A rack of lamb is a delicious, simple, and quick way to serve lamb to a crowd. Have you ever considered turning those racks into a show-stopping crown of lamb? It's called a "crown" for the circular shape it takes once assembled. This stunning dish is much easier to prepare than you may realize — you only need a sharp knife, string or butcher's twine, a can, and aluminum foil.
The racks of lamb will need to be French trimmed, cutting away excess fat on the exposed rib bones and scraping off any meat. The process is done mainly for aesthetic reasons, but you may want to ask your butcher to take care of it for you.
For the ultimate success with this dish, use fresh spring lamb, not frozen.
- 2 1-pound lamb racks (French trimmed)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary For the gravy:
- ½ cup good red wine
- 1 cup beef, lamb or chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
- Salt and pepper extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 freshly ground black pepper
- 4 sprigs rosemary
Gather your ingredients. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before using to bring it to room temperature. It will be difficult to cut and shape the lamb if it is too cold.
Cut the Lamb: Start by laying the racks fat side-up, on a cutting board in front of you. Rub the fat with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Gently rub the seasonings into the lamb to help it stick. Repeat with the second rack.
Flip the lamb over so the bones are now facing you. Using a sharp boning knife, or a strong sharp kitchen knife if you don’t have one, cut a 1-inch incision at the bottom of each bone on both racks.
Turn the lamb with the bones now facing away from you. With the same knife, make a small incision (no more than 1/2-inch) underneath the bone along the length of the rack. This incision is where you will be tying the string to secure the lamb into a circular ("crown") shape. Be extra-careful here not to cut too deep, or the meat will separate from the bone and possibly tear when you shape it.
Stand the racks up, resting the bones on the chopping board, and gently bend each into a semi-circle with the fat towards the inside. Press them together to form a circle. Measure the diameter of the inside of the crown (you don’t need to be too precise, you just need an approximate size) and find a can or jar to fit comfortably in the middle. Cover with aluminum foil. The covered jar will help to support the lamb while you tie the string.
Shape the racks around the can, fat towards the inside. With a length of string long enough to tie around the racks twice, start by slipping the string under the bones where you made the incision. Pull firmly — but not too tightly or you'll cut into the meat — and secure with a knot. With another double-length of string, tie twice around the center of the crown, pull firmly, and secure with another knot. Remove the can or jar. The crown will stand up very nicely all by itself.
Place the lamb onto a rack in a roasting tin, lightly scrunch up the foil you used to cover the can (or a fresh piece if you prefer) and pop this into the center of the crown. The heat reflected by the foil helps to cook the lamb. Wrap each of the exposed bones with a small piece of foil to prevent them from burning during cooking. Slip the sprigs of rosemary into the central string to infuse the lamb with a wonderful aroma.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Roast in the center of the oven to your preferred doneness. Using a temperature probe will give you a precise guide by measuring the internal temperature of the meat.
- Rare: 130F; medium-rare: 135F; medium: 140F; medium-well: 145F; well-done: 150F.
- If you don’t have a probe, cooking for 30 – 35 minutes for medium, reducing or adding 5 minutes each way for more or less doneness.
Once cooked, remove the lamb from the oven, cover or "tent" with a piece of foil, and leave to rest for 15 minutes while you make the gravy.
Make the Gravy: Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Once the juices start to bubble, add the red wine all at once and stir well with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck on the pan. Add the stock, bring back to a simmer, and let the sauce reduce by one-third.
Combine the flour and butter to form a thick paste. Once the sauce has reduced, turn up the heat to high, add the flour paste, and whisk until all the flour is absorbed and the sauce has thickened.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, then strain into a warmed gravy pitcher. Serve the lamb with the hot gravy, roast potatoes, and fresh vegetables. Our all-time favorite potato dish to serve with a crown roast of lamb is Gratin Dauphinoise, a classic accompaniment which can be baked in the oven once the lamb is removed.
To Stuff or Not
- The crown in this recipe is unstuffed. There are delicious recipes for stuffed versions, which make a complete dish by themselves. Filling the center of the crown with a stuffing makes judging the correct internal temperature a little tricky, so you may opt to cook the stuffing separately, filling the crown before serving, or serve it as a side.