By Linda Rittlemann
Looking to warm things up on those cold February nights? Dinner for two with a nice bottle of pinot noir, perhaps?
Here’s an elegant, easy menu you can do on a weeknight for Valentine’s Day with just a little advance planning. Why not eat in? Goodness knows, it will probably be less hassle and more than eating out on one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year.
So—stay home. Put on some great music, and cook together!
RACK OF LAMB WITH CARAMELIZED SHALLOT AND HERB CRUST
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less (adapted from Epicurious)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme, or herbs de Provence, crumbled
- a frenched rack of lamb (8 ribs) at room temperature, trimmed of as much fat as possible, well-seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a small skillet heat oil and butter over moderate heat until foaming. Cook shallots with salt and pepper to taste, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add vinegar and boil until liquid is evaporated.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in bread crumbs, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
Can be made one day ahead. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
- Season lamb with salt and pepper and arrange, rib side down, in a small roasting pan. Spread meat side with a thin coating of mustard and evenly pat on crumb mixture.
- Roast lamb in middle of oven until a meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Cover lamb with foil and let rest at least 10 minutes.
- Slice lamb into chops between the rib bones and serve.
NOTE: Using a meat thermometer helps, preferably one with a cable probe. Just insert the probe lengthwise into the thickest part of the roast, taking care not to hit any bone. It will ensure your meat is cooked perfectly, and it makes for hands-off cooking.
I happen to adore a good risotto with a nice piece of roast lamb. If you have an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, you can make this risotto recipe while the lamb is roasting. A green salad with sliced pears, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and some crumbled Gorgonzola or bleu cheese would be great. Use your favorite dressing.
Wines: Pinot noir is the way to go with this. Its bright, fruity notes and acidity are the perfect balance for the richness of the lamb. Pinots from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are a great choice. Try the David Hill Winery Estate pinot noir, or one from Westrey Oracle Vineyard. You’ll get lots of pomegranate, cherry, and vanilla notes, along with a nice forest earthiness and mineral flavor to balance it out with the meat. I have found both at The Wine Source in Hampden.
I’ll leave dessert up to you. Just remember, unwrap it slowly and savor it. Linger over it. Whatever it might be.