A holiday feast: Recipes for the meat-lover’s Christmas meal
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 even sounds majestic, though you’d need a gargantuan head for the coronation.
Its shape 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.
Traditionally, crown roasts have been cooked with the bones standing up, which gave rise to the tradition of covering them with those frilly little paper toques to keep the tips from burning.
But a few years ago a friend advised me to roast the meat upside down. The juices that drip down from the pork keep the bones from blackening, she said. Even better, 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 hold the teetering roast upside down. Or, if it’s tied tightly enough, it might balance on its own bones. If you have time, season the meat the night before so it has a chance to absorb all the good flavors. Let it come to room temperature before roasting so it cooks evenly. Then serve up your roast beast in all its glory, a celebratory dish for this festive time of year.
In small skillet, toast fennel seeds until fragrant, 1 to 2 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 2 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. (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 1/2 to 2 hours longer. Let rest 10 minutes before carving. Serves 10 to 12.