If you enjoy lamb, you may, like so many people, just be ordering it from a menu and not cooking it at home.
For those who do prepare lamb at home once in a while, the most popular dishes are Roast Leg of Lamb, Lamb Chops or Lamb Stew.
However, one of the most glamorous and elegant ways to prepare lamb is the Crown Rack of Lamb. Actually, it’s more of a preparation method than a recipe, but it’s a dish you don’t see prepared that often for a couple of reasons.
1. A Crown Rack is prepared primarily for “show,” meaning it essentially is just a roasted rack of lamb. For an everyday meal, it makes no sense to go to all that time and trouble.
2. Because it feeds at least four people, which means you’re likely making it for company, it’s not something you need to make that large. One lamb rack will do just fine since a Crown Rack requires at least two racks or about 16 to 18 bones/chops.
Now, so that you don’t feel totally overwhelmed by the prospect of having to play butcher and spend all that time cutting, trimming and tying your lamb into a crown, Nino’s butchers can prepare all of that for you so that all YOU have to do is follow the seasoning and roasting directions below.
I would recommend that you place an order with our butcher shop several days ahead so that we have it ready to go with your name on it when you stop in.
If, however, you’re up to the task of doing it yourself, here’s how you make a Crown Rack from two racks of lamb.
You will need a sharp boning or kitchen knife and the following:
2 8 to 9 Bone Racks of Lamb
1 Roll of Tin Foil (Optional)
1 Roll of Butcher’s Twine (Or approximately 4 feet total)
1. Basically, you’re creating a circular standing roast with a hole in the center. If you buy a rack that is NOT “Frenched,” meaning the meat and fat has not been cut and scraped away from the top 2 inches of each separate bone, you will need to do that by simply cutting around each bone—2 inches down from the tip—and scraping the meat and fat away until all you have is a clean, exposed bone. It’s not hard to do; it just takes a little time.
2. Next, if your rack has an excessive amount of fat covering the meat, you’ll want to shave it off to leave just a little less than ¼”.
3. Because you’re going to need to bend each rack into a half-circle to make your crown shape, you’re going to need to make some very shallow ¼” cuts between the bones on the outside of each rack. The outside would be the side opposite the fat and meat.
4. Cut your 4 feet of butcher’s twine into two 2-foot pieces.
5. Place each of the two racks face to face (meat sides facing each other), and stand them so that the bones are facing up.
6. Loosely lasso one piece of the butcher’s twine 1 inch up from the base and fully around both racks.
7. Place one hand at each end of the racks, and press each hand (while holding the racks) towards one another. This should force each rack to bend into a half-circle and together create a full circle of about 9” in diameter, with a hole in the middle.
8. This is the tricky part because you’ll either need another pair of hands to pull the butcher’s twine tightly about the newly formed crown, or you’ll have to hold one end against your waist while you bind the rack with the twine on the opposite side with both hands.
9. Use the 2nd piece of twine to create another lasso and tie about 2 to 3 inches up from the base (just below where the exposed Frenched bones begin).
10.The foil is used for one or two purposes. Minimally, you should consider wrapping foil around the exposed Frenched bones to prevent them from burning or getting too dark in color. You should remove this foil about halfway through the roasting process.
11. The second thing you can use the foil for is to (optionally) pack down in the center, which will do one of two things:
a. Keep the center shape round.
b. Prevent the meat (which is facing the center) from drying out or overcooking.
Again, Nino’s Butcher’s will be happy to prepare a Crown Rack of Lamb for you so that all you have to do is add the wrap of foil to the bones, season and roast.
Additional “glam” for your lamb.
Since a Crown Rack of Lamb looks so spectacular, you might want to add that special touch by capping each bone with the traditional booties, those little, frilly paper chef hats you see in the magazines.
We sell those too!
Seasoning and Cooking Instructions
for a Crown Rack of Lamb
Before placing your roast in the oven, I recommend:
1. An oven temperature of 325 F.
2. If possible, place your Crown Rack on a roasting grate or rack within the roasting pan. This will help to increase the circulation of the heat evenly around your roast and keep the bottom of the lamb rack from simmering in the juices.
3. Lightly spray or brush the roast with vegetable or olive oil, and then season it with any dry herbs or seasonings you wish. The most common are garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme and ground black pepper. The herbs can either be in dry or fresh form and should be applied to the meat side only. Salting the roast before roasting is discouraged because salt tends to draw moisture away from the meat. It is preferred that you lightly salt the chops once they are cut away from the rack—after cooking and just before serving.
4. It is recommended that you gauge your meat’s doneness by actual internal temperature of the meat rather than length of roasting time at any particular oven temperature. I encourage you to purchase an insta-read thermometer (under $10.00). These thermometers do not stay in the meat during cooking but rather are inserted into the center of the meat (away from any bones) when the roast is nearing the minimal cooking time as gauged by a standard of 30 minutes per pound of roast (for medium doneness). Thus, you would begin to test the internal temperature of a 3-lb. Crown Rack of Lamb slightly before 90 minutes of cooking at 325 F.
5. The lamb rack will continue to cook an additional 5 degrees more after you remove it from your oven. Therefore, remove the roast from the oven when it is 5 degrees cooler than you intend it to be, and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
Approximate FINAL doneness temperatures for lamb:
- 125 – Rare
- 135 – Medium-rare
- 145 – Medium
- 150 to 155 – Medium-well
- 160 and up – Well done