tried to get my hands on more quinces for the redo-for-post-worthy-pictures shindig. Evidently, last year’s quince season wasn’t just a particularly short one – going by availability and price, it was a really bad one too. I had way more quincey things on my to-cook list than I was able to hunt down enough ingredients for, so you can probably imagine the rush I felt a few weeks ago, when one of the yellowish thing I had been ignoring for months in the back of my apple box turned out to be… a quince! Slightly battered and a bit bruised in places but, apart from the ratty visual, absolutely perfect~! So, even though this one’s pulled slightly off the seasonal calendar, I thought the unexpected discovery of this particular quince could be a sign – a sign declaring this the perfect time and place to share this recipe with you guys~! Here goes…
These amounts will net you 2 celebratory servings.
The Honey-Glazed and Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops
1 Rack of Lamb, 6 large or 8 small chops
A very generous dusting of fine sea salt
2-3 Leafy Sprigs of Thyme
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for the pan
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for the crust
1 Very Generous Drizzle of Honey – for the lamb
1 Tbsp Honey – for the crust
2-3 Tbsp Harissa Paste
50g Cashew Nuts, lightly salted and toasted
½ Bunch of Parsley
3 Dried Dates, roughly chopped
1 Generous Sprinkling of Sea Salt
If the round, meaty side of the rack is covered with a layer of fat, pick up your sharpest knife and gently score the fat in a diamond shape pattern down to but not into the meat. Rub a sprinkling of salt into the cuts to encourage the fat to render off and the remains of it to turn into a crispy dot on the I.
To keep the bones from turning an unsightly brown’ish color in the heat, tightly wrap each exposed bone in a strip of aluminum foil and twist it into place at the top.
1) Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2) Set an oven-proof pan onto high heat and allow it to climb up the temperature scale for about 5 mins.
3) Rub the meat with a drizzle of olive oil and sear the rack in the piping hot pan until it’s nicely browned all around – don’t forget the sides~
4) Generously dust it with salt and pepper, then pop the pan – after you’ve added the butter, oil, garlic and thyme – into the oven for 7 mins. Make sure the rack is resting on the meaty/fatty side for the first round.
5) Baste the side facing up with the liquids gathering on the bottom of the pan after 3-4 mins.
6) In the meantime, place the cashews, harissa paste, parsley, dates, salt, honey and olive oil in a food processor and whizz the bunch into a thick, crumbly drying-wet-sand kind of affair. If the mixture turns into a really wet paste, add more cashews and whizz them into the mix until you reach the point where it feels damp, looks fluffy and falls off your fingers in loose clouds.
7) Transfer the future crust into a bowl or dish large enough to accommodate the length of the rack of lamb.
8) Take the lamb out of the pan and rub it with a generous amount of honey – enough to glaze or rather: sticky it up all around.
9) Roll the meat around in the crumbles using the boney as levers and gently press the crumbles around the lamb until it’s evenly coated in about ½ cm of bright green crumbles.
10) Gently set the rack back into the pan – this time with the now coated, meaty side facing up.
11) Back into the oven it goes to crisp up the coat, 4-5 mins will do the trick.
You may have noticed the lack of the breadcrumbs usually found in a coat like this one and of course my limited access to an oven is the reason for that one~ If said breadcrumbs don’t get an even blast of heat, all they do is goo up and basically turn the desired crisp into an undesired tag-team of wet-sawdust aroma and texture. Replacing the bread with cashews makes this coat one of those you can eat “raw” in a pan-sear scenario for the whole shindig just as well as crisped up by a second trip through the oven. So, just in case you find yourself in a no-oven situation and you simply can’t wait until you get access to one, here’s my pan-version of the lamb:
In case you’re dealing with a fat-rimmed rack like I’ve mentioned above, place it – scored skinside down – in a large, heavy-based and, at this point, cold pan. If it’s completely trimmed, fire it up to its maximum heat first.
By the way, in case you really don’t trust the “fry the rack whole” thing, you could just slice the rack into chop lollies and fry them separately (1-3 mins per side… done.). If you want to stamp your foot and stick out your tongue at the non-existent oven in your kitchen and prepare a roast without it, here’s the how-to~
1) Generously rub the meat with a heatproof oil – rapeseed or sunflower works nicely – and give it a very generous dusting with salt.
2) Set the pan onto high heat and, once it has reached its max, sear the meat, turning it every 10 secs or so, until it’s golden and deliciously browned on all sides.
3) Remove the rack for a couple of mins, turn the heat down to medium and allow the pan to calm down.
4) Grab your meat thermometer and slide it into the meat from one of the sides – make sure you aim for the dead center of the whole thing – as far away from the bone as from the outer rim of the meaty side and the middle of the line of bones. If you’re used to frying lamb chops or racks to the end in a stovetop-setup, you can probably skip the gizmo and keep the meat intact – just add 1-2 mins to the point you’d usually take a non-boney piece of lamb out of the pan.
5) Once that’s done, sprinkle the meaty surface with a generous pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.
6) Add the butter, olive oil, garlic and thyme and place the rack back inside, meaty side down first and place the lid on top.
7) Turn the rack over by ¼ of a full circle every 2-3 mins to keep the exposure to direct heat evenly distributed. Generously baste the rack while you’re at it~
8) If you’re using the thermometer-crutch, here are the core temperatures you’re looking for:
This should be your goal for a juicy rack of lamb, unless you’re really really against pink meat.
Take it out of the pan below 60°C and leave it to rest in a warm spot to keep it moist as the residual heat takes it closer to “done”
9) Once the rack has served it’s pan-time, transfer it to a warm plate, drizzle it with the remaining juices in the pan and tightly cover it with aluminum foil. Set the plate aside and take care of the herb crust as described above.
10) Put an end to the lamb’s nap-time after 6-8 mins and give it a generous honey-rub. Roll it over in the herby cashew dust and gently press a ¾ – 1 cm layer of it all around the meaty parts of the rack.
11) Line a plate with a sheet of baking parchment and place the rack on it for another 3-4 mins of resting time before slicing it into individual chops to serve.
The Lentil-Quince Salad
250g Brown or Red Lentils, cooked according to package instructions and rinsed with ice cold water to stop the cooking process
250g Quinces, defuzzed, peeled, cored and cut into ½ cm cubes
½ Lemon, Juice – as usual with quinces, stir this into a large bowl of water and store the freshly diced quince cubes in here as you go to keep them from browning
100g Carrots, very finely diced
Opt: For a more summery kind of dinner table, replace the carrots with deseeded and finely diced cucumber
100g Pomegranate Seeds
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 Allspice Berries
1 Green Cardamom Pod, lightly crushed
1 Star Anise
1 Pinch of Turmeric
½ Bunch of Chives, finely chopped
½ Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley, roughly chopped
Summery Option: 2-3 Sprigs of Mint
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2-3 Tsp Harissa Paste
1 Tsp Quince Syrup
Alt: Honey, to take the edge off
Opt: 75g Natural Yoghurt, a pinch each of dried Mint, Salt and Pepper + 1 Tsp of Lemon Zest
2 Tbsp Quince Jelly
Salt, Pepper, Sumach
1) Pour 100ml water into a pot just large enough to hold your quinces, stir in the sugar and, after securely tying the lot into a teabag or square of muslin, send the cinnamon, peppercorns, allspice, star anise and cardamom pod swimming in the water.
2) Set the pot onto medium heat and allow the “tea” to infuse while it works up a gentle simmer.
3) Once it’s there, add the quinces and the turmeric, give everything a stir, then leave them to their own devices for about 10 mins until the quinces are juicy and tender.
4) In case you’re not a huge fan of raw carrots, add them to the quince pot for the last 3-5 mins of their cooking-time.
5) In the meantime, place the chives, parsley, harissa, vinegar, lemon juice, quince jelly, along with a very generous pinch each of salt, pepper and sumach in a small bowl and have at them with a whisk until the jelly has dissolved and everything else is evenly combined. A taste-test at this point will – as it should – tell you you’ve overdone it on all accounts. Like chickpeas, beans and the rest of the legume’y gang, lentils swallow up a lot of seasoning, so if in doubt, the best thing you can do at this point is stir a bit of honey into 3-4 tbsp of natural yoghurt and keep the bowl nearby to put the fires out later.
6) Once the quinces are done, drain off the cooking liquids – in case you didn’t pop in the carrots as well, you may consider chilling the syrup and dolling up a glass or three of sparkling water or a dry sparkling wine with it~
7) Spread the quinces out on a plate or cooling rack and allow them to steam off for 3-5 mins.
8) Once they’ve stopped poofing out steamy clouds but are still on the warm side of things, fold them into the dressing along with the lentils, pomegranate seeds and carrots.
9) Allow the salad to soak through and intensify in flavor, thanks to the warm quinces, for about 30 mins before serving. Have a quick taste-test just before plating up – turn up the heat with more harissa, leave the turning-down business to the yoghurt, adjust the acidity levels with honey or lemon juice and balance out everything, if necessary, with another pinch or two of salt.
Assembling the Dish
1 Handful of Flatleaf Parsley Leaves – roughly chopped
Opt: Chicory Leaves
1) Divide the salad onto two plates and sprinkle the heaps with chopped parsley leaves. By the way, this salad works deliciously well both in a wintery warm-and-comfy state as well as chilled for a refreshing summer dinner.
2) You could also arrange the chicory leaves on the plates first – or evenly spaced on a serving platter, for that matter – and fill them up with the salad to turn them into fingerfood-style salad cups.
3) Carefully slice the rack into two-chop pieces with a very sharp knife – the crust might crumble away on you if you sliced it too thinly or with a dull’ish knife – and gently place them on their colorful thrones.
4) Serve the lot along with the yoghurt which doesn’t just act as a fire extinguisher but also makes for an excellent lamb dip as well.