For this spring lamb recipe, an 8-rib rack is slathered with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper, and then roasted to a perfect medium-rare. The perfect centerpiece to usher in warmer weather.
In Spain and Italy, tender, milk-fed baby lamb is well-known and appreciated, and the best French butchers carry tiny agneau du lait from the Pyrenees. Here in the States, lamb that small is hard to find, but some small farms now market midsize spring lamb. Ask your butcher for the smallest racks he has. The rack is the tenderest cut of the beast and the easiest to cook.–David Tanis
Spring Lamb with Rosemary FAQs
What are the best sides to serve with lamb?
We recommend garlic mashed potatoes, braised carrots with orange and rosemary, fresh peas with mint, and some lovely dinner rolls.
How does lamb taste, in comparison to beef?
Lamb has a stronger, slightly gamey, and earthier flavor than beef due to the animals being strictly grass-fed. The distinctive taste is derived mainly from its branched-chain fatty acids, which conventionally raised, grain-fed beef does not contain.
What is a frenched rack of lamb?
When you request racks of lamb from your butcher, ask him nicely to also “french” them for you. The term refers to trimming the bones of their unsightly gristle and membranes and other such unpleasantness, making them far more palatable, even a little elegant. All that remains for you to do is rub the racks with a simple herb paste, toss them in the oven, slice them into diminutive little chops, and gracefully accept the accolades.
Spring Lamb with Rosemary
- Two (8-bone) racks of lamb frenched
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 garlic cloves mashed into a paste with a little salt
- Several sprigs of rosemary leaves coarsely chopped
- Olive oil
- Season the racks liberally with salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub each rack with the garlic, the chopped rosemary, and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the racks, fatty side up, in a roasting pan and leave them at room temperature for an hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204° C).
- Roast the racks for about 20 minutes, until they're nicely browned and have an interior temperature of 125°F (51°C) on an instant-read thermometer for medium-rare. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and place a serving platter in the oven to warm.
- Transfer the racks to a cutting board. To carve the lamb, simply slice between the bones. Arrange the lamb chops on the warm platter and serve.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I had a huge smile on my face when reading this recipe—this is exactly how my mother used to make spring lamb. I hadn’t made it in a while, so I jumped into the opportunity to do it again. I love, love, love it. It’s absolutely one of my favorite recipes. The flavors are intense yet don’t take away from the lamb. The lamb is done to perfect, lightly browned on the outside and rare on the inside. We served it with homemade garlic and cream mashed potatoes. A must-try!
I’m a fan of David Tanis, so I was eager to try this recipe. I made half of it—a single rack—using one garlic clove and one large sprig of rosemary. I was blown away that when I checked the meat temperature after exactly 20 minutes of roasting, it was exactly 125 degrees! That never happens. I like that the amount of rosemary is just a guideline since (to me) the herb can be very overwhelming in aroma and flavor. Here it was just perfect—not overly assertive. If you want more, you can use more. I love the simplicity and elegance of this recipe.
The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity. Like most of the recipes from Tanis, it celebrates the deliciousness of the food at a most humble and basic level. Good food doesn’t need much more than that.
Although this recipe for roasted lamb chops isn’t very original or unique, the results are delicious. The ingredients and amounts that were called for were spot-on, and the time it took to cook was perfect, although I pulled my lamb out of the oven a couple of minutes early as my family likes it a bit on the rare side. Definitely make this, it’s a winner.
This recipe sounded like a great way to welcome spring flavors! Its simple yet elegant ingredients made the dish sound appropriate for a family meal or even a dinner party with friends. This may have to do with the size of the lamb racks I used, but the cooking time was actually double what the recipe called for. I checked the lamb after the allotted 20 minutes, and it was still pretty rare. I kept it in the oven for 20 minutes more. The recipe calls for 2 garlic gloves to be made into a paste and spread on the racks of lamb, but I’d actually recommend at least doubling that amount—the more garlic, the better. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. It just took a bit longer to cook than I expected.
Maybe the stars aligned, maybe I got an exceptionally good rack of lamb that day, or maybe this recipe is just awesome. I suspect it has something to do with the hour-long rest before cooking—it turned out tender lamb, perfectly medium-rare in the center, with salty bits of browned fat on the edges. There was a hint of the garlic and rosemary, but not enough to overpower the lamb itself. I graciously portioned it out between our dinner guests, but I could have easily eaten a rack on my own. It’s a simple recipe, so there’s not much to say about it, but it makes a delicious dish!
Perfect for spring—simple, quick, and delicious. I made half of the recipe using Amish lamb purchased from our local butcher, and served it with lemony rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. The recipe is so simple that it barely merits being an actual recipe, but for those first-time rack-of-lamb-roasters out there, this one is a winner.
I’m a huge fan of David Tanis. His recipes are mostly pretty simple, with just a few ingredients of top quality. This one is no exception. It works perfectly well as written, just as usual. Try to buy the already frenched lamb rack (I prefer the New Zealand one’s at Costco), it saves you so much work. A very nice side is fresh peas with mint.
Originally published April 18, 2011
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I cannot believe that I would ever get so hooked on a recipe. This spring lamb with rosemary is easily one of the best recipes for lamb I have ever had! It works perfectly as laid out, yielding medium-rare to rare cuts every time. This recipe is easily scalable up or down (I equate “a few” sprigs rosemary to four). The rosemary and garlic really marry well into the rich flavor of the lamb. You could take this preparation a bit further by sautéeing it in a hot cast iron skillet or other heavy pan for just over a minute per side before sliding it into the oven, and you can then reduce the remaining time by about 5 minutes, for a total of 15 to 17 minutes. The racks get a little extra colour and crispness to them. You could also grill the racks for a minute or two per side (you’d want to have the grill on for other things, though), then finish them in the oven as above. Either way, the racks then get an extra browned crispiness to them, but still turn out rare or medium-rare as desired. With the variety of lamb recipes out there, I will move on… but not today!