14 Jan


In the way that this country is supposedly now “Post Racist” (although, that hasn’t really worked out so well, right?), I have become Post-Crust.

Used to be (in the nineties), chefs wanted to put a crust on everything. Then they wanted to brine everything. Now they’re into braising tough, odd bits of animals. “Low and slow!” they bellow. (I ghost-write many chef’s books, so am right in the line of fire for such trends. And bellowing.) Bellowing, and cooking, often leave me in the mood for an expertly-executed, monumental cocktail, and thus my usual mise-en-place involves preparation for a chilled adult beverage.


I still like crust. But I’m completely over trying to get pastes to stick onto bits of protein and then ending up with a blackened, charred—and bitter—crust (or the crust is still in the pan and the protein is nakedly un-seared). Worse, applying the crust pre-cooking leaves me without the lovely caramelization that results when protein hits hot metal.

So, I have gone Post Crust. In other words, I caramelize and cook my protein just as I’ve always done (making sure said protein is nice and dry so I’ll get a good sear), and then put the crust on afterwards.


Here, my protein is a small rack of lamb from our excellent butcher in Paso Robles, J & R Meats. First, my rack is patted thoroughly dry and allowed to come to room temperature in a light, olive-oil bath. Meanwhile, I assemble the ingredients for a Monumental Martini. This is not an ingredient in the crust, but I find it to be a helpful addition to the atmosphere in my kitchen, and an aid to cooking well.

Then, I season all over with French sea salt, freshly ground Tellicherry pepper, and a pinch of dried oregano brought back from Santorini. (Mindful of the capers in the crust that will eventually coat the rack, I under-season slightly.) I sear it in a 450° oven until the interior reaches 125°, mindful that it will continue to cook—a larger rack, having the same circumference, will cook in the same amount of time. At this point, you could let the rack stand at room temperature for awhile…say, half an hour—the ideal time to savor your chosen, chilled adult beverage. Here, I have executed a truly Monumental Martini. (Camera angle may lead to an impression of excessive size. Or not.)


How To Do This ar Home: In a mini-prep, pulse the following ingredients for your crust: well-drained capers, crispy panko (ideally, toasted), flat-leaf parsley leaves, a touch of minced shallot, and just enough mayonnaise to make a crumbly mix that holds together. Smear this into an even layer on the rounded side of the already-cooked rack of lamb, and run the rack under a hot broiler until the crust turns golden. Voila! A perfect crust. Of course, the crust may still fall off when you apply knife and fork, but at least by that time it’s on your plate, not in a pan.



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So, what do you think?