I was obviously on Santa’s nice list this year. Not only did he drop off Mariah Carey’s new book and a Mariah Merry Christmas T-shirt, he also felt the need to deliver one of the hot new gadgets in the cooking world.

What did I find under the tree but a Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill with 4-Quart Air Fryer, a big kitchen contraption that also roasts, bakes and dehydrates — a Christmas miracle, truly. What furthers this mystery is I happened to have several racks of lamb waiting to be used, so imagine the surprise of Santa’s timing aligning perfectly with an eager rack of lamb. An amazing coincidence, I know.

I already have a couple of Ninja products, so I was familiar with the brand. An air fryer was something we have been eyeing at home, and with Ninja’s nifty 5-in-1 contraption, it seemed like the way to go. So far, I’ve only explored the air fryer function, and I’ll tackle the other functions and their intricacies in the coming weeks. But air frying? I’m a convert.

Air fryers started gaining in popularity in the past couple of years with claims of “air frying” and producing food with a lower fat content. Air fryers are basically countertop convection ovens that use a heating element, hot air and a small amount of oil to cook fried foods. The past few days have been an air-fried extravaganza at my house with minimal complaints. Tater tots? Crispy, crunchy and hot. Chicken strips? A perfect browned crust. Frozen egg rolls? I feel like I went to Pagoda in North Pole. And when it comes to these two lamb recipes, there are no complaints at all.

Both of these are easy, taste great, and make for a wonderful presentation. They’re extravagant enough to show off for a nice meal, and the cooking and prep time is an hour, tops.

You can find racks of lamb in various Fairbanks grocery stores. Most racks of lamb contain eight ribs, and most come frenched already. Frenched just means the meat, membranes and fat that hold the individual rib bones together have been removed, ensuring a more even cooking time and a cleaner appearance when serving. There are plenty of online tutorials for frenching racks of lamb if you can’t find any at your local store. 

Both of these racks cooked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, producing a medium lamb chop. You want to be sure to let the lamb rest covered on a platter for 10 minutes before serving so the juices redistribute. If you want medium rare, set your air fryer for 18 minutes. For medium well lamb chops, set your air fryer for 22 minutes but you run the risk of drying out the lamb by cooking it past medium.

And a meal like this — a nice holiday meal for two — certainly calls for wine. For the Garlic-Herbed Air Fried Rack of Lamb, I opted for a B. Leighton 2015 Gratitude, a red blend from Yakima Valley, Washington, that’s 70% mourvèdre, 25% grenache and 5% syrah. You want a red that stands up to the herbs and garlic but doesn’t overpower the mild lamb, and that’s where this Bandol-style red blend comes in. It’s a good match. For the Parmesan-Crusted Air Fried Rack of Lamb, I went with a Turley 2018 Fredericks Zinfandel from Sonoma. The zinfandel grape is a nice partner for the bold Parmesan as it’s a bigger red than the B. Leighton blend.

Garlic-Herbed Air Fried Rack of Lamb

After surfing air fried rack of lamb recipes all weekend, and after the Parmesan-crusted rack of lamb maiden voyage, this is what I came up with for an extra rack of lamb I had. Honestly, I enjoyed it better than the Parmesan-crusted lamb.  Gary Black

One 8-rib rack of lamb, frenched (1¼ to 1½ pounds)

6 big garlic gloves

1/2 cup fresh thyme

1/2 cup fresh rosemary

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nonstick cooking spray, for the air fryer basket and lamb

In a small chopper, blender or food processor, pulse the garlic, thyme and rosemary until it is small and chunky. With the blade running, drizzle in the olive oil.

Sit the rack of lamb on a plate and season both sides with a couple of hits of salt and pepper. Smear the garlic, thyme, rosemary and olive oil mixture on both sides of the lamb. Let the lamb sit at room temperature for one hour. 

Preheat a 4- or 6-quart air fryer to 375 degrees, then spray the basket with cooking spray. Place the lamb, fat-side up, into the basket. Spray the top of the lamb with cooking spray. Air-fry the lamb until crust is crisp and deep golden brown and meat is desired doneness, about 18 minutes for medium rare, 20 minutes for medium and 22 minutes for medium-well. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Once the lamb has rested, slice between the bones into individual chops and serve warm.

Parmesan-Crusted Air Fried Rack of Lamb

This recipe calls for a 6-quart air fryer but my 4-quart air fryer worked fine. The rack of lamb fit perfectly.  Gary Black

One 8-rib rack of lamb, frenched (1¼ to 1½ pounds)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 large clove garlic, grated

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Nonstick cooking spray, for the air fryer basket and lamb

Allow the rack of lamb to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

Rub the rack of lamb on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then season with 2 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper. Set aside on a large plate.

Combine the Parmesan, panko, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, grated garlic, thyme and rosemary in a large shallow bowl or pie plate. Add the lamb and firmly press the Parmesan mixture onto the meat in an even layer.

Preheat a 4- or 6-quart air fryer to 375 degrees, then spray the basket with cooking spray. Place the lamb, fat-side up, into the basket. Spray the top of the lamb with cooking spray. Air-fry the lamb until crust is crisp and deep golden brown and meat is desired doneness, about 18 minutes for medium rare, 20 minutes for medium and 22 minutes for medium-well. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Once the lamb has rested, slice between the bones into individual chops and serve warm.

 Adapted from a Food Network recipe.

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.