Got a special occasion coming up? Here’s a complete meal for you to enjoy.  To me a special occasion is any time you get together with good friends (yes this can be just you and your spouse/partner/significant other etc) to share a meal. Even better if it is a special meal with things you wouldn’t eat every day, either because it is a rich meal and/or the ingredients are conducive to a special meal. In this case, Rack of Lamb, my favorite cut of lamb cooked to medium rare, lightly spiced. Today I’m using Harissa spice mix. The origins are Northern African, Tunisia more specifically. I fell in love with this spice when I saw it’s color and tasted it’s heat. There are many variations, you can make your own, but there are so many good ready made mixes out there that you don’t really need to. I don’t use it often enough to justify making my own – unlike the Indian spices which I use almost daily.

I’m serving the lamb with garlic scapes, olive oil potatoes (these are not for everyday consumption – very rich) and a wild mushroom saute. A perfect meal balanced only by good wine and good conversation. None of these items are original dishes as some dishes beg for re-invention with each pass. I like those, always improving on a good thing, not to make it better – but to provide variety and to delight your taste buds. Best part of this meal is there are few dishes to wash up – the same small pot you boil the potatoes in, you make the finished product in. Same with the frying pan – one pan to saute the scapes, mushrooms and sear and finish the lamb. So enjoy this meal, make it this weekend, call some close friends over or just the two of you, or maybe just spoil yourself and make it for you! For the wine, I’m recommending a local wine – Cottage Block Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula 2012 from Strewn Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake, a perfect match.  As always – enjoy!

Harissa Rack of Lamb – make this last, cooking instructions at the end
1 frenched rack of lamb, (8 ribs – ideal for 2)
2 tbsp Harissa spice mix
2 tbsp olive oil

The lamb will come trimmed and cleaned, you may just need to take off the silver skin and trim any excess fat from the meaty portion, leave the fat cap above the meat in tact, just score it with your knife
Mix the harissa with the olive oil – microwave it for 25 – 30 seconds to warm through and let the spices seep into the oil – let cool slightly – taste – good, move on, no good – fix it with some rosemary, thyme, garlic, parsley, salt or pepper
Rub the spice mix onto the rack – front, back and sides – let it marinate for 30 minutes (I didn’t add additional salt as the spice mix already came with salt, read the ingredients to see if your mix already has salt in it or not)

Olive Oil Potatoes
2 Yukon gold potatoes, boiled and cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 cup Churn 84 unsalted (butter)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tbsp fresh parsley – chopped (you can easily substitute chives, basil 1 tbsp of rosemary or thyme)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350f
When the potatoes have cooled (but still warm), cube them into 1″ pieces
To a non-stick pot, add the olive oil and butter – heat to melt, remove from the fire and add the garlic and stir – it should sizzle but not burn – remove half this mixture to a small bowl
Add half the potatoes in one layer, sprinkle with half the remaining butter and herbs
Add another layer of potatoes, add the remaining butter mixture and herbs
Place in the oven uncovered

Garlic Scapes and Wild Mushrooms
1 bunch scapes
1 tbsp Churn 84
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups assorted wild mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp Churn 84
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 tsp chili flakes (you didn’t really think I wouldn’t add chilies to the dish did you?!)

Trim and cut the scapes into 2″ piecees
Melt the butter in the olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the scapes and the mushrooms
When hot, add the scapes and saute for 1 – 2 minutes until tender, remove from the pan

To the same pan, add another tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil and heat
Add the sliced mushrooms and saute, season with salt, pepper and chili flakes (don’t add the garlic yet)
Saute the mushrooms for at least 15 minutes – the water should come out of the mushrooms and the pan should be dry – the mushrooms should have a lovely caramelized surface – like seared chicken meat – golden brown, now add the mashed garlic, mix ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn
Remove the mushrooms to another container

Back to the meat
Raise the oven temperature to 450f – remove the potatoes from the oven
using the same mushroom pan, add some olive oil
let the pan get good and hot – almost smoking
If the lamb has released any moisture, lightly damp it with a towel – do not remove the marinade from the lamb
Add it to the pan – meat side down – it should sizzle – if it doesn’t sizzle, don’t add it yet, it must be hot
Sear until it develops a crust – 2 – 3 minutes, flip over – repeat for the sides
Immediately transfer to the 450f oven and let the lamb cook for 15 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 145f – that’s a medium rare – the way lamb should be enjoyed
Check it at 10 minutes using an instant read thermometer, it should need another 5 minutes – leave it in longer if needed or remove from the oven and tent with foil

Plate this meal for a more formal setting or do it family style, cut the ribs at the table and serve with the sides. If plating, use your imagination. I put the scapes on one portion of the plate, topped with the potato in a pile, added my mushrooms to the center – once that was all done, I cut the rack into individual ribs and plated as you see below.
As always – enjoy! Good food, good wine, good company!



Lamb2 - Copy - Copy

Lamb3 - Copy - Copy