Roasted Lamb Riblets
- Servings: 4.
Lamb riblets are a lesser known cut of meat, taken from the area near the lamb shoulder and sawed off from the top of the bones that form a rack of lamb. These small rib bones don't have as much meat as we generally find with pork ribs, but they are still worth the trouble to cook because their flavor is outstanding.
Being lamb, these ribs can be cooked with a variety of seasonings, including Asian or Middle-Eastern. I particularly like the idea of glazing the ribs with tamarind sauce as done in a recipe found at Viet World Kitchen (see our link).
But for my first try at cooking riblets, I instead did a simple red wine, garlic, and rosemary marinade and finished the ribs with a brush of balsamic glaze before running them under the broiler. I was looking for flavors that would gave the rich and fatty lamb some acidic balance and it really worked.
Riblets aren't easy to find and you may need to ask your butcher to order them for you. But I've started seeing them for sale at Whole Foods; the ones I bought were from Iceland and cost $6.99 a pound. A pound and a half generously served two.
As with pork ribs, lamb ribs can be tough and how you cook them makes a difference in their tenderness. While some recipes call for braising them first in their marinade, I think this seriously compromises the flavor. Instead, roast them as you would pork ribs -- low and slow, covered with foil for the first hour and then uncovered for the second hour, turning each 30 minutes. I used a rimmed sheet pan that I lined with foil to help with clean-up; I also placed the lamb on a rack so that the fat could more easily drip off.
For a glaze, I used a slightly syrupy balsamic vinegar glaze that I had in my pantry but you can easily make such a glaze by gently boiling 2/3 cup of inexpensive balsamic vinegar until it reduces and becomes slightly thick; this takes about 10 minutes and keep an eye on it so that it doesn't boil over and destroy your stove. This is not the time to use your good 12-year old balsamic but it's a great use for the $4.99 a bottle stuff.
The result was wonderful flavor and a crispy surface, with the texture of pork ribs but all the gamey lamb taste that many of us love.
Because the flavor is rich and fatty, it's best to serve these ribs with something green or acidic. I served mine with steamed spinach tossed with a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice. A spicy cabbage or fennel cole slaw (see our recipe) would also be good.
- 3 pounds lamb riblets (this is about 2 racks)
- For the marinade:
- 3 - 4 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 4 fresh sage leaves)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons red wine
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 - 8 grinds black pepper
- 4 - 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
- For the balsalmic glaze:
- 2/3 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar boiled in a small pan until it reduces to 4 tablespoons of glaze
- Place the lamb ribs and fresh rosemary sprigs in a sealable gallon storage bag.
- In a mixing cup with a spout, combine all the marinade ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the marinade into the bag, moving it around so to coat the pieces of lamb. Seal and place in a dish in case there's leakage and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. Turn the sealed bag over a few times to be sure that the marinade is evenly dispersed.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 300° F.
- Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and place a flat rack into the pan.
- Remove the lamb ribs from their bag, letting any excess marinade drip off. Discard any remaining marinade, except the garlic cloves, which you can place into the sheet pan. Place the ribs on the rack and cover the pan with aluminum foil.
- Bake the ribs for 1 hour. Remove and discard the foil. Return the pan to the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the racks over and return to the oven for another 30 minutes (the riblets will have now cooked for 2 hours).
- Check the meat for tenderness by pulling at the edge with a fork. If it doesn't easily pull away, turn the ribs one more time and cook for another 30 minutes (a total of 2 1/2 hours) until the meat is easily falling off the bone.
- Turn on the broiler. Brush the top of the ribs with balsamic glaze and broil for about 1 to 2 minutes -- watching closely to make sure that the ribs brown and crisp but do not burn.
- Remove from the oven. Let rest 5 minutes and then cut into servings.
- Serve immediately.