Baby Rack of Lamb with Hazelnuts and Pinot Noir Sauce
- 3 baby racks of lamb, packaged so that each person gets three chops
- 3 cups stock (see below)
- 3 cups roasted hazelnuts, chopped finely (see below)
- 1 cup Pinot Noir or other red wine of good quality
- 2 ts. fresh rosemary, chopped
- two whole heads of garlic (see below)
- 2 ounces butter, cold
Roast shelled, raw hazelnuts in a 300 degree oven for 15- 20 minutes. They should be lightly browned, but not darkly browned. Cool slightly. Rub off skins that will come off in a cloth kitchen towel. Chop finely. Set aside.
Turn oven to 350 degrees. Remove papery outside skin from the garlic heads, but leave the cloves intact. Just remove the skin that comes off easily. Arrange on baking dish that is just large enough to hold them, if possible. A pie plate also works. Add 2 T. butter and 2 T vegetable or chicken stock to the pan. Bake 40 minutes, basting every 10 min. or so, until garlic heads are golden and tender to the touch. Season with coarse salt and a grinding of pepper. Set aside.
Pinot Noir Sauce
For the stock, I brown 2 lb. beef bones from the butcher or grocer (soup bones work well) in olive oil. Then add water and wine to cover the bones, a good grinding of black pepper, celery leaves, an onion, and any fresh herbs of your choice, although I would not use rosemary in the sauce, since it will be dominant in this dish. Branches of garden thyme work very well, parsley, chives, etc. This can simmer half a day. When slightly cooled, pour broth into a separate bowl and discard bones and spices. Let broth chill completely in refrigerator, and skim off fat that rises to the top of the container. This can be made well ahead of time and frozen; that way, you always have good broth on hand. Broth can be frozen ahead of time for this and other uses.
Put de-greased broth in saucepan, and begin to reduce over medium high heat. I typically throw in a handful of fresh or frozen fruit: raspberries or marionberries in season, or fresh plums are wonderful in this sauce. Reduce by about half. Run through a strainer to take out any fruit skins or seeds, depending on what you have used. Return stock to pan, reserving 1/4 cup for the meat. Pour remaining stock to pan and add 1 cup of red wine and minced rosemary; continue reducing until mixture is slightly thickened. Set aside for warming later.
Brush lamb racks with a film of the reserved stock. Coat with finely chopped hazelnuts, fat side up.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place racks in roastind pan , meat side up, and roast 35 minutes for medium rare, or until internal temperature with an instant read thermometer registers 150. Let lamb rest five minutes before cutting.
Bring sauce back to simmer, and stir in butter, cut into pieces, one at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve three chops per person, and ladle sauce over the top. Divide garlic cloves evenly among plates. Start with one head, and put the other in the center of the table on a small plate. It will probably disappear.