The Alton Crown Affair Transcript

The Kitchen

GUEST: Butler

    [AB is dressed in the style of an 18th century aristocrat, seated at a table  that is covered with coins and lit by candles.] Well, hello there. Welcome to ma maison. So nice of you to stop by. I would invite you to stay for dinner, but your attire is somewhat ... well ... We usually keep things pretty plain around here, but now and again, ...

AB: [summons the butler]

... we like to sup the Light Fantastic, as it were ...

BUTLER: [removes the jewel encrusted dish dome]

...  with a little ... [gasps]... crown roast of lamb. If itís not the fanciest food on the planet, I don't know what is. Featuring not one, but two sumptuous racks of Ovis aries folded into a 16-spired king hat, this is a dish to shock, awe, intimidate and inspire! Desire.
    Of course, a costly construct such as this would instill fear in the hearts of most cooks. But not you and I. No, we know that with some sound science, quality ingredients, and a few cunning contraptions, even a highbrow showstopper like this can become ...

[Good Eats theme plays]

Huber Hampshires Farm, Watkinsville, GA Ė 10:36am

GUESTS: Pre-Historic Man and Shepherd
                   Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    When man was just getting started on this planet, he didnít have a lot to eat. And he didnít have any friends.

PRE-HISTORIC MAN: [appears and eats a bug off a tree]

Nor did he have a hair stylist or very good manners. After fending for himself, he became depressed, and despondent, and right-down brokenhearted. Until finally, one day, he felt a little itch by his leg.

PHM: [looks to see a dog at his feed]

And it was the dog! Manís first friend in the animal world. Dog helped man to hunt. The problem was, hunting all the time was labor-intensive and very time-consuming.
    The answer? Get yourself some sheep. Not only did sheep provide meat, they provided wool, in which one could weave stunning textiles.
    Most food historians agree that ...

DD: ... that sheep were probably the very first food animal to be domesticated, about 6,000 years ago in Persia.
AB: I did not say, ďnutritional anthropologist.Ē
DD: Yes, you did.
AB: No. No, I didnít. I distinctly said, ďfood historian.Ē Food historian. Food... [looks around, as if for support]
DD: See? Nobody.
AB: You probably scared them away.
DD: Ha ha. You know the fact that sheep, especially lambs...
AB: ... meaning any sheep under one year of age...
DD: ... right ... were so important in religious sacrifice as a testimony to their value in human society...
AB: Uh-huh.
DD: ... and once people figured out how to spin wool into yarn, that value greatly increased.
AB: [passing by a shepherd, modeling a multicolored woolen outfit] Yes, I can see. Heís very, very fashionable there. Well, how do you explain the fact that Americans only consume something like, what, 0.8 pounds of lamb per capita? Thatís pretty puny.
DD: Yeah, well, sheep have suffered from a P.R. problem in this country for a long time dating back to the Wool Act of 1699 when the English crown tried to control American wool producers by making it impossible for them to export any of their products.
AB: Well, and, of course, Iím sure that the Range Wars in the late 19th, early 20th century didnít help. Was it cattle barons who used to call them stupid, 4-legged locusts, I believe?
DD: Yeah, yeah, well, theyíre not real smart. And a lot of that is our fault. It comes from six millennia of domestication. That really changed the animal. They donít have horns anymore, their ears are floppy instead of perky, and their brain capacity diminished.
AB: That doesnít sound so much like domestication as marriage. Ha ha ha! So tell me, how do you like yours? Lamb, that is.
DD: I like grilled lamb chops.
AB: Nice. Weíll work on that. Ahh, here comes one! [runs off being "chased" by a sheep]

    [opens the door to a sheep pen to find his cow model covered as if it were a sheep] Now ... Hey, Iím on a budget here, okay? ... Ahem, just like the rib roast on a steer, the lamb rack is a primal, or a major cut, located along the back, between the shoulders and the loin. Containing the rib eye muscle and its ribs, 5 through 12. Now for this application, we will require two racks that are as closely matched as possible. Cut from the very same animal would be the best. By the way, when both sides of the rack are connected by the backbone, itís called a hotel rack, and itís tough to deal with unless youíve got a band saw handy. Luckily, my butcher has two.

Wienerz Butcher Shop & Deli, Marietta, GA Ė 12:37pm

GUEST: Richard Sieber, Butcher
                 U.S.D.A. Inspectors #1, #2 & #3

    Here he is now. Richard, my butcher. He takes the whole front part of the critter, legs off, of course, and first thing is, removes most of the ... Ooh, see that? [camera close-up of safety tag on the band saw] Youíve got to be careful around these things. Anyway, he removes most of the shoulder and the belly section with the band saw, and then counts in the ribs to make sure that he leaves enough for the racks. And he cuts across. Over to the left, by the way, thatís where you get the tenderloins from. Then he splits the hotel rack right down the middle of the spine. Then thereís still the chine bone to be dealt with and thatís what heís taking off here. The chine bone can be a tricky customer. Letís take a look.
    [at the display case] Here it is. If you look at an X-ray of a rack, youíll see these little bones sticking out on the ends. Those are the chine. And if theyíre not cut off, they can make carving the rack a little complicated.

    Now if Iím just roasting or grilling a single rack, I prefer to leave the chine on because it gives the meat more structure. But when it comes to building a crown roast, chine-off is definitely the way to go. Now we should also mention frenching. Now frenching refers to the process of removing most of the side meat from the ribs, leaving nice clean arcs of bone exposed, and really just the rib eye meat intact. Now this is one job you can definitely have your butcher do. I prefer to do it at home. Weíll get to that in a few minutes.

Domestic Chine On
Domestic Hotel Rack
Domestic Rack
Domestic Chine Off
Australian Hotel Rack
New Zealand Rack

    Oh, by the way, New Zealand lamb which is range-raised on nice yummy grass, has become the kind of lamb standard for the world, with Australian lamb a close second. A lot of Americans like this meat because it is mild and tender. Personally, I prefer American lamb. Not just because it isnít frozen and shipped from the other side of the planet, but because they usually come to market a little bit older, and that means more flavor and bigger racks.
    Now, speaking of American lamb, the U.S.D.A. ...

USDA #1: ... inspects all lamb found in retail stores or overseas state inspection agencies with equal or higher standards. Grading is a voluntary process paid for by the packer or processor. Grades range from prime to choice, good, utility and cull, the last of which are used primarily for processed meats and pet food.

    I was going to bring up the fact that American lambs are commonly treated with a synthetic hormone which speeds their weight gain. Such drugs have fallen under scrutiny lately, something about breast cancer.

USDA #1: Thatís not our agency, Monkey Boy.

    I see. If youíre worried about such things, you might want to keep an eye out for hormone-free lamb. If your market doesnít carry it, simply ask your butcher or look on the internet. Plenty of it there.

Unlike beef and pork, no culture or religion bans the consumption of lamb.

The Kitchen

    Regardless of the final intended culinary destination, usually when we deal with whole racks of lamb they need to be ďfrenchedĒ. That is, they need to have the rib ends trimmed out. Of course, the procedure named after a fussy bunch of European gastronomes, who I imagine probably invented the process. Anyway, it is not as hard as it looks. And with just a little bit of practice, youíll be able to do it in maybe three to four minutes per rack.
    So, here is the procedure. This, as we can tell by looking at it, is American lamb, because itís got a good bit of this fat intact. [referring to the surface fat] New Zealand lamb, since it has to be shipped long distances, they like to cut this off first in order to make it lighter for shipping. This needs to come off. Odds are it can be done by hand. You just have to work your thumb into that connective tissue and peel it back. You can break out your knife, if you need to, near the end. Now believe it or not, there is a good bit of meat left on this that would be good for stewing. So donít get rid of this [fat], okay?
    Next, we remove this kind of crescent of cartilage that attaches to the shoulder bone. It has no culinary use at all, so we discard. Now flip over and make a sideways cut all the way across the rack about two and a half inches down from the end of the ribs. And poke the blade all the way through in between each of the ribs. Then just take the point of your knife, and split the membrane on the back side of the ribs. Then continue your horizontal cut on the other side, and flip again.
    Now we actually cut out the little fingers of meat in between each of the ribs. If you made your cuts right on both sides to prep, this will be easy going. These are also pieces you might want to save for that stew we were talking about. Notice that Iím actually moving the rib across the knife, instead of moving the knife. I kind of anchor it on the board, and then pull the meat across it. Flip over, do any clean up work that you need to.
    Now obviously we need to clean up these ribs. So, I have just a handle pull that I got at a hardware store and a loop of heavy cotton string. And just kind of put that over the bone down to the end of the cut, twist a couple of times, and then youíll pull all that nasty stuff right off of the bones. This is the actual frenching part. Make sure you do this with the ribs curving upward so that the force of the pull wonít be working against you. There.
    Now, since I like my lamb a little more lamby than most, Iím going to leave the rest of this fat. If you donít like that lamby-ness, you can always trim it off.
    [at the refrigerator] Now, while we construct some flavor augmentation, we need to keep these chilled. And Iíd rather have them open so they can dry a little more. That would certainly help us later on down the line. Of course, we canít put raw meat uncovered up here with all these ready-to-eat items, right? That wouldnít do. So look around. Find yourself a nice tight space where youíre not going to do any damage, and in they go.
    Now as for flavors we can bring to the party, I suggest some Dijon mustard, some herbs, thyme; a little rosemary will serve us well. And [spots a snack] this sandwich ... looks good. Ahem.

    [now grinding some spices at the counter] Now I am not about to suggest that rack of lamb isnít plenty delicious. But if we can add just a few humble ingredients and turn the old flavor knob up to 11, then I say, why not? Thatís why I have ground one and a half teaspoons of coriander seeds with half a teaspoon of black pepper, and one teaspoon of kosher salt. Which I am working into a paste, with six minced cloves of garlic and four teaspoons, chopped, of that fresh thyme we just got out of the fridge.

1Ĺ tsp. Coriander Seeds +
Ĺ tsp. Black Pepper +
1 tsp. Kosher Salt

6 Minced Cloves Garlic +
4 tsp. Fresh Chopped Thyme

    With paste in hand, we have everything that we need to move into the tying phase. Oh, except for string. Youíre going to need plenty of butcherís twine and I always ... make sure... [holds up the last 2 feet of his bobbin of string] Oh, bother.

String Shop

GUEST: String Monger

SS: Good afternoon, Sir. How may I help you?
AB: I need some string.
SS: Oh, do you now? And how do you know you donít need cord or rope or thread or twine?
AB: Well, I figured that thread was too small, that rope was too big, and that twine would ...

SS: Twine! Comes from the Middle Dutch twijn [pron: TWI-jah] which means to twist together. Therefore, Sir, twine is composed of at least two separate yarns twisted together for strength.

"Twine" from Dutch twijn for "twist".

AB: Okay, like this? [picks up a sample]

SS: Dah! Thatís cord, Sir! Woven or braided, NEVER TWISTED!

Cord: Woven or
braided, not twisted

AB: Okay, you certainly do seem to know your fibers.
SS: Oh, thank you, Sir, yes I do. Did you know, Sir, that rope and twine were the tools that allowed man to rule this planet?
AB: I always figured that was fire.
SS: Bah! Fire! Fire gets all the credit Ďcause itís bright and scary. "Oh, Prometheus, please help me, I canít barbeque my wings." But you would never last a day in the wild, Sir, without a hank to hold.
AB: A hank?

SS: Yes, Sir, the hank. A looped bundle of cord. Itís right there. Oh ho ho ho.

Hank: A bundle of cord.

AB: Itís very nice.
SS: Now what is it youíd like to tie, Sir?
AB: Uh, meat.
SS: Meat? Oh, well, butcher twine then, yes. Well, that rules out hemp or sisal or jute, because theyíll all leave fibers in your food. You wouldnít like that, Sir. Now most chefs go with either a polyester or a poly blend but I donít like it Ďcause itís so floppy, Sir. And it unraveled. You see how it unraveled like that?
AB: Yes, I do. It unraveled.
SS: Yes, yes. But your true artists go with cotton or linen. There you go. Because you see, Sir, it is significantly stiffer.
AB: Well, this stuff looks a heck of a lot stiffer even that that.
SS: Yeah, it would. Do you know why it does that, Sir?
AB: No.
SS: WAX! Thatís why! Itíd be like having a candle for supper. You wouldnít like that, would you, Sir?
AB: No.

SS: Didnít think so. Right. Now hereís what you want, linen. Itís natural, itís heat resistant, and itís hypoallergenic.

Linen: Natural, heat resistant & hypoallergenic

AB: Okay.
SS: And youíre going to need this, Sir.
AB: Itís a flowerpot.
SS: Oh, itís a flowerpot, is it? Here, give me that. [threads the twine through the hole at the bottom of the upside down flowerpot and places it on the pot's dish] Flowerpot, flowerpot, monkey, monkey through the hole! Doodle-ee-doo. Whatíd you do? You pulled out too much string didnít you? There we go.
AB: Ha ha. Oh, thatís clever. Itís a string dispenser.
AB: Whatever.
SS: Get out!
AB: Okay.

The worldís largest ball of sisal twine (over 50 yrs old & still growing)
weighs almost 9 tons & resides in Cawker, Kansas.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    I find that when Iím doing a lot of butcher twine work, the best place for the twine is actually on the floor, between my feet.
    We have everything together now, including our racks. You know, Iím thinking about cookbooks. Iíve read hundreds of recipes for crown roast. And every single one of them says, ďhave your butcher put it together for you.Ē And Iím thinking, "well, yeah, because getting this into a crown shape isnít exactly a natural thing to do." What we need is a template or a mold of some type that ... Wait a second.
    [looks through the kitchen cabinets] Ohh, letís see. No. No. No. Nothing. [spots his Bundt pan] Hello, pretty. America, meet the Bundt pan, our version of the European Kugelhopf pan. It just became a roast beast accessory. Welcome to the world of multitaskers. Hah hah hah hah.
    Time to crown a new king. [ties the end bones of each of the two racks together] You donít want this to be very tight, so donít break out any fancy knots. Just a standard old square, or even a granny knot will do. [folds it over and ties the two other end bones together making a circular or crown shape] Now we donít need a knot here, but we do want this to stay together, so wrap that two, maybe three times, and just pull snug.
    Now if thereís a tricky part to this, and Iím not saying there is, but if there is, itís this part. [wraps the remaining twine around the base of the crown roast and mounts it in the bundt pan] Three times around. And if you just kind of hold the rib ends, you ought to be able to get around. You want this to be relatively snug, but again, not tight. And one more knot. There, thatíll hold everything together. But luckily, weíve got the pan doing most of the work.

    Now a little lubrication with olive oil. Just kind of rub that in. And thatís going to help the paste to stick [referring to the spices that were ground earlier], because thereís not a lot of moisture in this. Just kind of put it on your hand and pack it on the sides. Donít go up where the ribs are. Stick down where the meat is. There. Just kind of pack it on. And turn the pan. Save at least a tablespoon to go right down the middle. Not the middle of the bundt pan, that is, but around the inside of the roast.

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

    [at the refrigerator] At this point, you could securely cover your roast with, say, a zip top bag, and refrigerate for up to two full days. You could even keep it up here because itís relatively well contained. Or, of course, you can go ahead and cook it.
    Now traditionally, this would be the time that we would be considering a stuffing of some type, but it ...

   T: [holds a sign ďSTUFFING IS EVILĒ]

Actually, we have proven that stuffing doesnít necessarily have to issue forth from the bottomless pit. But in this case, it would throw off the cooking of the meat. And that would indeed be evil.

    [at the oven] Slide this into the middle of a 375-degree oven for approximately 10 minutes per pound. However, a probe-style thermometer set to notify you at 130 degrees, is the best way to protect your meaty investment.

375 Degrees

    Why? Because unlike, say, a standing beef rib roast which contains a fair amount of intramuscular fat, which can lubricate the meat, even if you were to cook out most of the moisture, lamb racks lack such fatty reinforcements, at least internally speaking. So, thermal control is absolutely crucial. 130 degrees, you hear?

USDA #1: [enters with #1 & #2] The United States Department of Agriculture of Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends whole lamb cuts, such as loin, shoulders, legs, and racks to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure that any possible food-borne pathogens have been eliminated.

    Okay, those of you who do everything your government says, go ahead, toast your roast. Me? Iím pulling it at 130. [gives the inspectors a ďraspberryĒ]

If knots arenít your thing, try leaning the racks together,
interlocking the rib bones. This is called ďguard of honorĒ.

The Kitchen

    [a thermometer alarm beeps] That sounds means that itís time to extract our roast, 130 degrees. Now you are going to be tempted, very tempted, to cut right into this. Fight that urge. This needs to rest for at least 20 minutes covered either with foil or with, say, another bowl. Why the resting? Well, allow me to quote myself from episode one:

    [from Steak Your Claim, Scene 10] A steak or any piece of meat is kind of like this kettle. And when youíre cooking it, youíve got heat pushing on the tissues, forcing juice into the steak. Now if you were to poke into it or cut it, at this point, the heat would just push the juices out onto the plate and youíd be left with, well, a nasty little dried piece of meat floating on a pool of juice, which isnít so nice. By resting the meat, well, itís like turning the heat off of this kettle, although not as fast. You take it away from the heat, you give the pressure of heat time to recede, and the juices redistribute through the meat. What could have been a piece of leather is now a juicy steak.

    [referring to his younger visage] So much hair, so few chins. Letís make a sauce.

    The goodness left in this pan is what the French would call fond, which means foundation. And thatís exactly what weíre going to do. Use it as a foundation for a sauce by adding, weíll say, a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary, a teaspoon and a half of sherry vinegar, and for flavor and also to help emulsify the sauce, a teaspoon of Dijon. Thatís French, of course. Whisk to combine and serve as you will.

1 tsp. Chopped Fresh
1Ĺ tsp. Sherry Vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

Vinegar & mustard amounts will vary based on your jus.

The Dining Room

    Although I do believe it is a bad idea to cook a crown roast with stuffing inside, it is a good idea to bring it to table with stuffing inside. Now here Iím just going with a simple rice pilaf. But you could stuff this with roast vegetables, mashed potatoes, I even saw a Middle Eastern version once with couscous on the inside. If you put the stuffing in right as the meat comes out of the oven, youíll have the added benefit of being able to soak up some of those lovely juices.
    Now before we serve, of course, we need to remove the outer string, unless you want everybody to get some floss with their meal. Now this is where the benefit of the linen string pays off, because it doesnít cook into the meat as easily as cotton string does. Just work your way around. If you find that itís too difficult to get in here, you may do this with scissors or shears. Just make sure that you get every bit off. And it should come quite easily. Gracious.

AB: Thing?
   T: [appears with a tray to take away the string]
AB: Ha ha, thank you very much.

    Now, carving. Since there are an even number of ribs, I usually serve an even number. And remember, youíre going to have to kind of jibe around that chine bone a little bit here at the end if itís in place. Just feel around for it and cut through. Thatís what Iím talking about.
    Well, I certainly hope weíve inspired you to take a stab at this royal victual. Sure, itís spendy, and it takes a bit of energy, attention to prepare. But the dividend paid on your investment will be a capital gain, indeed. See you again soon on Good Eats. And next time, do wear a jacket, wonít you?

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010