Rack of Lamb with Sun-Dried Tomato Balsamic Jus and Mozzarella Risotto Cakes

posted in: Cooking, Experience, Savory, Traveling | 18

Whew, that title is a bit of a mouthful!  Almost as big a bite as you’ll want to take of the lamb and risotto cakes once they’re in front of you on the plate.  I knew I wanted to create something really special to nosh on during our “glamping” trip since all the apple-wood we could ever use would be provided for our campfire pleasure and food cooked over apple-wood is a rare treat.  I figured a muskier meat would take on the smoked flavor of the wood, so lamb was the natural choice given that my brother-in-law Paris hasn’t yet sent over any venison from his bow-hunting spoils this season.   

I wanted to create something that would be elegant in a rustic setting, yet relatively simple to pull together without the arsenal of my kitchen at hand, so lamb on risotto cakes fit the bill.  As it turns out, supplies for “glamping” turned out to be much the same as supplies for regular old camping, so I wanted a one-stop-shop where I could pick up everything from toilet paper to parchment paper.  Normally in anticipation of a big feast I head down to the market, but because I needed such a variety, Seattle’s best grocery store fit the bill better. 

I like to walk the aisles of Metropolitan Market for inspiration, and since there was a sale on mozzarella, I decided the best way to serve the risotto I had already planned to make in a way befitting the outdoor setting would be to wrap it around mozzarella balls.  That way I could simply fry it up over the campfire, and the gooey ooze of mozzarella peeking out would add to the ambience. 

You may have noticed from previous posts that I have had a bit of a problem with tomatoes this year- it’s the best problem you can have though- there are just so many of them!  A few days ago we set about to reduce our stocks by oven-drying them, since we live in Seattle and there really is very limited opportunity for sun-drying.  I could not have been happier with the result, and plan to dry another batch the next time it’s really chilly.  My fresh bounty of oven-dried tomatoes provided the glue between the lamb and the risotto- I think it’s important to have a little complementary flavor in the starch and protein on the plate.  For this reason I used the tomatoes in the lamb jus as well as in the final stirring of the risotto, much like you use fat from the prime rib in Yorkshire pudding or chicken drippings in dumplings for chicken and dumplings.  As a final touch of color to the plate, packets of haricots verts wrapped in leek greens (à la Chris Kastner of CK’s fame) make a lovely addition. 

Since we were cooking by campfire and good smells travels almost as fast as good news, we attracted the attention of some fellow “glampers” Cath and Beth from the Olympic Peninsula.  It was wonderful to share a meal with them by campfire and starlight as they regaled us with tales about Cath’s crazy in-laws.  They were in the Yakima Valley collecting hundreds of pounds of fruit so they could take it all back home, can for days, and lock themselves in the kitchen so as to minimize interaction with said in-laws.  Well played! 


Rack of Lamb with Sun-Dried Tomato Balsamic Jus

Note: While I cooked this over an apple-wood campfire on a cooking grate, you could also pan sear it then pop into a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes for medium rare. 

Serves 2

  • 1- 6 bone frenched rack of lamb (slightly more than a pound)
  • fleur de sel and pepper
  • 2- 3” sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup chicken stock plus ¼ cup additional reserved
  • ¼ cup red wine


  1.  Pat lamb dry and rub with salt and pepper.  Blend rosemary, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and ½ cup chicken stock until well-combined.  Pour over lamb, seal, and marinate at least 12 up to 24 hours. 
  2. Remove the lamb from marinade reserving marinade.  Sear the lamb on all sides over a high flame in a sautee pan.  Place the lamb directly on the cooking grate over a medium flame, cover with a shield or pot large enough to fit the lamb but small enough to retain some of the smoke of the fire, and grill slowly to allow the smoke from the wood to impart its flavor into the lamb.  This will take about 15-20 minutes for medium rare, but you’ll want to check frequently as woodfires are difficult to regulate consistency.  Allow the lamb to rest five minutes while you’re finishing the jus, then carve so that each person gets 3 medallions. 
  3. Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small sauce pan, and reduce over  medium heat for five minutes.  Add reserved chicken stock and red wine, and continue to reduce an additional 10-15 minutes until you have a slightly thickened jus. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed and pour over lamb and risotto cakes. 

Mozzarella Risotto Cakes

Serves 2 with ample leftovers

  • 1 tbsp oil from sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped fine
  • 1 cup washed arborio rice
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock kept in a saucepan on a low simmer
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes chopped fine
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 8-10 balls of mozzarella- ciliegine- sized (It is important that you use ciliegine so the risotto cakes will be the right size and the mozzarella will not ooze out. If you cannot find ciliegine and you are slicing mozzarella, bear in mind that ciliegine are the size of cherries.)
  1.  Heat oil and butter in a medium  heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and arborio and stir vigorously until each rice grain has been thoroughly heated and coated with oil- about 3 minutes.  Take care not to let rice grains burn on bottom of pan.
  2. Add reserved chicken stock one cup at a time, stirring constantly.  After adding each cup, stir and wait for the stock to be completely absorbed by the rice before adding the next cup.  This process should take 15-20 minutes, and once you are between 3 and 4 cups, you will want to check the consistency of the risotto.  You want to stop adding stock once your risotto is al dente. 
  3. Remove from heat.  Stir in cream, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and parmigiano and allow to cool completely.
  4. Once cooled, take a ball of mozzarella in hand and wrap it in 3-4 tbsps of risotto, enough that a round cake forms without any mozzarella peeking through.  Repeat until you have used all yor risotto.
  5. Fry on both sides over medium heat in buttered fryng pan until heated through- about a minute per side.   Serve under rack of lamb with sun-dried tomato jus. 
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  18. Rita Kinuggin

    Sounds yummy.
    What wine did you serve with this wonderful recipe?

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