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.
For the Rice:
Make the rice: