The first time I ever had lamb I was 13 or 14 or somewhere around that awkward period of my life where I donned a super cool bowl cut and my pimples outnumbered my prospective dates. I was on a school-sponsored trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with my Social Studies class where many different groups of kids from around the state were congregating at the Renaissance Freak Fest to perform different acts of The Taming of the Shrew to an audience of apathetic passersby. I played Baptista Minola and was sporting a particularly fetching purple felt robe that also moonlighted as a Crypt Keeper cloak the previous Halloween.
While watching the other schools’ kids perform it became increasingly obvious that they all took their roles much more seriously than we did. Though their acting resembled nothing short of cowplop, thus shedding a whole new light on what could be coined Shakespearean bastardization, they more than made up for it with their intricate, homemade fashions with adornments that alluded a guise of Medieval authenticity. And then there was me in my fucking Crypt Keeper costume.
Our group was a good while from going on stage, and after an hour or so of watching one unremarkable performance after another I grew tired and hungry. So ambled I did up to the nearest food purveying wench and demanded an explanation of her finest foodstuffs, pronto. Which of course means I asked politely for a menu because I was much too much of a wussy boy to demand much of anything from anyone.
At this point I’d had a few visits to the Renaissance Faire under my belt, so I knew to expect flavorful slow-cooked brisket and turkey legs that appeared to be ripped from fowl the size of Optimus Prime. But there was another unfamiliar item that glared at me from below my two favorite Faire foods: lamb sandwich?
Up until that point I couldn’t even pretend to know what lamb was supposed to taste like. I understood the flavor of pork, chicken and beef. I’d had all those, but what was lamb anyway? I knew they were cute little puff balls that baaa’d at you with a burning, torturous cuteness; I knew that Shari Lewis fashioned a successful career with her hand stuck up one particular lamb’s fleecy, white ass for a few decades; and I also once heard the British ate it with something called mint jelly, which sounded about as enticing as a bowl full of farts.
I was dubious of this lamb sandwich, but what’s life without a little adventure? Life without adventure is much like Cheech without Chong: irrelevant and really sad. So I ordered the lamb and regretted it immediately upon my first bite. The meat was as gamey as my 14 year old face was oily, and the bread was lathered with — no, completely saturated in — lamb fat. It was the equivalent of biting into a Crisco burger, and it did a bang up job of thwarting any positive inclination toward lamb meat for a good, long while.
The next time I braved lamb I was at my good friend Shannon’s wedding some 10 years later (who, by the way, coincidentally acted alongside me in The Laming of the Shrew, which makes me wonder what it is about her that sends me scurrying toward lamb meat). Served during the reception these lamb chops that…I just don’t even know. They were a melt-in-your-damn-mouth kind of tender with a crunchy savory exterior that, when mixed with the perfectly marbled meat, created an explosion of flavor that made me tingle. Down there. And just like that a lamb meat lover was born.
Oh, and for all the inquiring minds out there wondering how we did in our rendition of The Taming of the Shrew? Let’s just say that if the late Elizabeth Taylor would have caught our performance, she undoubtedly would have walked right up to our Katherina Minola and clubbed her in her straight in her 7th grade mouth. That’s how well we did.
Basic Lamb Chops
Time: 25 minutes
- 1 8 bone rack of lamb, frenched
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs or panko for an extra crunch
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
- 1/8 cup olive oil plus 1 tbsp of olive oil and extra to brush rack of lamb
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Let your rack of lamb sit at room temperature for 1 hour and preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary and olive oil and spread out on a plate. Set aside.
- Cut rack of lamb in half and heat oil in an oven-proof pan over medium heat on the stovetop until hot. Salt and pepper the rack of lamb and sear in the pan on all sides, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
- Brush both halves of lamb lightly with olive oil (if needed) and coat on all sides with the bread crumb mixture. Drain pan used to sear the lamb and arrange rack of lamb with the bones of each half crossing over like a teepee, or praying hands (see first picture) before putting into the oven.
- Place in oven and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, or until desired doneness. Remove from oven, cover lightly with foil, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.