Crown Roast of Lamb is a beautiful, impressive, delicious and easy to make dish if your butcher is a gifted guy. It is my choice of main course for the New Years Eve this year, not just because it will wow my guests but also because it is marinated the day before and all you need to do before dinner is put it in the oven for half an hour, let it rest and serve. Easy peasy, like my kids would say:) Now, in the western hemisphere rack of lamb is an expensive cut, but once you buy it is beautifully cleaned, ‘frenched’ and all ready to cook. In Nairobi however, lamb is more affordable but I need to do all the butcher’s work myself. If you find yourself in my situation, there are plenty of very useful youtube video on how to clean and ‘french’ a rack of lamb, and how to make your paper frills for the roast, see the note below. Get your kids involved by asking them to make the frills for the Crown Roast, my ten year old makes mine and enjoys it.
2 racks of lambs, 8-9 ribs each, 1kg each
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbs corn oil
5 garlic cloves, smashed but not chopped
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary plus more for decoration
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Marinate the meat and build the crown: Once you have your 2 racks of lamb cleaned and frenched wash them and pat them dry. Rub them with the oil and sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the two racks next to each other and tie the 2 end ribs with butchers’ twine. Then create the crown by bending the two racks in a semicircle and tying the other two end ribs together, as seen on the picture.
You can either use a ring shaped cake pan (bundt pan) as Alton Brown suggests or a 10 inch round baking sheet with a empty oz. can in the middle which will help the crown roast hold its shape while marinating in the fridge and later in the oven. I use a ring shaped pan. Transfer the crown to the pan and throw in the smashed whole garlic cloves, the rosemary and the thyme. Smashing the garlic, releases its flavors and makes it easier to remove before serving. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 – 24 hours. If you don’t have 12 hours, marinate and let the sit at room temperature to 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 175C/375F.
Roast: If your rack is perfectly frenched and there is no meat at all left on the ribs, you can simply put the crown in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes for medium rare. If not wrap each rib in aluminum foil to avoid burning, bitter burnt bits of meat can spoil this entire dish.
Use a thermometer to check the doneness of the meat after cooking for 30 minutes, you need 63C/145F for medium rare or 71C/160F for medium.
Let the meat rest: Remove the pan from the oven, cover it foil and let it rest for 15-20 minute, don’t worry it won’t get cold.
Serve: Remove the garlic, rosemary and thyme sprigs, transfer to a serving platter. Remove the foil and put a paper frill on each rib, decorate your crown roast with fresh rosemary and serve. Have a cutting board and a knife ready and carve the lamb on the table.
Wine suggestion: Crown Roast of Lamb is best served with a full bodied, vintage wine such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.