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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mediterranean Feast - Lamb and Couscous

Yes I know I have a lamb addiction but I can't help it. It's just that good. And with any new thing I come across I have to share it with Dad. So he and I did guy night again, but this time with a Mediterranean theme. Grilled French Cut Lamb Chops on top of a bed of Couscous. I cannot come close to expressing in words how good this stuff is but hopefully my words and a few pics will help convey the message...

To start I picked up two packages of French Cut Rib Racks from the local Sam's:

Each package contains two half racks:

I was looking at the skin along the meaty side of the racks and thought it looked like silver skin from a loin which is very tough. I decided to remove it from one of them to see if it made a difference:

Don't worry about this. It made no difference at all. Skip this part.

I did two different marinades - red wine/honey mustard/fresh rosemary and basil pesto/garlic - as I have done before to see which one Dad liked better. The ingredients for both marinades are below:

For the red wine/rosemary marinade I combined:

1 half cup of honey mustard
1 quarter cup of red wine
2 teaspoons of rough chopped fresh rosemary (You can use dried rosemary but use less as dried herbs are more potent than fresh herbs)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
3 turns of a pepper grinder

If marinating more or less lamb just keep the mustard to wine ratio at 2:1. You can add more or less rosemary or garlic as you feel appropriate according to your taste.

Since I let my rosemary bush die (sad) I had to buy some from the store. I'm not someone who stresses about organic products but it was all they had that was fresh. As you can see below the rosemary was quite woody so the stem could not be used for this:

Peal the leaves off:

After a quick rough chop the rosemary is ready for the marinade:

Now combine the rosemary with the mustard/red wine/garlic concoction and whisk or fork to mix well. I realize the color and consistency of this is not the most appetizing, but have a little faith and you will be blown away:

The other marinade was simply enough of the pre-made pesto to coat each side of each half rack and a teaspoon of garlic per side per rack as well. I ran out of gallon ziplocks so I had to marinade those two separately. Place the lamb in the bag, spoon in the garlic and pesto to each side, close ziplock and smoosh (yes, that's a technical term) the pesto around to get complete coverage. The mustard marinade is much less dense and will coat much easier:

Put these in the fridge for a few hours up to 24 hours. These were done overnight.

The next day I pulled the lamb from the fridge and let them come up to temp in the kitchen while I prepped the grill and lit the charcoal:

While the charcoal was lighting Dad and I were partaking in a little vino. Rombauer merlot for during the meal as lamb is not a very overpowering meat and neither is merlot in terms of wine so they pair nicely together. We got into the Water Wheel Shiraz after dinner during the Dark Knight but did not finish it. That stuff is stellar but maybe a little too bold for Lamb. Oh, and both bottles were provided by Pappy:

Again, two zone cooking, coals on the left nothing on the right. Normally when I do lamb I put the fat part of the lamb rack over the heat with the skinnier part (closer to the bones) towards the edge so that the skinny part does not overcook. Well, as you can see below I did not have enough room on my Weber for that so the thickest one went right over the coals with the other three conforming to my usual method:

As you can see below the one right over the heat cooked the fastest and was flipped first:

In order to keep the heat away from the thinner part of the rack I propped the meat up against the other rack with the mustard/red wine marinade:

All I'm looking for is a nice char to the lamb. The lamb will not be finished over the high heat. I want to caramelize and char those amazing marinades onto the outside of the meat.

The two marinades provide two little snags when cooking due to their nature. The honey mustard marinade has a lot of sugar in it so it will blacken more quickly than the pesto marinade. A little blackening is OK. Just be mindful not to let it burn.

The pesto marinade represents its own problem. It has a lot of oil in it and can easily cause flare ups in the charcoal so you need to keep an eye on it and rearrange accordingly so that the pesto marinated lamb does not burn.

Once all 4 racks have a nice char Ipulled them from the heat and put them on the side with no coals. If one half rack is nicely charred, then pull it to the side while the rest get to that point. This does not have to happen all at once.

Make sure to put your largest racks to the outside, closest to the heat, and close the lid:

They baked about 250-275 for about 15 minutes. Since they were touching they insulated each other. If I were doing just two half racks and had room for them to be apart I probably would've only needed about 10 minutes.

In the mean time, time to make the couscous. First off, couscous is a grain. Do not look for it in the pasta aisle as I did. It's with the rice. Pine nuts are in the baking aisle with the other nuts.


1 ten ounce box of regular couscous
1 three ounce package of pine nuts (could use two of these if you really like pine nuts)
1 32 ounce container of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
Couple turns of black pepper

Put a little olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Put in the pine nuts:

As the nuts start to brown add the garlic, shaking the pot periodically to rotate the nuts so they don't burn:

Once 1/2 to 3/4 of the pine nuts are browned add the chicken stock. If you wait any longer you risk burning some of them. Bring to a boil:

Once it comes to a boil, stir in the couscous:

Remove from heat and cover. Every couple of minutes stir up the mixture. In around 5 minutes the stock will be completely absorbed. Remove the lid, stir up again a couple of times to fluff and it is ready to serve. At this point I put the lid back on to keep warm until my lamb was ready.

And here is that lamb inside resting for about 5 minutes:

Here we have it plated on a large scoop of couscous:

Dad preferred the pesto marinade just slightly over the honey mustard. I'm the opposite. Wanna know how much he liked it? He cooked it for mom about 3 days later. This stuff is a sure fire home run.

I realize that french cut lamb rib racks are not cheap. These ran about $10 per half rack. But if you have a special occasion and want something that is low risk with very high reward I highly recommend this...

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