A hol­i­day feast: Recipes for the meat-lover’s Christ­mas meal

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Learn about stuff­ing, roast­ing tech­niques and more,

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.

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