This Rack of Lamb with Rosemary Mustard Sauce is the perfect meal for Easter or any night to welcome the warmer days of spring! Luscious lamb is highlighted by the rosemary mustard sauce, a delightful balance of flavors that will make you fall in love with lamb all over again.
What do you like about springtime most? In addition to the longer days and the end of the rainy season, I look forward to the fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets and the most amazing lamb of the year. When lamb starts showing up on restaurant menus, I know that the warm weather is right around the corner. It also reminds me of one of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had.
On a beautiful, late-spring evening years ago, a friend threw a dinner party for our large crowd of friends. He was an avid cook with some serious skills so we knew the party was going to be memorable. The patio was lit with strings of lights woven through the trees and the tables were covered with beautiful linens and set for a multi-course dinner. Glassware sparkled in the light of the candles scattered down the length of the tables. A huge cut of meat was cooking on the grill and the aromas wafting through the air had everyone salivating. We couldn’t wait for dinner.
Course after course came out of the kitchen and the wine flowed freely that evening. When the entree was served it was quite dark and we couldn’t really see what we were eating. One bite and I knew it was the best meat I had ever eaten, but no one could identify for sure what it was. There were lots of guesses and we finally had to ask my friend what he had prepared for us. When he told us it was leg of lamb, I just about fell off my chair! There was absolutely no way that this delicately flavored, tender, juicy meat could be lamb. That was the day I learned that not all lamb is created equal.
A rack of lamb, roasted with fresh herbs and presented with a succulent pan sauce is one of spring’s most luxuriant offerings. Well worth the splurge in my opinion. Lamb should always be served rare to medium-rare, deep pink in the center, never well done or it will be tough and dry. The smaller the ribs, the younger and more tender the lamb.
Marinating lamb with fresh herbs a day ahead perfumes it with an intense freshness, helping guard against any gaminess. When paired with steamed vegetables, it is a culinary triumph worthy of any celebration. Squeezing a little lemon over the lamb adds a fresh brightness, complementing the savory flavors.
In today’s rack of lamb with rosemary mustard sauce, once the lamb has been cooked, you set it aside, tented with foil to rest, while you make the pan sauce. Mustard, lemon juice and herbs are added directly to the pan drippings. When combined they make an absolutely delectable glaze and serving sauce. Whisk in a little butter right before drizzling over the lamb and your guests will be ecstatic.
One of the things I like most about this lamb is that once it has marinated, it is ready in no time and you can get an elegant meal on the table for Easter with very little work. If you prep your vegetables in advance too, everything will come together very quickly and you can spend more time chatting with your family and guests.
Easter egg hunts with children dressed in pastels, carrying their baskets and running around the yard looking for hidden treasures, is one of my fondest childhood memories. I hope you all have a fabulous Easter and that the Easter Bunny brings you many sweet treats.
Key Ingredients for Rack of Lamb with Rosemary Mustard Sauce:
- Racks of lamb, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, garlic
- Rosemary, lemon zest, kosher salt
- Shallots, beef broth, white wine, mustard, lemon juice, butter
How to “French” a Rack of Lamb, Pork, or Beef Steaks
Frenching means to scrape all the clinging meat, membranes, and fat off the exposed bones on a rack of ribs. Most racks of pork and lamb are sold already Frenched, but rarely are the racks cleaned as well as I like so I wind up finishing it myself. If you can’t find a Frenched rack, here are steps to do it yourself with detailed directions that demonstrate two ways of doing it.
Remove the large slab of fat and meat from the top of the ribs, pulling it back and using a slender knife to help release it. If there is a chine bone at the bottom, cut that away too to make it much easier to carve between the bones. Once you are done Frenching, you can tie the chine bone back on. All of your scraps can be used to make a sauce for your dish or other uses.
You want about 2-inches of the bones completely clean, starting about 1-inch above the eye of meat. Make a cut straight across the whole rack. Starting at the cut line and following the curve of the ribs, slice away the excess fat and scraps. Flip the rack over and make a similar cut to release the membrane on the bottom of the ribs. Score the membrane in the center of each rib and on either side of the ribs. Cut down on either side of each rib, then across at the first cut line to remove the meat from between the bones. Using the back of your knife. scrape the edges of the exposed bones and finally use a towel to finish cleaning each rib. Once the rack is fully Frenched, I like to tie the chine bone back on to protect the eye and to give me some fun nibbling bits.
To see a technique for Frenching a rack of lamb, take a look at Fine Cooking’s video. I like this description given by a culinary student after learning the technique in class. And here is a great article about using the correct vocabulary when talking to your butcher to get exactly what you want … and it addresses the chine bone removal that I talked about above.
In the kitchen I separate the racks and cut each one into chops to make it easier to eat. It is easy to cut between the ribs. Stand them upright and cut downward with your knife – if you encounter any resistance at the bottom, tilt the knife slightly to move around a bone as needed. You can also cut double chops which have 2 ribs each.
How to make Rack of Lamb with Rosemary Mustard Sauce:
- Marinate the frenched racks of lamb at least 8 hours or overnight
- Scrape off any excess herbs, zest, and marinade; discard the marinade
- Sear the lamb in a skillet until golden brown then transfer to the oven and bake about 25 minutes until medium-rare
- Transfer to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest while you make the sauce
- In the same skillet you browned the lamb in, cook the shallots in the drippings then deglaze the pan with the broth and wine, reducing for about 5 minutes
- Stir in the mustard, lemon juice, rosemary and cook another minute; remove from the heat and whisk in the butter; taste and season with more salt if needed; if the sauce is too salty, add more lemon
- Carve the racks into individual chops and serve, drizzled with the pan sauce; serve immediately with steamed vegetables
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- Microplane grater
- Citrus reamer
- Chef’s knife
- Paring knife
- Cutting board
- Baking sheets
- Large skillet
This recipe is naturally gluten-free!
- 2 (14 to 16 oz) racks of lamb, usually 8 ribs each, cut from the ribs not loin chops
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (use the flat side of a Chef’s knife)
- 10 sprigs fresh rosemary; the leaves stripped off 6 sprigs (or 4 tbsp dried rosemary) and 4 sprigs left whole, for garnish
- Zest of 2 lemons (yellow portion only)
- Kosher salt
- 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 1 cup low-sodium beef broth, gluten-free if needed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 2 tbsp Dijon or Creole-style mustard
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
Prepare and Marinate the Lamb: Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and set on a clean baking sheet. Trim the bones clean of any excess meat down to the main muscle (this is called Frenching) if not already done by your butcher. See PRO Tip above for a detailed description of how to do this yourself.
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the pepper, garlic, rosemary leaves, and lemon zest together in a small bowl. Rub the olive oil mixture liberally over all sides of the lamb and transfer to a baking dish, covered, along with any excess seasoned oil. Refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
With a rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat it to 425°F.
Remove lamb from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking and scrape off any excess herbs and zest (they will burn). Discard marinade. Sprinkle each rack of lamb lightly with kosher salt.
Cook the Lamb: Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If your skillet is too small to hold both racks, you can use two skillets or cook this in batches. Sear the lamb, fat-side down, in the hot oil until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the racks over and place on a sheet pan and slide into in the hot oven. Carefully stabilize the meat as you slide the sheet pan into the oven keeping the racks upright, resting on the bones.
Roast the lamb for 15 minutes at 425°F and then reduce the temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting until an instant read thermometer registers 130°F for medium rare, about 5 to 10 minutes longer. Do not overcook lamb or it will be tough.
Remove from the oven and transfer lamb to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 10 to 20 minutes while you make the sauce. Pour any accumulated juices from the baking sheet back into the same skillet you seared the lamb in.
Prepare the Sauce: Set the skillet with the meat drippings over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, about 1 minute until softened. Add the broth and wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low, stir in the mustard, lemon juice, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute more, whisking constantly. Take the pan off the heat. Add the butter, a few small pieces at a time, whisking until the butter melts it into the sauce. Repeat until you have added all the butter. Season sauce with salt to taste.
To Serve: Carve the racks between the ribs into chops and serve 2 to 3 chops per person. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve immediately with steamed fresh vegetables.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 431mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 23g
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