Valentine's Day, boss dropping by, meeting in-laws for the first time: Nothing beats a "frenched" rack of lamb. "It's one of those elegant dishes royalty ate," Keller says. "It's the most flavorful, tender part of the animal."
On a properly frenched rack – in which the bones have been scraped clean of all muscle and fascia – graceful white fingers arc up beautifully from the crimson meat. Any good butcher can french a rack for you, but Keller encourages doing it yourself – not to save a few bucks, although you will, but for the pleasure of the process, and the pride of craftsmanship. This isn't changing-your-own-oil stuff; it's tying your own flies.
"To me this is what it's all about," Keller says. "Taking a whole rack and breaking it down, using your knife skills, transforming it into something beautiful, but also something satisfying and generous, and very luxurious. Your girlfriend may never even notice, except in a kind of heightened ..."
"Awareness?" I offer.
"That's it," Keller says. "Awareness."
The Complete Recipe: Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb
• 1 head of garlic
• 3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
• 1/2 tsp minced thyme
• 1 1/2 cups brioche (or any white bread) crumbs
• 8-bone rack of lamb (3 lb)
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 425, wrap the head of garlic in foil, and roast for 40 minutes, until soft. Let cool, slice in half across the cloves, and squeeze each to remove the soft brown roasted garlic within. For the persillade crust, combine 1 tbsp garlic with the parsley, thyme and bread crumbs, and mix. It should be moist enough to clump; if not, moisten with canola oil.
Using a paring knife, french the bones and then remove all fat and fascia from the meat. Wrap the bones individually in aluminum foil. Set rack, bone side down, ribs facing away from you, on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush the meat with enough Dijon mustard to create a thin, translucent layer.
Spread the crumb mixture onto the parchment paper in front of the rack, then bring the paper to the meat and press the crumbs into it.
Set the lamb on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, put it in the oven, and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the temperature in the center measures 128 to 130.
Let the lamb rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes for medium-rare. Carve the rack into four two-bone chops. Sprinkle with salt and serve.