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The calls, e-mails and text messages started arriving on Monday, the frequency and desperation of the queries increasing steadily until—as I write this—I feel like an operator at the USDA poultry hotline on Thanksgiving. A panicky voicemail: "DUDE. What should I cook for the girlfriend? She doesn't like ‘brown food.'" A cryptic e-mail: "How long does steak simmer?" And my favorite, via text: "At store can't decide shrimp or prawns?"
These are my friends, most of them guys, none of them "alpha cooks," all of them admirable for courageously picking up tongs once a year in the name of love. What do I suggest the very occasional cook make for Valentine's Day? My answer rarely varies: rack of lamb. It's fast, nearly foolproof, involves flashy tableside carving and has the highest lavishness/effort ratio (guys appreciate this) of all the meat-based entrées. And you don't need a recipe: Simply rub the lamb with something-mustard, chopped herbs, bread crumbs-and roast it in a 450° oven until it's cooked the way she (not you) likes it. Underdone? Throw it back in the oven for 5 minutes. Overdone? It's still delicious. Burned? "That's how they do it in Brazil." And—if the meal should adjourn for one reason or another—lamb is equally delicious an hour or two later, at room temperature.
For those who must have a recipe, here are three fast options from our archives:
Rack of Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce
Rack of Lamb with a Mustard and Herb Crust
Rosemary Lamb Chops