I don’t remember quite when it happened, but some years ago rack of lamb passed from being a Special Occasion food to everyday status. A staple, even. I’m sure Costco’s super-dependable supply of excellent Australian lamb is a factor, as is beautifully speedy preparation. I try to always keep one in the fridge—its thick Cryovac packaging lends a long shelf life, though any individual rack doesn’t linger all that long at my house.
Simply roasted whole, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, it’s a less-than-30-minute meal. If I’ve got a little more time to spend, I like to cut the rack into chops, coat in crumbs, and cook in a hot oven to delicate crispiness. I sometimes add cheese in homage to the Marcella Hazan pan-fried chops that were the inspiration. Along with salad—I also aim to always have rinsed-and-prepped lettuce on hand for insta-salad—dinner is still done well inside of an hour.
One special truc that makes this dish possible I adapted slightly after lifting from Andrea Nguyen’s “The Banh Mi Handbook” (Ten Speed Press, 2014). (San Clemente-raised Nguyen’s new book, coming early next year, is all about pho—a subject I would indeed like to know all about.) For chicken katsu, one of the many banh mi fillings in the book, she oils and pre-browns the panko breadcrumbs used for coating. This ingenious katsu is baked in the oven rather than fried, and regular panko just wouldn’t brown appetizingly in the relatively short cooking time. Pre-browning is a brilliant solution.
The panko trick even works without added oil, which is how I do it, since I’ve taken to browning an entire large bag at one time and freezing any overage for another time—freezer treasure, making my next round of Italian-inspired Viet-cookbook Japanese-panko’d chops even quicker.
Panko’d Lamb Rib Chops
(Makes 3 servings)
1 rack of lam b, about 1 ½ pounds, trimmed and cut into chops
1 bag panko bread crumbs (use a large bag, or 2 small, if you want leftovers)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Grapeseed or olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment and spread panko in even layer. Cook 10 minutes, then stir and redistribute crumbs, repeating 2 or 3 times until uniformly golden brown, about 20 minutes total. Remove from pan and set aside, saving parchment-lined pan for chops. Turn oven up to 450 degrees. (Use convection if your oven has it.)
Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Put about 2 cups browned panko in bowl, or spread on wax or parchment paper, reserving remainder. Dredge each chop in flour, dip into egg mixture, then coat all sides in panko. Arrange chops on parchment-lined pan, leaving space between. (Can be refrigerated, uncovered, at this point.) When ready to cook, drizzle about 1 teaspoon of grapeseed or olive oil over each chop, and cook in preheated oven 7 minutes. Turn chops over, drizzle with another 1 teaspoon oil, turn pan around when replacing in oven, and continue cooking 5 to 6 minutes. Season additionally if desired.