This is by far the best lamb that I've ever had, and it might very well be one of my favorite meat preparations of all time. It's hard to put into words what it's like taking a bite into one of these juicy lamb chops, but it's a profoundly pleasurable experience in the same category of pleasures as uninhibited sex, standing stage-side at a rock concert, and shredding rubber around a racetrack in a Ferrari.
As you bite through the crust, your taste buds and olfactory senses light up as they're stimulated by salt and smoke, followed by pungent garlic punctuated with cumin and black pepper, which eventually gives way to a creamy toasty pistachio flavor accented with mint and just a hint of smoke. The contrast of the piquant exterior with the sweet juicy meat just beneath is orally stimulating, and a dip in the pool of sweet, tart pomegranate molasses brings the next bite to another level.
To achieve this carnivorous nirvana, the whole rack of lamb is cured with a crust of pistachios, garlic, mint, cumin and other spices before being tea-smoked and then roasted. It may sound like a substantial chore, but aside from sitting in the fridge overnight, it really doesn't take a lot of time to prepare. I'd be lying to you if I told you it was easy, but before you get intimated by the curing and smoking, consider this, I made this inside a tiny apartment on the thirteenth floor of a high-rise. If you're wondering how I managed to smoke something in an apartment building without having the fire brigade axing down my door, I'll tell you.
It involves putting sugar (the starter) with tea (the aromatic) in the bottom of a heavy duty pan, and heating it until the sugar starts to burn. This in turn sets the tea leaves smoking, releasing their aroma and depositing it on the surface of your roast.
It's an awesome technique that allows you to infuse a smoky flavor into your food indoors, but before you try it, you need to be a aware of a few things. While a tight fitting lid helps hold most of the smoke in the pot, some will inevitably escape, especially when you open the lid. If you have a smoke detector anywhere near your kitchen it will almost certainly go off. Also, if you don't have an externally venting range hood, I don't recommend you try this.
You'll also want to use a pot that is safe to use at very high temperatures (never use teflon coated pans for smoking). While the aluminum foil is there to keep the burning sugar and tea away from the surface of your pan, the high temperatures involved will discolor stainless steel. I use a non-enamled cast iron dutch oven with a metal steamer rack insert, but an uncoated wok with steamer insert should work as well.
- 6 cloves garlic (about half a head peeled)
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 40 grams shelled pistachios (about ⅓ cup)
- 720 grams rack of lamb
- 2 tablespoons loose leaf tea
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- pomegranate molasses (for serving)
- To make the pistachio crust, add the garlic, mint, olive oil, salt, cumin, fennel, coriander, and black peppercorns to the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is roughly ground. You'll need to scrape down the sides of the work-bowl a few times.
- Add the pistachios and pulse until the mixture is a coarse gravelly texture.
- Spread the pistachio mixture all over the rack of lamb, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
- Line a cast iron dutch oven with aluminum foil. Add the tea and sugar then place a wire rack over on top to keep the rack of lamb elevated off the tea and sugar. With an externally venting hood running on high, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and heat over high until you see smoke coming out from the pot.
- Quickly add the rack of lamb, and close the lid. Smoke the lamb for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, then transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the lamb has reached 135 degrees F (57 C) for medium rare (about 20-25 minutes).
- Remove the lamb from the oven and transfer to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing the lamb chops between the bones.
- Serve with pomegranate molasses.
A very lovely recipe, wish I had a rack of lamb in storage to try it out today! I quite often tea smoke duck breasts before roasting, so delicious, also did it with crashed coffee beans instead of tea. Never try this without a really good vending hood (really good) running at max. level - the smoke smell tends to linger on and on (had this experience once)... but it is worth it.
Love the look of that pistachio crust! And the smoking must add such a glorious dimension to the lamb.
Angela Roberts says
Hmm I love the pistachio mixture over the lamb rack, not sure about the smoking, but your description of how good this tasted was very enticing.
This looks and sounds wonderful! Great idea for indoor smoking with tea. Just to clarify one thing, the smoking in step 5 is done on the stove top, and not in the oven, right? Cheers! Dan
Marc Matsumoto says
Thanks! Yep the smoking is done on the stove top.
Could this recipe/process be applied to other types of meat? I assume it's designed to work particularly well with lamb but some of my friends aren't big on lamb.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Jon, you're right, I planned this with lamb in mind, but you could theoretically do this with a half chicken, pork, or beef. You'll obviously have to adjust roasting times and temperatures depending on the meat you use.
I don't care if the smoke detector goes off--I am making this!
Looks delicious and beautiful love ur recipe Marc will sure try it Thank u
Kathy Stroup says
LOL, Marc! I started blushing reading your intro. I think I need this in my life!🤭 There is no meat I love more than well-prepared lamb, and I do have ways I love to cook it. I haven't tried this smoking method, but I'm going to soon. I usually cook lamb over oak coals, but that's a whole ordeal. This is so much easier!
Marc Matsumoto says
😆 I don't remember writing this! 💃🎸🏎️ I do remember this being very tasty though. I haven't done any tea smoking lately because I've had other options to infuse smoke, but I might have to try it again now.