Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto

I came across this recipe for Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto a few years back in Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Grilling, a must-have cookbook with many delicious recipes to choose from.  

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This dish was a definite hit with my family.  The recipe updates the classic combination of mint and lamb by creating an easy pesto to season the meat.  Coated with a final layer of breadcrumbs, the lamb develops a toasty, incredibly flavorful crust.  The pesto is made with mint that I grow in my garden, so it is nice and fresh.  For the lamb, I use a New Zealand rack of lamb, which is smaller, and I prefer to use panko breadcrumbs.

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Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto Crust

Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto

Ingredients:

For Mint Pesto:

1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves

2/3  cup lightly packed fresh parsley sprigs

¼ cup pine nuts

3 cloves garlic, freshly chopped (optional)

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt

pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the Lamb:

2 ½ cups panko or coarse dry bead crumbs

2 racks of lamb, 1 ¼ – 1 ½ lb each

Makes 4 to 5 Servings

To make the mint pesto, combine the mint, parsley, pine nuts, garlic (if using), lemon zest and juice, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped, then process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice, until a coarse puree forms.  With the motor running, pour in the olive oil and process until it is well-blended, 5- 10 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Let the pesto stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before using.

Spread the breadcrumbs on a large plate. Smear the pesto over the lamb rack, covering all sides, then dredge the lamb in the crumbs to cover the pesto coating. Pat extra bread crumbs onto any areas that are not coated.

Place lamb racks on their sides on a grill rack away from the heat elements. Cover the grill and cook, turning the racks over once until nicely browned and crusty, 12 to15 minutes per side for medium rare, or until done to your liking.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the rack away from the bone.  It should register 130 degrees.  The temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees while resting.

Transfer the lamb racks to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.  Cut the racks into chops.  Serve with your favorite vegetable and salad.  Enjoy!