Chef Eric Gillish shares one of his favorite springtime recipes that’s perfect for Easter or any other seasonal meal.
By Liz Barrett Foster
As the corporate chef of Millennium Restaurant Group in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Eric Gillish is no stranger to seasonal ingredients and trending menu items. In his neck of the woods, by the time spring rolls around, locals have already had their share of turkey, beef tenderloin and prime rib. When Easter hits, many have lamb on their mind. “In Michigan, we see a lot of requests for lamb in the springtime,” says Chef Gillish. “Personally, I’ve always preferred rack of lamb.”
When cooking rack of lamb, Chef Gillish doesn’t like to overcomplicate the dish. His goat cheese-crusted rack of lamb allows the protein’s natural flavors to shine through, while also integrating a smoky element.
“With this lamb dish, you marinate the lamb before searing it on the grill, which imparts a smoky flavor,” says Chef Gillish. “After grilling, the lamb marinates overnight and then gets coated with goat cheese and roasted the next day.” The step of char grilling the lamb and letting it marinate in the charred flavor overnight adds a unique element that is superior to doing it all in the same day, according to Gillish.
As for why Chef Gillish uses gin in his marinade, he says that he discovered that, aside from gin’s natural botanical element, the alcohol helps to break down some of the wild game flavors. “Using gin also helps with moisture content,” says Chef Gillish. “If you’re spreading something like goat cheese on lamb, you don’t want a lot of oil or moisture in your marinade because it makes it harder for the goat cheese to stick.”
Speaking of sticking, Chef Gillish warms the goat cheese before spreading it on the lamb to avoid the all-to-common crust crumble that can sometimes occur as the lamb finishes in the oven. “Warming the goat cheese gives it a spreadable consistency; if you tried to put cold cheese on the lamb, it wouldn’t stick well at all,” he says.
Since lamb is a leaner meat, Chef Gillish recommends aiming for rare to mid-rare in the cook, with a temperature that reads around 120 degrees Fahrenheit when pulled from the oven. “Let it rest when it comes out of the oven and you should end up around 125 degrees and a perfect mid-rare,” he says.
And while this lamb recipe may seem simple in its execution, it does not make it any less special when presenting it to guests. Chef Gillish says he has never offered it on a regular menu. “I’ve always run this dish as a feature over a weekend or a holiday like Easter,” says Chef Gillish. “It always sells well, and it usually sells out.”
Goat Cheese-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Recipe and photo courtesy Chef Eric Gillish, ACF Chapter President Kalamazoo/Battle Creek
Yield: 1-2 servings
- 1 rack of lamb
- 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4-5 cloves fresh garlic
- 2-3 Tbsp. gin
- Sea salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- Clean and French lamb rack. Finely chop rosemary and garlic, combine with gin and season with salt and pepper. Completely rub lamb rack with rosemary, garlic, and gin mixture. Wrap rack of lamb with plastic and let marinate under refrigeration for 6-8 hours.
- Pre-heat a char grill to high (500ºF). Season lamb with salt and sear on both sides. Refrigerate to cool.
- Place goat cheese in an oven-proof dish, cover with foil and place in a cold oven. Turn on oven to 375ºF (400ºF convection), allowing goat cheese to warm while oven preheats. After 5 minutes, check goat cheese. Once warm and spreadable, carefully spread evenly over lamb rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375ºF if set higher.
- Roast lamb rack for 6-8 minutes, just until edges of goat cheese begin to brown, and pull from oven to rest.
Reduce oven temperature to 225ºF (prop door open to allow to cool down faster). Return lamb to the oven and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Once lamb rack has reached medium rare (125ºF before resting), or longer if desired, remove from the oven and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice and enjoy.