One New Years Eve, when I was in elementary school, my parents brought my sisters and I to a fancy restaurant for a special dinner. I was more annoyed than excited, due to the fact that I had to dress up in a little suit and wear uncomfortably stiff dress shoes. But I remember looking at the Maitre D', in his tuxedo, and wondered how he could wear that all night long. After letting him know of our reservations, we were taken to a linen covered table with real candles and fresh roses in the vase. It was a promising outlook on what would be a fantastic meal.
The first thing I noticed on the menu was that there weren't that many items. A beef, a lamb, a chicken, a fish, a pasta and a vegetarian. I ordered the lamb and I distinctly remember my sister ordering a squid ink pasta (I remember asking why her spaghetti looked black). What came was a tender rack of lamb, encrusted with pistachios and sat in a pomegranate sauce. Words could not describe how amazing it tasted. Years later, I would try to reproduce this dish during my university days. Except I was using a boneless leg of lamb roast and crushing pomegranate arils by hand (since bottled pomegranate juice wasn't available back then). It wasn't until I took the Italian Cuisine course at Chef School that I realized that I was trying to make a variation of Agnello Alla Modenese, a Modena style lamb that uses balsamic vinegar as the sauce.
Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Reduction
It's common for the rack of lamb to still have quite a bit of fat attached to it. Remove as much fat as you would like to and remove any "silver skin" membranes from the meat. The fat can then be rendered down and you can use this fat to sear the lamb instead of using vegetable oil. If the sauce comes out thicker than desired, you can thin it down by slowly adding a bit of water. The lamb is wonderful when paired with roasted root vegetables, but I've included a recipe for sweet potato purée which also goes well with the lamb. Including some pickled onions in the dish will help cut the richness of the overall dish.
Sweet Potato Purée
- Step 1
Prepare the sauce by bringing the pomegranate juice and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the liquid to a thin syrup. It is ready when a spoon dipped in the simmering sauce will coat the back of the spoon. Set aside until ready to use.
- Step 2
To make sweet potato purée, place the diced sweet potatoes in a saucepan and add just enough cream to not quite cover them. Bring this to a low simmer and allow to simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender. Place everything in a blender and blend on high until it is very smooth and creamy. Season with salt to taste.
- Step 3
Toast the pistachios in a 350°F (175°C) oven until lightly browned. In a food processor, add pistachios, rosemary and thyme. Process until it has a consistency of bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Step 4
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Dredge it with flour, shaking the excess flour off. Dip in well beaten egg and dredge it in the pistachio mixture, ensuring that all of the meat is coated.
- Step 5
In hot pan, add oil and sear all sides of the lamb until golden. Then place on a rack and baking tray and roast in a 350°F (175°C) oven until desired doneness. About 15 minutes for a medium rare.
- Step 6
Take the lamb out of the oven and allow to rest for ten minutes. In the meantime, plate the sweet potato puree and add pomegranate sauce around it. Slice the lamb, place on top and serve.