Frenching A Rack of Lamb
There are few dishes that are more truly festive than a roasted rack of lamb. Visually, it’s stunning, and frenching a rack of lamb isn’t particularly complex, but it does take time and patience.
The reward, needless to say, is well worth it.
Begin with a fresh or defrosted rack. Using a paring knife, slash through the membranes over the rib bones. This will make it easier to remove the meat covering the ribs on the other side of the rack.
After you’ve separated the membrane, turn the rack over and starting from one end, peel down the flap of meat, using your knife to help separate the meat from the rib bones. You can see at the top of the photo where the meat from between the bones came away with the flap of meat because I cut through the membrane. I was hurrying through the rest of it.
When you’re done, you’ll have two pieces of lamb; the rack and the rib cover. The piece on the left? That’s what you’ll make lamb bacon, or lamb stew, or stuff it.
Now we get to the cleaning part. I have seen suggestions for using tin foil, steel wool, sandpaper, rubber gloves, butcher’s twine… and I use my knife. This is going to take some time to make it look good. There’s no way around it. Using the back of the knife (no point in dulling the blade), keep scraping and scraping until the bones on the left look like the bones on the right. By the way, I have no idea why the quality of these photos are so bad; they look like screen captures from VCR tapes.
When you’re done, you’ll have a piece of meat that looks like this. Now, one of the things that I didn’t mention is what’s going on on the other side of the piece of meat. There are bones, referred to as feather bones, as well as the chine (which is the culinary way of saying “spine”). Many people will tell you to remove them. So will I, but I’ll tell you to remove them after the rack is cooked, so you can nibble on the feather bones in the kitchen, and quite honestly, removing the chine is a pain.
Okay, now comes the fun part. Lamb likes assertive, strong flavors. So grab some olive oil, rosemary, garlic, juniper berries, salt and fresh cracked (not ground; get a mallet out and pound those peppercorns!) black pepper. Mix them together and set the rack into the marinade. Make sure it’s coating the meat so it can season properly. Let it sit in the marinade for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to cook the rack, and it won’t take long at all, cover the exposed bones with foil to keep them from charring. Sear the outside first in a hot pan if that’s what you like. For this particular rack I didn’t bother. Roast in a hot oven for a short amount of time, depending on the weight of the rack, thirty minutes or so at 250°C (475°F). You’re looking for medium rare, about 50°C (125°F).
Remember I said something about picking at the roast? After letting the rack rest for 7-10 minutes before carving, pull off the feather bones, trim any loose-hanging blobs and clean up the rack. Then slice between each of the ribs. Slip your knife in the gaps of the chine to separate the chops.
There’s nothing to chew. The lamb simply melts in your mouth. Ignore the photo; the color was perfectly pink. It’s the way lamb should be enjoyed. Traditionally, each person should receive two chops. I suppose it makes you look forward to the next time. The hole in the chop was from the thermometer.