After two years, this triumvirate it close to claiming the title of official Christmas menu. It checks all the requisite boxes (presentation value + maximum deliciousness), and, more importantly, allows us to admire the technical grace with which M. can clean a lamb chop.
Crown Roast of Lamb with Thyme and Mustard Bread Crumbs
Homemade (and Store-Bought) Mint Sauce
Mint Orzo with Crème Fraiche
Fennel with Orange and Sambuca
Crown Roast of Lamb with Mustard and Thyme
This recipe works just as well for a single rack of lamb; just halve the quantities.
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 crown of lamb made from two 8-rib racks
2 cup fresh bread crumbs from French bread
4 tablespoons olive oil
Mix together butter, mustard, garlic and chopped thyme in small bowl to blend.
Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Place lamb in roasting pan. Spread mustard mixture evenly over lamb. (Lamb can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Stir bread crumbs and oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat until crumbs begin to crisp, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Press crumbs onto mustard coating on lamb.
Roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until thermometer inserted into lamb registers 140 degrees. for medium-rare, about 40 minutes. Transfer lamb to platter; let stand 15 minutes, then serve with mint sauce.
Adapted from Bon Appétit
For the sake of tradition, we always supplement this with some of the store-bought stuff (hence the electric green jelly you see in the photo), but I prefer this more piquant version.
Makes about 1 cup
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup canned beef broth
1/3 cup minced shallots
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Combine 1 cup mint, broth, shallots, vinegar and sugar in heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 2 hours.
Strain sauce into large glass measuring cup. Place cornstarch in same saucepan. Gradually whisk in sauce. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir until sauce thickens slightly and turns translucent, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.) Stir in remaining 2 tablespoon mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Adapted from A Man and His Meatballs, by John Lafemina
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 cups orzo
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 tablespoon chipped flat-leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the butter, shallots, salt, and pinch of black pepper and sauté until the shallots are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the orzo, stirring constantly until it begins to turn light brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine and continue stirring until the alcohol smell is gone and the wine is completely absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. Add more stock, a little at a time, until the orzo is creamy and firm (you may not need to use all the stock). Add the crème fraîche, mint, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well. Serve immediately.
Fennel with Orange and Sambuca
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini
For my full description, see here.
3 fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with the flat of a knife
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup Sambuca, plus 1 tablespoon for finishing [I don't use the latter]
1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked to rehydrate for 20 minutes and soaking water reserved
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Zest of one orange
2 tablespoons toasted and seasoned breadcrumbs [see Carmellini's recipe for "Crumb's Yo!"]
Cut the tops off the fennel where the green stalks meet the white bulb. Trim the ends off the bulbs and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the outer layers and anything that’s browned, and trim away any excess stem. Cut each half into eighths. Chop the fronds and reserve.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sweat them, stirring, until they start to soften—but don’t let them brown.
Add the fennel, garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the Sambuca, and cook until the liquid in the pan has evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the raisins and the raisin-soaking water, orange juice, and chicken broth. Cook, periodically turning the fennel and glazing it with liquid from the pan, until the liquid is reduced by three quarters. (It should be a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.) The liquid will thicken and the fennel will be well glazed, shiny, fattened, and softened.
Remove the pan from the heat, pick out the garlic clove, and mix in the chopped fronds and 1 tablespoon of the Sambuca (if desired). Transfer the fennel to a serving platter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and orange zest.