Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curry-Rubbed Lamb Ribs

Two years ago this time, gentle reader, you could not get through a restaurant review in a New York–based publication without encountering the R-word: “recession.” And we're still feeling the culinary repercussions of that market meltdown.

See, back in the '09, with the economy a bigger hot mess than a school-cafeteria Sloppy Joe, the sanctimonious contingent of the Brooklyn restaurant scene (think seasonal/local/sustainable/blah-blah-blah) eagerly embraced the frugal, down-home aesthetic of “upscale comfort food”—often, a euphemism for “We buy cheap cuts of meat and cook them for a long-ass time, and for that we will charge you in the vicinity of $20 for a small but beautifully plated portion of some obscure, newly acceptable part of the animal.”

The economy has theoretically picked up, but this credo of Brooklyn restaurant cooking remains rampant. And while I love rich, slow-cooked, meat-based dining—and respect the bargain-hunter impetus behind it—I resent the massive markup. So I was excited when I saw a 4-pound breast of lamb ribs—a cut I had tried only twice, each time at trendy Brooklyn restaurants that shall remain nameless, since I genuinely enjoyed and do not want to badmouth them—for $4 at a market on Washington Ave.

Lifelong lover of lamb though I am, I was utterly unfamiliar with preparation methods for this cut, and hence worried about my ability to cook down the significant layer of fat without drying out the meat. But for $4, I decided to go for it. I'd say this should serve one or two people.

As soon as I got home, I googled “lamb ribs” and took a quick survey of the first few recipes that came up. This is a common strategy of mine: to glance over three or four recipes and glean the basic methods involved, pick and choose the elements that appeal to me, and then just wing it. But this time, I was skeptical of the recipes I saw, which mainly advised roasting the meat at 400° for a couple hours, as one would a far pricier rack of lamb. I figured with the tougher, fattier cut, you really want that low-slow cook to tenderize the meat and render down the fat, so it gets to the falling-off-the-bone point without drying out.

I ended up rubbing the ribs with a dry rub that was heavy on curry powder and letting it sit in the fridge in a Ziploc overnight (you could do anywhere from a few hours to a few nights). Then I wrapped it in aluminum foil, put that in a roasting pan (you do not want the unmitigated foil packet dripping lamb fat down into your oven), and cooked it at 250° for like 4 or 5 hours, the night before I intended to serve it.

The next night, I brought the rack to room temp and reheated it, unfoiled, at 400° for about 15-20 minutes, to get a nice little crisp on the fat. (Also in the oven was a heart-shaped panko-crusted potato-onion gratin that had gone in about 45 minutes before. What? I like making heart-shaped gratins. Shut up.)

The lamb came out gnaw-every-scrap-off-the-bone-and-lick-the-grease-off-your-fingers good. The dry rub nicely complemented the rich meat. Next time, though, I would probably do a simple dipping sauce of yogurt or sour cream flavored with turmeric or curry powder and paprika, plus maybe some chopped fresh thyme or chives.

To round out the meal, I served sautéed mushrooms, as well as steamed green beans tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and ricotta cheese. Oh, and the gratin, which was pretty dayyyumn good, if I do say so myself.

If you’ve roasted lamb ribs or cooked them another way, please leave a comment—I will definitely be experimenting with this cut again soon, while it's in season. (Okay, fine, gentle reader, I do actually believe in cooking seasonally when possible. People need to just chill out and shut up about it, is all!)


  1. this sounds awesome.
    i also do the "survey a few recipes" thing, and i think it works really well, you get to pick what you like/don't like from each and get a recipe that works with what you are going for

    yay kitty!

  2. HI I am emailing you all the way from Mauritius and I will be hopefully trying a lamb rib recipe soon. Will let you know how it works out and we will be trying your method!

    take care