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Spice-crusted rack of lamb

Let’s face it: I am a cooking addict. One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon is in the kitchen tending several pots that will not only make dinner and a few weekday lunches, but a pot of stock or a hearty soup that can live in my freezer and serve as an emergency weeknight supper. But since I got pregnant (and made it through the first trimester), my addiction has gotten a little out of control.

Behold,  the freezer of a mad pregnant lady:

Which brings me to Valentine’s Day, when I feel called upon to make something especially tasty for my lovely husband. Enter, the rack of lamb bought on sale at Loblaws just before Christmas. We bought tons of it at the time, planning to have it as an unorthodox Christmas dinner, and even then we had some left over. Now I’m all for using less expensive cuts of meat as a rule, but as a quick-cooking, delicate, delicious dish, something that’s sophisticated and elegant and downright special, you simply cannot beat a rack of lamb.

And although one might feel some pressure not to mess up an expensive ingredient, the method for cooking it is easy. Put a tasty coating on it, sear it, then finish cooking it in the oven at high heat.

In this case, the coating is an unorthodox mix of cumin, coffee and cocoa. I worried at first about how these might taste together, especially when I first caught the combined aroma. But the application of heat works wonders, and the result is a gentle, rich and dark flavour that doesn’t overwhelm the taste of lamb.

This is adapted from a recipe at Epicurious.com.

Spice-crusted rack of lamb

Serves two

1 Frenched rack of lamb

pinch kosher salt and black pepper

1/2 tbsp. each: cumin seeds, coffee and cocoa powder 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a coffee grinder, grind the cumin seeds and coffee together until very fine. Mix in the cocoa, and spread the mixture onto a plate.  On the stovetop, heat a cast-iron frying pan until smoking hot. This will take a while to heat, so let it sit on the stove while you get the meat ready.

To get the meat ready, wrap the bones in a piece of tin foil to prevent burning. Sprinkle the meat with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Then, coat the meat in the spice mixture – I like to do this by picking it up by the bones and rolling it around in the mix. 

When the pan is smoking hot, sear the rack meat side down, moving occasionally it to prevent sticking, until the crust is a deep brown –  about 2 minutes. Flip to sear underside in the same way, about 2 minutes more.

 Transfer the meat to a small roasting pan, then stick it in the oven and roast approximately 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers about 130F for medium-rare. Remove it from the oven, and let it rest about 15 minutes before slicing.

The end result, accompanied by some mashed sweet potato and a simple spinach and orange salad:

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