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8 & $20: Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb With Pomegranate-Mint Bulgur Wheat

Brighten up spring with a beautiful dish that's friendly to red wines
Photo by: Greg Hudson
Pomegranate and mint add a festive touch to a plate of medium-rare lamb ribs, which pair well with bold reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Posted: March 22, 2016

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Spring has arrived on the calendar, but it's engaged in one last tug-of-war with winter in parts of the country. Although we know the warmer temperatures will win out in the end, for now, we need dishes that can straddle the line between seasons.

The lamb in this dish is warming and comforting, while the bright flavors in the tabbouleh-inspired bulgur wheat salad whisper of warmer times to come. The deep pink pomegranate arils bejeweling the dish and the nutty crust on the lamb rack make this presentation elegant enough for any springtime feast.

If you’re prepping for a dinner party, you can easily make the bulgur wheat ahead of time, but reserve the mint, then chop it and add it right before serving to preserve the color.

Lamb pairs readily with a wide variety of red wines, and this dish performed true to form. We sampled three red wines alongside the lamb—a Côtes du Rhône, a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and a Madiran, a Tannat-based wine from southwest France.

The Cabernet was the early front-runner. The rich fruit flavors in the wine worked well with the pomegranate, and the full body and supple tannic structure were an effortless match with the lamb. The particular Côtes du Rhône we tried turned a touch bitter with certain bites, though another bottling might work even better.

Initially, the Madiran seemed like it would turn out to be the close second. With a little time, however, aeration smoothed out some awkward edges and Tannat's powerful tannins, allowing an earthy undercurrent to unfold and blend with plummy fruit, herbs and spice notes. In the end, this Madiran—which contains Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the blend—proved to be an even more alluring and complex pairing for this lamb preparation. I’d recommend decanting this wine in advance.

Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb With Pomegranate-Mint Bulgur Wheat


Pair it with a Madiran, such as Alain Brumont Madiran Château Bouscassé 2009 (91 points, $20), or a New World Cabernet such as 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 (88 points, $12).


Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Approximate food costs: $38

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched (8 ribs, about 1 3/4 pounds to 2 pounds in total weight)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistacchios
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 1 teaspoon of zest and 1/4 cup of juice)
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, 2 to 3 of them minced
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • Olive oil (1/4 cup for dressing, plus additional for cooking)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Rub the lamb with oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a small amount of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sear the rack of lamb well, with the curve of the bones facing upward, for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and sear for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate to cool for about 5 minutes.

3. While the lamb cools, crush the pistachios in a food processor until roughly chopped. Add the lemon zest, 2 to 3 whole peeled garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) and a pinch of black pepper and pulse again to chop and combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Set aside.

4. Once the lamb is cool enough to handle, brush the lamb with mustard. Press the pistachio mix onto the lamb rack, making sure to coat evenly.

5. Carefully transfer the lamb to a roasting pan with a rack, with the arc of the bone facing down. Cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer reads 135° F, then remove from oven and allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. (The temperature will finish rising as the meat rests.)

6. While the lamb is in the oven, combine 3 cups of water with the cup of bulgur wheat in a saucepan, season with a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves. Cook covered for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Let stand covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

7. Mix the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil (add more olive oil if you prefer a less tart taste), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk until emulsified. Toss the bulgur wheat with the pomegranate seeds and the mint leaves. Gradually add the lemon–olive oil mixture until the wheat is lightly coated. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

8. Once the lamb is rested, carefully slice the rack into individual ribs. To serve, pile the bulgur wheat mixture on a large platter, then carefully arrange the sliced lamb ribs on top. Serves 4, 2 ribs per person

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