Elegant dishes like this crown roast demand the highest quality of cuts. It is often hard to find an entire rack of lamb in large retail outlets, so find a local lamb producer or local butcher who can locate and then prepare the cuts for you to ensure success. Lamb produces and butchers who carry local lamb are listed on the Pick Tennessee Products website under “Meats.”
Important: Have your butcher “French” (clean the rib/stem/handles) the ribs and stitch/tie to form the 2 racks of lamb ribs into one crown. A thick rind of fat on the ribs should form a sort of lining on the inside of the crown.
Crown Roast Rack of Katahdin Lamb
2 racks locally raised lamb, 6 to 8 ribs each, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 lbs each
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped (dried will work too)
2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves (same here)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with the rack placed in the middle or lower half of the oven. Do not place in bottom rack.
Crush garlic and place all ingredients except lamb in a bowl and combine into a paste. With your hand, rub paste vigorously and liberally into all visible areas of the meat: over-under, sides, everywhere. You may even need to make more paste. Place crown roast on slotted or perforated roasting pan, and form a ball of aluminum foil large enough to firmly fit inside the center of the crown. This keeps the crown from collapsing or changing shape while roasting. Using a probe type meat thermometer, roast until interior temperature of meat is 135 degrees, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from oven cover roast with aluminum foil and allow to rest from 15 to 20 minutes.
2 cups Basmati rice
4 cups water
1 tsp whole saffron theads
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
1/3 cup dried apricots chopped fine
1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried sour cherries (if cherries, chop fine)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 Tbsps olive oil
Add saffron threads to 1 cup warm water and allow to soak, set aside.
Over low to medium heat, toast pine nuts in a DRY frying pan. Pine nuts will burn easily, so shake the pan continuously until nuts are evenly and lightly golden all over and place in a set aside bowl. Next, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden and place in bowl with set aside pine nuts.
To cook the rice, use a large, heavy pot with tight fitting lid. Add rice plus 1 Tbsp olive oil into the otherwise dry pot. Stir or shake, making sure all rice is coated with oil, then heat over medium heat. As you continue stirring or shaking the pot back and forth, the solid, opaque rice will become translucent, and then back to opaque again. At that point, add saffron-water mix plus the remaining 3 cups of water, with a heavy pinch of salt Turn heat up to high, cover and bring to a boil.
As soon as the rice and water begin to boil, turn heat down to very low. Add pine nuts and onions, raisins, apricots, cranberries(or cherries) cumin and cinnamon and stir well to combine. Replace the cover and allow to low simmer for about 20 minutes (check occasionally to make sure rice does not use up water and stick to bottom). When the water has been absorbed and the rice surface is smooth except for uniform holes or pockets, the rice is done and can be removed from heat. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Remove aluminum foil ball from roast and transfer roast to serving platter. Fill the center of the crown with Safrindian rice. Serves 12-16.