I've been quite obsessed with lamb ribs ever since I first ate them at Estela (prepared with charmoula and honey). This cut of meat (sold as the whole breast of lamb) is often difficult to find at New York City butchers. I have to call a few days ahead to explain what part I want and have them cut it for me (usually they grind up that meat for lamb sausages).
However, in Sydney, the lamb ribs are very common and inexpensive. I bought mine from an incredible butcher in Woollahra called Victor Churchill.
I suggest serving with steamed rice and a tart cucumber pickle to balance out the intensity of the glaze, the spice crust and fattiness of the meat.
Yield: 6 servings as a main course
4 1/2 lbs lamb ribs
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons Chinese light soy sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 Japanese cucumbers, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup long grain rice
Preheat the oven to 275F.
Season the lamb breasts liberally with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Place in a large roasting tray with 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for about 2.5 hours flipping once halfway through.
Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to slightly crush peppercorns, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds (not into a powder, just until they are cracked). Heat a small frying pan over low heat and toast the spices until fragrant, then set aside to cool.
For the glaze, combine the puree, soy sauce and the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the light brown sugar and whisk until it dissolves and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the Shaoxing wine and set aside.
Check on the lamb; when the meat is very tender and starting to pull away from the bone, take out of the oven and use a pastry brush to coat them with the glaze on both sides. Turn the broiler on and let the ribs continue to cook, adding more glaze every 5 minutes until they are nicely lacquered.
Remove the lamb from the oven and cut into individual ribs. Press the reserved spices onto the top of the ribs in an even layer and sprinkle over any leftover spices.
For the quick pickled cucumbers: combine 1 cup of water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan set over high heat, whisking to help the sugar and salt dissolve. When it reaches a boil, transfer to a heatproof bowl with the cucumbers and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
For the rice: wash the rice three times under cold running water. Strain with a colander and then put in a pot with enough water to cover the rice by 1/2". Bring to a boil and then immediately cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for 12-15 minutes before serving.