Caraway seeds give the classic combination of lamb, rosemary and garlic a pungent, anise-like kick. Recipe below.
Honest. I’m not trying to turn Blue Kitchen into “What I Found at the Farmers Market This Week.” But a recent visit had us picking up about a pound and a half of lamb ribs from the Mint Creek Farm booth—the same people who had sold us the flavorful meat for our goat kebabs a couple of weeks earlier—with no earthly idea how we’d cook them. What we did know was that everything we’d bought from Mint Creek so far had been delicious—and that we were pleased to support the way their animals are 100% grass fed, raised in pastures.
Like goat, lamb turns up in a staggering range of cuisines, virtually around the world. You’ll find it across much of Europe and the Middle East. Thoughout the Americas. In Indian curries and the transcendent Szechwan dish, lamb with cumin. And unlike goat, lamb enjoys fairly widespread popularity here in the United States.
As I said, we had no particular plans for these ribs, so we explored lots of recipes. Interestingly, no matter what the cuisine, virtually every recipe began with boiling, simmering or steaming the ribs—at least for an hour and often for as much as two hours. Apparently, this makes them tender and juicy. It also allows you to cook them over two days, boiling them the first and roasting them the second. After flirting with various global influences and marinades, we settled on a simple, straightforward recipe that would let the ribs’ “lambiness” shine through.
Rosemary and garlic are natural matches for lamb’s rich, sweet flavor. Caraway seeds are another ingredient often paired with lamb; their anise-like flavor slightly tempers the richness. Many recipes call for confining the caraway seeds to a bag or crushing them. In this recipe, they’re left whole and sprinkled directly on the ribs before roasting them to deliver their full flavor and add a slightly crunchy bite.
Roasted Lamb Ribs with Rosemary and Caraway
Serves 3 [see Kitchen Notes]
3 large cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, peeled
1-1/2 to 2 pounds lamb ribs
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt [I used fine sea salt], plus additional
1 generous tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried caraway seeds
freshly ground black papper
Peel two of the garlic cloves and bash them lightly with the side of a knife to break them open and release their oils. Place them along with the onion, carrot and ribs in a into a lidded stock pot or pan large enough to hold them easily and add water to cover. Add bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface during the first few minutes of cooking. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Transfer ribs to plate. Discard the remaining solids and cooking liquid. Ribs can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 days before roasting.
Roast the ribs. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Thinly slice the remaining garlic clove and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season ribs on top with some salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Sprinkle chopped rosemary and caraway seeds over ribs and arrange garlic slices on them. Place ribs on a rack in a lightly oiled roasting pan and place in oven. Roast ribs until nicely browned, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Slice into individual ribs and serve.
How many servings did you say? Yep, 1-1/2 pounds of lamb ribs served three. As with other ribs, bones take up a lot of real estate, but lamb is so rich, big-flavored and, let’s face it, fatty, that they really do satisfy pretty quickly. Also, we’re trying to take a page from The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan’s notebook these days—trying to treat meat as more of a flavoring and less of a main event. We served these with a fiberiffic, flavorful side of chickpeas with kale that Marion made, and all diners were quite well fed, thank you.