Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lamb Chops and Minted Peas: Classic Easter Dinner


Knowing that we were going to be away in New York City for Easter weekend, we decided to prepare Easter dinner a week earlier.  We celebrate most religious holidays somehow, essentially considering holidays nice occasions for cooking up something extra special.  We treat secular occasions in similar ways—like not really paying attention to the Super Bowl playing in the background but still feeling the need to fry up some buffalo chicken wings.  It looks like we’re equal opportunity food enthusiasts.

In any case, we wanted to have our New York weekend and our Easter Dinner, so we got to work developing our menu early.  We found fresh shelled English peas, so we definitely wanted to make minted peas (which were so successful at Thanksgiving).  Despite bone-in maple-glazed ham having been our go-to Easter meal for several years, we decided to continue the path we started down last year by roasting a rack of lamb.  

When I asked Will what other vegetable he’d like for accompaniment, he asked for mashed potatoes (again).  I decided, against his protests, that we could skip mashed potatoes for just one dinner and settled on creamy polenta instead.  Oddly enough, the polenta this time ended up looking just like mashed potatoes.  Maybe that’s telling us something about the way we cook… 


The Food & Wine Easter issue from last year featured a super easy rack of lamb recipe.  We had tried it before and liked it, so we decided to stick with this proven recipe.  (Click here for the recipe:
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/garlic-crusted-roast-rack-of-lamb.)  You could even bypass the recipe entirely since this dish is so easy to prepare: The rack of lamb gets salted and peppered then rubbed with a paste made of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.  It sits at room temperature for an hour to marinate, then goes into a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes fat side up first and then another 10 minutes with the fat side down.  Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. 

The only really tricky part is when you remove the rack from the fat side down position.  Some of the lovely crusty bits of the garlic rub can get stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Those crusty bits would have possibly fallen off anyway when you carve between the chops, so it’s not too devastating.  In any case, I recommend scraping up bits and pieces and then scattering them on top of the carved chops.  They are tasty and provide a nice crunch.


The peas are even simpler.  I got the recipe from Cooking with Jamie (by Jamie Oliver), and you can access the simple directions by clicking here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetarian-recipes/minted-peas-under-oil.  I love seeing the fresh peas under a sprig of mint--something so springy about the sight.  You pour boiling water over the peas (above) and then turn on the heat to cook for no more than just a few minutes.  You drain the peas, then season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and lots of extra virgin olive oil.  Because this dish is served room temperature, with the flavors melding more by letting the finished dish sit for at least half an hour, you don’t have to fuss about timing everything perfectly.  You can prepare the peas while the rack of lamb is marinating under the rub.  This step allows you to make last minute preparations while the lamb roasts and then rests.


One more piece of advice: Make extra garlic-rosemary rub (or just withhold a teaspoon of the paste), and then add some olive oil, salt, and pepper to make a dipping oil.  That way, you can dip crusty warmed pieces of French bread in the garlic-herb dipping oil.  You can also use that extra flavoring if you find your lamb chops didn’t retain enough garlic-rosemary crust.  Pour yourself a jammy Merlot or a Pinot Noir, and you’re all set for Easter Dinner.



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