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Originally published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Recipe: Crown roast of pork with fennel and lemon

It's that roast beast feast time of year, when it's almost de rigueur to make a very large piece of meat the focal point of your meal (vegetarians...

The New York Times

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It's that roast beast feast time of year, when it's almost de rigueur to make a very large piece of meat the focal point of your meal (vegetarians excepted).

The kind of meat — beef, pork, turkey, lamb — is less important than its size. You want something that makes people sit up and notice, something with stage presence, something that doesn't require trimmings and sauces and garnishes. The meat should speak for itself.

A crown roast of pork fills the bill nicely. It's the shape that gives crown roast its name. A bone-in pork loin is trimmed of excess fat and gristle so the bones protrude white and shining. Then the whole thing is tied into a ring.

10 to 12 servings

1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds

Rosemary leaves from 2 bushy sprigs

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sage leaves and tender sprigs

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)

1 tablespoon and 1 pinch coarse kosher salt

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 8- to 9-pound crown roast of pork (10 to 12 ribs)

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

In small skillet, toast fennel seeds until fragrant, one to two minutes.

Place toasted fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic, sage, lemon zest, fennel pollen (if using) and pinch of salt in blender. Run blender briefly to chop everything up, then add olive oil, and blend until mixture becomes a paste, scraping down sides occasionally with a rubber spatula.

Wipe pork with paper towels, then season evenly with remaining tablespoon salt and the pepper. Smear herb paste all over meat, making sure to coat the middle and the crevices on the sides of the chops. Let marinate at room temperature for at least two hours, or longer in refrigerator. (Overnight is ideal.) If you've chilled the meat, bring to room temperature for at least an hour before roasting.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place roast upside down (bones down) in large roasting pan. (Traditionally, crown roasts have been cooked with the bones standing up. But by roasting upside down, the juices drip down from the pork and the layer of fat on the bottom of the roast is exposed to the dry heat of the oven, giving it a chance to brown and crisp. You can use a rack to help steady it if you like.)

Roast for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 and continue roasting until meat registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 ½ to 2 hours longer. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

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