Roasted Rack of Pork with Fennel Seed, Lavender and Garlic Paste
This dish is inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean: fennel is a classic partner for pork in Italy, and the touch of lavender evokes the French countryside. You can ask the butcher to french the bones, or you can leave them rustic and whole, and enjoy the crispy meat between the bones.
- 1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried lavender
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 rack of pork, about 6 1/2 lb. (3.25 kg) and with 6 ribs
- 2 Tbs. capers, rinsed
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
In a mini food processor, combine the fennel seeds, thyme and lavender. Pulse to blend and break up the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the salt, pepper, garlic and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil to form a paste. Rub the paste into both sides and ends of the pork, concentrating the paste on the thicker, meaty side of the rack and using less on the cut ends. Place in a baking dish, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or preferably 48 hours.
Let the pork stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat an oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In the food processor, combine the capers, lemon zest and the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Pulse until the capers and zest are finely ground, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
Place the rack, bone side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Rub the caper-lemon mixture over the meaty side of the rack. Transfer the pan to the oven so that the bones face toward the back of the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork, away from the bone, registers 125°F (52°C), 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C) and continue to roast until the internal temperature registers 140°F (60°C), about 20 minutes more.
Transfer the rack to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut between the bones into chops and serve immediately. Serves 6.
A note from the butcher: A rack of pork is your best bet to avoid the “dry pork” syndrome. Much like a beef rib roast, it is naturally marbled, which keeps it moist. To keep it juicy, have your butcher cut through the chine bone between each rib rather than removing the entire chine. After letting the meat rest, grab the largest butcher knife you have and cut between the bones at the table to serve the chops with flair. Remember to watch the internal temperature like a hawk!
— Don Kuzaro, Jr., Don & Joe’s Meats, Seattle, WA
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Cook and The Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2011).