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Crown Roast of Lamb, stuffed or unstuffed?

k
Kevin Andrew Murphy Nov 17, 2007 08:45 AM

Last night I went to my local grocery store's butcherette--you know, the lone full service meat case to make up for all the many cases of shrink-wrapped meat. I was looking for lambchops, which they only had vacuum sealed from Australia in quantities larger than I wanted, but there, on display in the butcherette case was a full crown roast of lamb looking rather lost and confused as it sat there behind a tag reading "Mozarella Stuffed Meatballs $4.99 lb."

Me: I'm certain you're not selling it for the same price as the stuffed meatballs, but just how much is the crown roast?

Apprentice Butcher comes around the case, peers at the tag in confusion, then goes back behind the counter, looking baffled and begins to consult the Big Butcher Book of Prices.

Apprentice Butcher: I've never seen one of those before. They just put it in the case yesterday. I don't know what it's called.

Me: It's a crown roast of lamb.

Crown Roast of Lamb: Help me! I'm among commoners! They put me next to the ground beef and call me 'meatballs'!" *SOB*

Apprentice Butcher continues to consult the Big Butcher Book of Prices. Enter Chad, Journeyman Butcher.

Junior Butcher: Chad! What's the price on the crown roast of lamb? It's not in the book.

Chad, Journeyman Butcher, peers at the case and spies $4.99lb. tag.

Chad, Journeyman Butcher: Well, if that's the price it's marked in the case, that's the price we have to sell it to him for.

Me: Sure. I'll take it for $4.99 a pound.

Crown Roast of Lamb: Hallelujah! My freedom has been bought! Wait, why does my tag still call me stuffed meatballs? Oh the indignity!

This is how I came to be possessor of a crown roast of lamb for $12.77 total, which I'm going to cook up for guests tomorrow and I may even make or see if I can purchase the old-fashioned paper frills you're supposed to put on the ends of the bones.

Here's my dilemma: My cookbooks mention that crown roast of lamb can be cooked stuffed or unstuffed, and if cooked unstuffed, is then stuffed as part of plating for presentation, usually with cooked peas. My question: Which tastes better?

Other related problem: The guests. The guests are not quite of the "Yargh! Meat must be well done! All color is bad!" school but they do prefer more medium-well and have only eaten lamb a couple times in their life (strange as this may sound). The cookbooks however mention that crown roast is best served rare, and I prefer rare myself.

How much more well done (I'm thinking of aiming for medium) will the smaller chops in the crown be?

Anyone have any experiene cooking these who could give an opinion?

  1. k
    Kevin Andrew Murphy Nov 18, 2007 09:03 PM

    Well, dinner party went amazingly well. Went with the sainted James Beard's 1965 Home & Garden recipe over at Epicurious for crown roast of lamb done with black pepper and tarragon. Beard gave directions to cook it to pink, and it was wonderfully pink, sitting right on the border between rare and medium. Guest were very pleased and converted to the pink side of the Force.

    Also, rather than cook it with peas, went with a mixture of green "haricot vert" beans and yellow wax beans, done in butter and finished with parsley. Looked spectacular spilling out of the crown and scattered around the platter below. And did gravy with wild mushrooms with individual Yorkshire puddings as well as a second pan with the more traditional cut-up Yorkshire for anyone who wanted seconds.

    The sainted James recommended two chops a person, but I was glad we had the sixteen chops, since that allowed seconds for those who wanted them. Have five chops leftover, which is perfect for a dinner for two in a couple days.

    Thanks everyone for their advice.

    1. k
      Kevin Andrew Murphy Nov 18, 2007 10:20 AM

      Thanks. I just took it out to get it to room temp, which was advice I also found in James Beard's 1965 era recipe over on Epicurious, which I'm probably going to use since I've got access to fresh Russian tarragon. The rice sounds very good, but would be overkill with the Yorkshire pudding too, so I think I'm going to just do the classic peas with a few bits of onion thrown in and maybe a mushroom or two. It'll look spectacular and the flavors won't clash.

      I'll tell everyone how it turned out.

      1. j
        JudiAU Nov 17, 2007 06:23 PM

        I would unstuff it and possibly untie it. I know the fancy presentation is fun but you might be able to better yourself and your guests by cooking the meat to different temps.

        1. TrishUntrapped Nov 17, 2007 04:36 PM

          I'd cook it unstuffed because I think it cooks better. The Yorkshire pudding sounds great. I may get hammered for this but a very nice thing to put in the middle is some Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice that is cooked with some dried apricots and raisins added. It's a nice match.

          One tip for cooking - have the roast at room temp before cooking, again, the meat will cook better generally.

          1. k
            Kevin Andrew Murphy Nov 17, 2007 12:53 PM

            Dot--

            It's the Safeway in Almaden, south end of San Jose, south end of Silicon Valley.

            After finding that the cookware store at the local mall had gone bust, I hit Lunardi's, the fanciest of the local grocery stores. The butchers at the full service meat counter there (who I usually buy all my sausages from, including the ones in tonight's cassoulet) took pity on me and gave me the frills I needed. I also saw the big sister of tomorrow's dinner: Crown Roast of Lamb, cut to order, $3 a chop.

            I've got 16 chops for tomorrow.

            Joan--

            I didn't want to save the lamb any more than two days and didn't want to freeze it, since I could tell it was beautiful fresh and semi-local meat. But I think what I'll do is aim for rare for the bigger chops and medium for the smaller ones and make certain to give the guests the four end-cuts.

            Worst case, if any of the individual chops is too rare for a guest, I can offer to quickly french them with melted butter, which isn't that bad for lamb.

            Question still remains: Does stuffed or unstuffed work better? I was thinking of making it with Yorkshire pudding alongside and making a gravy, especially since I have gravy from a lamb tenderloin I made a couple days ago (the reason for the search for more lamb) that has wild Russian mushrooms in it, and I was planning to add that to the new gravy.

            I've also got some burdock roots I may do as a side dish, since I think those should go well.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy
              JoanN Nov 17, 2007 01:02 PM

              I understand. It's just that I'm so envious. :-)

              I've only made crown roasts twice and both times I cooked them unstuffed and then filled the cavity for serving--just 'cause it's such a nifty presentation. I thought the timing, both for the meat and for the stuffing, would be more accurate that way.

              1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy
                jdubboston Nov 17, 2007 04:14 PM

                I've had the best luck cooking the crown roast unstuffed, just brushing with a glaze through the cooking and serving with a sauce/puree. My favorite recipe is a Calvados & Maple Syrup glaze with Chestnut & Apple Puree from an old Cooking Light mag, amazingly. Yum! And I, too, love to buy the old fashioned paper 'hats' - trust me, people always get a laugh!

              2. JoanN Nov 17, 2007 09:23 AM

                I hesitate to say this, but perhaps you should save that spectacular bargain of a crown roast for those who you know will appreciate it the way it should be cooked? I know a few people who really don't care for lamb; they think it's terribly gamey. Cooking it medium to medium-well isn't going to significantly enhance their enjoyment of it and will detract from yours. I know it's not what you're asking, but I'd save it (for someone like me, hint, hint) who would be in your debt for a good, long time and serve your guests something like short ribs that benefit from being all brown through and through.

                1. d
                  dutchdot Nov 17, 2007 09:21 AM

                  Went to Epicurious and found a number of recipes with great reviews. Congratulations on the purchase. Tell me where this store is? We used to be able to get the most fabulous lamb and veal for $4.95 a pound.

                  Ah, those were the days -------------

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