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Dining Tip: Patrick O'Connell's Pecan-Crusted Rack of Lamb

A tangy, hearty lamb dish jazzed up with shoestring sweet potatoes, from the maestro of The Inn at Little Washington

Harvey Steiman
Posted: March 10, 2014

Note: This recipe, from Chef Patrick O'Connell, The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Va., originally appeared in the March 31, 1995 issue of Wine Spectator, "Dining in America."

Rack of Lamb in a Pecan Crust

• 2 trimmed racks of lamb, about 5 pounds total
• 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (use prepared)
• Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce (see below)
• Pecan Crust (see below)
• Shoestring Sweet Potatoes, optional (see below)

Note: Make the sauce up to 1 day in advance. Keep it refrigerated. Make the crust mixture the same day you intend to use it and keep it at room temperature.

1. Divide each rack of lamb in half crosswise and brush the meat with ¼ cup of the barbecue sauce. Cover the meat and marinate it overnight in the refrigerator.

2. About an hour before serving, remove the meat from the refrigerator. Preheat a grill to hot and the oven to 400° F.

3. About 25 minutes before serving, brown the lamb on the grill (or, lacking a grill, in an oiled, heavy-bottomed skillet) to sear it on all sides, about 8 minutes in all. Transfer the lamb to a baking pan and put it in the oven to bake for 12 minutes longer, or until desired doneness is reached. Remove the meat from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes (20 is better).

4. Spread the pecan mixture on a plate. Brush the meat with some of the remaining barbecue sauce and roll each half-rack in the crust mixture. Slice the racks into chops and divide them among 4 plates. Spoon the sauce over the meat. If using sweet potatoes, add to plate. Serves 4.

Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup white mushrooms, including stems
• 1 carrot, peeled and diced
• 1 celery rib, diced
• 1/2 small onion, diced
• 1 teaspoon each minced shallot and garlic
• 1/2 cup chopped parsley
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
• 2 bay leaves, crushed
• 2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 tomato, crushed
• 4 cups lamb stock or beef broth
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 to 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (use prepared)
• salt and pepper
• pinch of sugar

1. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the mushrooms, carrot, celery, onion, shallot, garlic, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and bay leaves. Sauté 2 minutes and add the wine, tomato paste, tomato and broth. Boil the mixture until it reduces by half, about 20 minutes.

2. While the sauce is reducing, make a brown roux by combining the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter with flour in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until the flour starts to brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Once the sauce is reduced, add the roux and 1 tablespoon of the barbecue sauce. Simmer 15 minutes, then strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Discard the solids. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, sugar and, if needed, a little more barbecue sauce. Makes about 2 to 2 1/2 cups, more than necessary for this recipe. The remainder can be frozen for future use.

Pecan Crust

• 1/4 cup unsalted butter
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
• 1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted bread crumbs
• 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely ground
• salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary to cook for 1 minute, then add the bread crumbs and pecans. Cook, stirring the mixture constantly, for 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly browned and crunchy. Season to taste. After it cools, set it aside, tightly covered, until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup.

Shoestring Sweet Potatoes

• 1 sweet potato
• oil for deep-frying

1. Peel potato and, using a mandoline or similar cutter, process into very thin strings. Deep-fry them at 365° F until they are crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. This adds a wonderful touch.

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