Yield
Serves 4 to 6
Time
20 min prep, About 1 hour cooking, About 1 hour and 20 min total
Adapted from How to Cook Meat by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby.

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: About 1 hour

Total time: About 1 hour and 20 min

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

You've probably seen some version of this dish in a movie, or at least in a fancy "lifestyle" magazine. It's so showy and so expensive that its become a kind of shorthand for luxury and a certain style of elegance. It also tastes great when properly cooked.

Basically, the crown roast consists of two racks of lamb that have been cut through the backbone and the chine bone so that they can be fashioned into a circle that resembles a crown. Forming the crown is not all that easy, so you'll want to have the butcher do it for you. He will also "french" the bones, a term that simply means scraping the meat away from the ends of the bones so they look neat and pretty. (If you want to go the whole nine yards, you can even buy those little French white paper hats to put on the ends of the bones after the roast comes out of the oven.)

There are three components to our version of this soigne dish, so there s a little coordination element to the cooking. Since the sauce can easily be reheated, we think it works best to get the sauce started, then make the rice, then put the lamb in the oven. Of course, you could save a little time by making the sauce while the lamb is in the oven, which is certainly a fine way to go. But there is one good reason to get the sauce out of the way first: You're working with a very expensive cut of meat here, so you want to take a lot of care with it. Make sure you have a meat thermometer on hand, for example, because that's the only way to tell when the lamb is cooked to your liking, and start checking for doneness right after you reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcooking is the surest way to ruin this piece of meat.

Of course, how you treat this cut really depends on how fancy you want the final dish to look. If you aren't intensely concerned with presentation and want to save time, you can simply prop the two racks up against each other like hands forming a steeple with the fingers interlocking and roast them like that. This is known in the trade as an "honor guard."

Either way, rack of lamb is very easy to serve just cut between the ribs with a knife, and you'll have rib chops. They're small, so we like to serve four per person.

For a really bang-up sumptuous feast, serve this with sautéed watercress, Potatoes Anna or Au Gratin Potatoes, and a lettuce salad with homemade blue cheese dressing.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced small
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to tasste

For the Rice:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Large pinch of saffron (20 threads)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 small red onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaken frequently, until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 lamb rib crown roast (2 racks of lamb, about 1 1/2 pounds each, frenched and tied in a crown shape)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked coriander seeds (or 1 tablespoon ground coriander)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Instructions


Make the sauce:
  • 1. In a medium saute pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, and preserves and simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the mint, and season with salt and pepper.
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the rice:

  • 3. In a medium saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the saffron, coriander, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil, then add the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Stir in the almonds and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a tea towel, put the lid on, and set aside.
  • 4. While the rice is cooking, dry the lamb with paper towels, then rub it with the olive oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, coriander, and parsley and mix well, then rub this mixture all over the meat, pressing gently to be sure it adheres. Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to cook 5 to 15 minutes more for medium-rare, which is how we like it, or longer if you like it more well-done. To check for doneness, insert a meat thermometer into the dead center of the roast and let it sit for 5 seconds, then read the temperature: 120 degrees is rare, 126 degrees is medium-rare, 134 degrees is medium, 150 degrees is medium-well, and 160 is well-done.
  • 5. When the lamb is done, transfer it to a serving platter and pile the saffron rice in the center. Cover with aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. (While it is resting, you may want to reheat the sauce.)
  • 6. To serve, spoon out the rice onto the plates. Cut the butcher's twine and slice the racks into individual chops. Top the rice with the chops and pass the sauce separately.