- Two 1 1/4-pound racks of lamb, bones Frenched
- 2 tablespoons pure olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon minced thyme
- 1 cup tawny port
- 8 fresh Mission figs, halved (see Note)
- 3/4 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the lamb with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and rub with rosemary and thyme.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet. Add the lamb, fat-side down, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the port. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the lamb for 18 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 125° for medium-rare meat.
- Transfer the racks to a carving board; cover loosely with foil. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of port and the figs to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and vinegar and simmer over moderately high heat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the racks into chops and set 4 on each plate. Top with the figs, spoon on the sauce and serve.
Quartered dried figs can be used.
Variation Use four 14-ounce lamb shoulder chops instead of the racks and preheat the oven to 400°. Follow Step 1. In Step 2, brown the chops over moderately high heat, about 4 minutes per side, then roast for 20 minutes. Transfer the chops to a platter instead of a cutting board and proceed with Step 3.
While Cabarnet Sauvignon has long been considered the classic match with lamb, there's a better wine for this particular dish: a refined Bordeaux-style Zinfandel. A big, tannic Cab might be fine with the lamb by itself but would taste clumsy with this mildly sweet sauce. On the other hand, a full-bodied, high-alcohol Zinfandel would overpower the entire dish. A Bordeaux-style Zin offers the best of both worlds: the restraint to complement the delicate, gamey flavor of lamb and the deliciously jammy sweetness to go with the fig-port sauce. Look for one from Sonoma.