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Peter Merriman


Peter Merriman
Chef/owner, Merriman’s, in Waimea, Hawai‘i
Rack of Lamb with Madeira Mushroom Sauce

All Photos:Oliver Konig

"Some fat is not bad; lots of fat is bad," says Peter Merriman as he put a rack of lamb into a marinade. "I like to leave that last layer of fat. It helps to keep it moist and it gives the lamb more flavor."


For Merriman, moderation and portion size are the keys to healthy eating, so he's not afraid to use some oil and a little bit of butter in his mushroom sauce. "A tablespoon of butter for four people is not much," says Merriman. "That little bit of richness will make it satisfying."

Merriman describes his cooking as "country style." "I like to emphasize the natural flavors of the ingredients versus the technique of the chef," he says. "Regional ingredients have the freshest and best flavors and quality. I like to braise and roast rather than sauté, to spend time developing flavors and turning it into something beautiful."

Like many others these days, Merriman has cut down on his carbohydrate intake. "I like low carb but not low fat. You can still have great flavor and healthy food with a little fat."

Rack of Lamb with Madeira Mushroom Sauce

Serves four to six

2 racks of lamb
Salt and pepper to taste


1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

For the lamb sauce:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 cup Madeira wine
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Place lamb in a shallow pan or sealable bag. Pour marinade over lamb, cover or seal and refrigerate until ready to grill (at least a few hours or up to 24 hours).

Make sure to grill all the edges of the lamb rack.

Heat a grill until coals are hot; if using a gas grill, heat over high. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove lamb from marinade, season with salt and pepper. Sear the racks of lamb over high heat on the grill; sear all sides so that there are grill marks on the lamb. When the lamb is seared, place in a roasting pan and into a hot oven. Cook for about 12 minutes or until desired doneness is achieved (135° for medium rare). Remove from oven and let stand for several minutes.

In a small sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook for about one minute, stirring so they do not brown. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to soften. Remove from pan.

Immediately add Madeira to the pan and reduce to about one-third of its original volume. Stir in butter, blending quickly. Return shallots and mushrooms to pan. Turn off heat. Season with salt and pepper. Carve lamb into chops, reserving the juices and adding them to the sauce. Serve lamb alongside salad.

Greens with Blue Cheese and Green Apple Vinaigrette

Salad greens of your choice
(see suggestions)
Salt and pepper to taste

Green apple vinaigrette:

1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup champagne or white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
2 green apples, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 ounces Stilton or other blue-veined cheese

Place first seven ingredients in a blender and turn blender on. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and blend well. Pour into a bowl and add apples.

Toss greens with salt and pepper then toss with dressing. Add crumbled cheese and toss.

Chef Merriman's tips:

For the greens, use a variety of lettuces or a mesclun. Add sliced cucumbers, celery or radishes. Consider blanched green beans, snap peas, snow peas or asparagus. Add whole leaves of cilantro and basil to your salad greens for a more interesting salad.

Racks of lamb usually come "frenched," meaning the fat has been trimmed and bones exposed. There's usually one last layer of fat remaining, which helps to keep the lamb moist during cooking.

Cut rack of lamb into single chops; three chops will do nicely as a serving. If you are using American rack of lamb, two chops will be an ample serving.

Grilling: Always start with a hot grill and cook the side you want to present on the plate first. You can mark (sear) the lamb ahead of time and finish it in the oven just before serving.

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