All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art

contributed by Dame Linda Avery
A book review from Pen and Fork

by Molly Stevens
photos by Quentin Bacon
wine pairings by Tim Gaiser

Roasting is to winter what grilling is to summer. Most cooks think roasting is the easiest of cooking methods, and sometimes they are right. Who hasn’t slathered olive oil on veggies, tossed with salt and pepper and popped them into a 400-something oven? Easy-peasy and delicious, right?

But Molly Stevens explains, explores and educates us about this technique just as she did about braising in her 2004 IACP and James Beard award winning book All About Braising. Her newest tome, All About Roasting, is an another amazing book.

It opens with a primer on the role of fat, the effects of basting, when to use a roasting rack and which type to choose, plus various roasting methods i.e., grill or spit. She discusses wet roasting, pan roasting, and the wonder of pre-salting (a la Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken, where Rodgers suggests seasoning the chicken 1 to 3 days ahead).

Beyond that, the book is organized by category from beef and lamb (which, by the way, includes a nod to goat), to vegetables and fruits. Each chapter begins with a time-saving summary of the recipes in that chapter followed by informational pages on “how to buy” and “how to carve” as well as thoughts on grass-fed and dry-aged meats.

The following recipe is representative of how the educator Molly presents her material. She anticipates your questions and delivers on every count. This dish would be a stunning centerpiece for a holiday get-together. Complete the total roast meal with a salad of roasted red and golden beets, asparagus bundled in bacon, and roasted pears or apples over ice cream for dessert.

Did I say this book is amazing? Put it on your wish list and be certain you have a sturdy holiday stocking – the book weighs 4.1 pounds.

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Spiced Honey Glaze

Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Wine: Concentrated red with dried fruit character, such as an Amarone.

This recipe takes a cue from the Moroccan kitchen and combines honey with a mix of warming spices balanced with fresh mint and a jolt of lemon juice. The resulting glaze provides a beguiling, mildly sweet, somewhat floral background for the rich meat. Also, the glaze caramelizes quickly in the hot oven, creating a beautiful brick-red finish.

This glaze works best with a mild floral honey, such as orange blossom, acacia, or fire-weed. I like to serve the lamb with herb-flecked couscous (mint and parsley are especially good) or rice pilaf.


2 racks of lamb (1 to 1-1/2 pounds and 8 ribs each), trimmed
1/4 cup honey, preferably a mild-tasting variety such as orange blossom, acacia, or fireweed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably sweet
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted in a dry skillet and finely ground
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1. Heat the oven. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425˚F (400˚F convection). Line a small, low-sided roasting pan or heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty foil (this makes it easier to clean the glaze from the pan).

2. Trim the lamb. If necessary, trim the lamb so that only a thin layer of fat remains. Arrange the racks meat side up on the foil-lined pan. (You can cover the rib ends with a strip of aluminum foil to protect them from charring if you like; I rarely bother.)

3. Make the glaze. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the honey, butter, paprika, cumin, ginger, and cayenne. Generously season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Brush the surface with about half the glaze. (A heatproof silicone pastry brush works best here, but any pastry brush will do.) Transfer the remaining glaze to a very small saucepan and set aside.

4. Roast and baste. Roast, brushing the lamb after 10 minutes and then again every 5 minutes with the glaze that has dripped onto the roasting pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted close to but not touching the bone reads 125 to 130˚F for rare to medium-rare or 135 to 140˚F for medium-rare to medium, 25 to 30 minutes.

5. Simmer the glaze. Meanwhile, add the lemon juice and garlic to the reserved glaze in the small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer gently until fragrant and slightly syrupy, 2 to 4 minutes. Keep a close eye on the glaze, as it can thicken and scorch very quickly; if it becomes gummy, add a teaspoon of water. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat.

6. Rest, carve, and serve. Let the lamb rest for 5 to 10 minutes on a cutting board (preferably with a trough). Carve the rack into single or double chops, cutting down between the bones. Add any juices from the carving board to the glaze, along with the fresh mint. Serve the chops with a little glaze drizzled over them.

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