By June Naylor
Photos by Ralph Lauer

Chef Charles Youts’ rack of lamb makes the perfect centerpiece for a holiday dinner or any celebration. A combination of fruit, herbs and Dijon provides just the right sweet, fresh and tangy elements to counter the meat’s rich earthiness. Hearty, cool-weather sides can include braised red cabbage and sauteed spaetzle. The Classic’s suggested pairing with this dish is Caravan from Darioush in Napa Valley. The wine’s blend of cabernet, merlot, malbec and cabernet franc seals the festive spirit.

Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust and Pomegranate-Rosemary Molasses

Serves 4

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 (3-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 (2½ pound) frenched lamb rack (ask your butcher to trim)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Herb blend (recipe follows)

Pomegranate-rosemary molasses Heat pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice and rosemary in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Lower heat; simmer about 15 minutes or until the juice is reduced by at least half and is syrupy. Strain into a clean container; cool completely. (It can keep covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.)

While syrup cools, bring lamb to room temperature and heat oven to 425 degrees. Season meat with salt and pepper; place in roasting pan with fat side up and ribs curving downward. Roast for 10 minutes.

Herb crust blend Place 2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts in food processor and pulse until broken into smaller pieces. Add 2 cups panko crumbs, plus 2½ teaspoons each finely chopped thyme, sage, rosemary and mint, along with ¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pulse to mix well. Set aside.

Remove lamb from oven and spread the rack with Dijon and coat with herb blend. Return to oven and roast an additional 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of meat registers 125 degrees for rare or 135 degrees for medium-rare. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice between bones.

Serve 2 to 3 chops per person, drizzled with pomegranate molasses and garnished with extra rosemary sprigs.