The stakes are high, and so is the pressure — but it doesn’t need to feel this way.
With some thoughtful planning and preparation (and one of these crowd-pleasing main dishes), you can pull off an impressive feast without getting stuck in the kitchen during all the fun.
Crown roast of lamb with pilaf stuffing
This traditional dish is the undisputed star of the dining table. Ask your butcher to french the bones for a clean lollipop look, and — if you’re willing to pay a bit more per pound — to truss the ribs together. Or, for a how-to on constructing the crown in step 2, go to marthastewart.com/crown-roast (the instructions there are for a crown roast of pork, but the process is the same for lamb).
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 racks of lamb (8 ribs each; about 4 pounds total)
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons), 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges, 1 lemon reserved for pilaf
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic (from about 8 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed fresh thyme leaves, plus 3 sprigs
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup medium or coarse bulgur wheat
- 3/4 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 cup packed finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (3 ounces)
- 2/3 cup currants or raisins
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from reserved lemon)
- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast coriander seeds until dark brown and fragrant, 3 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder, or crush with a mortar and pestle.
2. Place racks of lamb, fat-side down, on a work surface. Cut one-third of the way through flesh between each rib bone. (This will allow racks to fan open into a crown shape.) Stand racks upright, with fat sides touching. Thread a trussing needle with kitchen twine, and run it horizontally through meat just below last rib bone on one rack, and straight through meat of opposite chop. Form a half-circle by pulling ends of twine together as tightly as possible; tie. Repeat process on opposite ends of racks to finish crown. Where racks are joined, tie rib bones together. Crown can be made up to a day in advance and stored, uncovered, in the refrigerator. (Or just ask your butcher to prepare the crown.)
3. Stir together ground coriander, lemon zest, garlic, thyme leaves, oil, 4 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper until a paste forms. Spread mixture evenly over roast. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
4. Heat oven to 425 degrees with rack in bottom third. Place lemon wedges, thyme sprigs and broth in a roasting pan. Place a flat rack over lemons, then center lamb on rack. Roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of roast (near but not touching bones) reads 140 degrees for medium-rare, 35 to 40 minutes. (Prepare pilaf while roast is in oven.) Transfer lamb to a platter; let stand 15 minutes. Remove rack, lemon wedges and thyme from pan, reserving pan for gravy.
5. For pilaf, heat a large saucepan over medium-high. Swirl in 2 tablespoons oil. Add bulgur, rice and onion; season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has a nutty aroma and rice turns golden in places, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in broth and 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid has evaporated and bulgur is tender but still slightly chewy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork, then stir in parsley, pine nuts, currants, lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Spoon pilaf into center of finished crown roast on platter, if desired.
6. To make gravy: While lamb is resting, place roasting pan across two burners on medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 cups broth; bring to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup broth with flour, then whisk into pan. Continue to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until gravy thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter until melted and combined. Strain gravy through a sieve and serve, with lamb and pilaf.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 949 calories, 74 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 39 grams protein, 142 milligrams cholesterol, 134 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 68 percent of calories from fat.
Roast beef with shallots
It’s delicious cold, warm, or anywhere in between, so you can make it early in the day and serve it at room temperature. To ensure tenderness, cook it rare, then slicing it thinly across the grain. Serve with mostarda, a spicy-sweet fruit condiment that goes especially well with roasted meats; various kinds can be found online at amazon.com.
Serves 10 to 12
- 1 bottom round roast (5 pounds), trimmed and tied
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound shallots, peeled and trimmed, halved if large
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic (from 1 head)
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 handfuls sage, oregano, rosemary or thyme sprigs, or a combination
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth, such as Dolin
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons drained prepared horseradish
- Mostarda, for serving (optional)
1. Season beef with 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Unwrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons oil and brown beef all over, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a plate; carefully pour oil from skillet and discard.
3. Place shallots in a single layer in bottom of skillet; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Stir together garlic, mustard and 2 tablespoons oil; rub mixture all over beef. Lay 1 handful of herbs down center of skillet. Place beef on top, fat-side up. Transfer to oven and roast 45 minutes.
4. Place remaining handful of herbs on top of beef; drizzle herbs with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Return to oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of roast reaches 105 degrees for rare, 10 to 20 minutes. Transfer roast to a cutting board and shallots to a serving platter, loosely tent both with foil, and let stand at least 30 minutes.
5. Return skillet to medium-high heat. Stir in vermouth; bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until just a few tablespoons remain, 5 to 7 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and let cool 10 minutes.
6. Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold in sour cream, cayenne pepper, horseradish and vermouth mixture. Season with salt. Store horseradish cream in refrigerator until ready to serve, or up to 3 days.
7. Remove twine from roast; thinly slice across the grain and serve, with horseradish cream, shallots and mostarda.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 10: 601 calories, 35 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 54 grams protein, 174 milligrams cholesterol, 328 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 54 percent of calories from fat.
Packing hot salt around shellfish before roasting keeps them juicy. To remove the veins from shell-on shrimp, use kitchen shears to snip through the shell and flesh along the back, beginning just below the head and ending at the tail. Remove the vein with a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife.
- 3 pounds coarse sea salt, pink salt or rock salt (or a combination)
- 4 red finger peppers, split lengthwise, plus thin slices for serving
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated and smashed
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 12 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 pounds shell-on, head-on jumbo shrimp (about 10 per pound), preferably wild, deveined if desired
- Melted unsalted butter or drawn butter, for serving
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine salt, finger peppers, lemons, garlic, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in a 3-quart baking dish. Roast until hot and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Spoon two-thirds of salt mixture into a heatproof bowl. Layer shrimp into baking dish, spooning salt mixture from bowl over shrimp in between layers, then sprinkling shrimp with remaining salt mixture.
2. Roast until shrimp are firm to the touch and just opaque throughout, 13 to 17 minutes. Carefully remove a few lemon wedges; brush off excess salt and squeeze lemon juice into butter, then add pepper slices. Serve shrimp immediately, with butter on the side.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 273 calories, 4 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, 47 grams protein, 345 milligrams cholesterol, 839 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 14 percent of calories from fat.