Fresh Lamb for Spring

Living in Upstate New York my entire life and being an avid traveler, I have come to realize what a beautiful area of the country we live in. Packed with lakes, rolling hills and vineyards, the Finger Lakes Region has a compelling landscape comparable to Tuscany and Napa. To be completely honest, I didn’t realize it until I returned here from other parts of the country and world. I still remember how breathtaking our rolling hills looked after I returned from New York City, where I didn’t travel above Chambers Street for more than six months.

We are also blessed with amazing agriculture and local products. My job as a chef instructor at the New York Wine and Culinary Center has definitely opened my eyes to the wonderful bounty the Finger Lakes has to offer. I’m not just talking wine, though I know that over half of New York State’s 200-plus wineries are located right here in the Finger Lakes. Some of my favorite Finger Lakes products are Naples Valley mustards, Lively Run goat cheese, and Red Jacket Orchard juices, ciders and apples, just to name a few.

Most people who have read my column in the past know that I try to choose foods that are locally grown and as fresh as possible. Always using fresh herbs and aromatics is very important, and local farm markets and roadside stands are great places to find the best ingredients. I’ve always thought that chicken was freshest in the spring, but it turns out that is just a saying. Lamb, however, is at its height of freshness in the springtime, so be sure to enjoy it during this season.
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Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb With Cayuga Blue New Potatoes, Maple-Glazed Carrots and Pinot Noir Reduction Sauce (serves 3-6)

Ingredients for the lamb
1 to 2 racks of lamb (use 1 rack for 3 people or 2 racks for 6 people)
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Vegetable oil
Fresh thyme and rosemary
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion (thinly sliced)
2 cups of your favorite New York State Pinot Noir (I’m big fan of Lamoreaux Landing)
1/2 tablespoon tomato puree
2 cups beef stock

Ingredients for the potatoes
1-1/2 pounds red potatoes (scrubbed and sliced into 1/2 inch discs)
1 tablespoon garlic (chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Fresh thyme and rosemary (leaves picked)
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1 cup Cayuga Blue cheese

Preparation for potatoes and lamb
Combine potatoes, garlic, oils, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet and place into a preheated 400-degree oven.

Next remove all the excess fat from between the bones of the rack of lamb, then season generously with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Get a large sauté pan very hot, then coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil and sear the lamb vigorously on all sides, place the thyme, rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Add the butter to the pan and baste with the melted butter. At this point, I like to put the lamb right on top of the potatoes and finish cooking for about 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile add the onions to the pan that the lamb came out of. In the pan there should be some good fond (French for the protein that sticks to the bottom of the pan). Fond is a good thing. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes until translucent, then add the Pinot Noir and reduce for about 5 more minutes.

By this time it should be okay to pull the rack of lamb out of the oven, but be sure it has reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees. Set lamb aside to rest. Toss potatoes with blue cheese and cook for about 5 more minutes.

In the sauté pan, whisk in the tomato puree and beef stock and reduce until a thick sauce forms. Slice the lamb rack between each bone and serve with the potatoes and Maple-Glazed Carrots.

Ingredients for Maple-Glazed Carrots
4-1/2 cups water
8 cups carrots (sliced diagonally about 1/4 inch thick)
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Preparation for carrots
Bring the water to a rapid boil and drop in the carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes. While the carrots are cooking, warm the maple syrup over medium heat. Whisk in the butter and brown sugar, then toss the carrots with the maple glaze. Serve hot.


by Chef Eric K. Smith