This dish is a perfect illustration of how the right wine can match Mexican food. In fact, it’s hard for me to even think of rack of lamb without a red wine to go with it. The pumpkin seed crust is much more flavorful than the typical bread crumb coating for lamb, and the crunchy texture is more interesting, too.
Makes 4 servings
8 pasilla chiles, seeded, deveined, and toasted
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
Four 8-ounce baby racks of lamb, bones frenched
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup honey, heated until liquid
1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted and pulsed in a food processor until coarsely chopped
- To make the sauce: Purée the chiles, garlic, and water in a blender. Strain through a sieve into a medium saucepan. Stir in the Roasted Tomatillo Sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Season with salt. Set aside. (The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat before serving.)
- Position a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the lamb racks to taste with salt and pepper. Add the racks to the skillet, meaty side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stand the racks on end and brown one end and then the other, about 1 minute per end. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a rack reads 130°F for medium-rare.
- Remove from the oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for 8 to 10 minutes so the juices can settle. Heat the honey in a small saucepan or in a microwave oven just until liquid. Brush the honey over the lamb and coat with the crushed pumpkin seeds.
- To serve, spoon some of the Pasilla-Tomatillo Sauce in the center of each of 4 dinner plates. Cut each rack in half crosswise and arrange the halves on the plates. Serve hot.
Wine Note: A Cabernet Sauvignon with moderate tannins complements this dish superbly. Try one from California such as Souverain or Chateau St. Jean. Columbia Crest from Washington is equally delicious.