Rye bread, pimentón give rack of lamb a smoky twist
The classic way to prepare rack of lamb is to top it with a mixture known as persillade, a combination of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil and bread crumbs almost always made from French-style white bread. Though perhaps a bit conservative, it's undeniably delicious; in fact, most meat tastes good with a layer of persillade smeared on it.
I wanted to play around with it, to make it less conservative but not so crazy that it overshadowed the tender, luxurious lamb rack. I thought about the formula and how it was related to the Spanish version of migas, a mixture of bread crumbs and chorizo. This thinking led me to change a couple of ingredients, and the result was a pretty great roast lamb dish.
I dispensed with the parsley, that beloved workhorse, and moved instead to my beloved pimentón — Spanish smoked paprika — which is a key ingredient in chorizo. And then I looked for a more flavorful bread.
I happened to have a few slices of stale whole-rye bread on hand, so I decided to use one for bread crumbs. That was a fabulous stroke of luck. Processed with olive oil and a couple of garlic cloves, the pimentón and rye bread combined to form something akin to vegan chorizo: dark, smoky and fatty. (Of course, since it was going on top of a rack of lamb, it was destined not to be vegan — but this mixture could turn the simplest vegetable gratin into something truly special.)
I smeared the pimentón-rye mixture on top of the lamb and roasted it for 20 minutes or so. I once considered a rack of lamb two servings, but now I think it's adequate for four. This is especially true when it's served with side dishes and topped with the pimentón and bread-crumb mixture, which packs enough punch that you won't need as much meat to feel satisfied.
Rack of Lamb with Pimentón, Garlic and Olive Oil
1 rack of lamb (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. pimentón (smoked paprika)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat. Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.
Put the oil, garlic, pimentón and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a food processor and purée; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs. Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 18 to 20 minutes. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them. Makes 4 servings.