Like most families, mine expects our holiday meal to be something extraordinary, and as the guy who’s expected to provide it, I think a roasted rack of pork fits the bill perfectly. It’s a less expensive alternative to a standing beef rib roast, but just as impressive. Better still—especially if you’re overwhelmed by holiday anxiety—is that this recipe is very easy to make. Just season the pork, preferably the night before, and pop it into the oven. A quick but elegant morel mushroom pan sauce is the finishing touch, transforming the roast from simple to spectacular.
Need to Know
Look for heritage or naturally raised pork. Many heritage breeds, such as Berkshire or Old Spot, have more marbling, which results in juicier, tastier meat. If there’s no shop near you that carries heritage pork, look for naturally raised pork that hasn’t been given antibiotics or growth stimulants. Definitely avoid socalled “extra-juicy” or “enhanced” pork that’s been treated or soaked in a salt solution, which can negatively affect its texture. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely need to order the rack ahead, since it’s not an item butchers always have on hand.
Have your butcher remove the chine bone and french the rib bones. The chine bone runs perpendicular to the rib bones and interferes with carving the roast into chops if it’s not removed. Frenching the rib bones, or scraping them clean, gives the roast a polished look.
Start hot, then lower the heat. I like to start the pork roasting in a hot oven to kick off the browning process and give the fat a good chance to start rendering. Then, once the roast is golden brown, I lower the heat and let it finish more slowly to reduce the risk of overcooking and to let it stay juicy. Letting the rack sit at room temperature for a couple of hours before roasting helps it cook more evenly.
Allow for carry-over cooking. Today’s pork is very lean and can get tough if it overcooks. Cooking the meat to a final temperature of 145°F ensures that it’ll be tender and juicy. This means you’ll want to pull the roast from the oven when it reaches 130°F, tent it with foil, and let the roast’s residual heat finish cooking it to 145°F.
Use a continuous-read thermometer with an alarm to determine doneness. Just set it to go off when the pork reaches 130°F, and you won’t have to keep opening the oven to check on the roast. Once the alarm goes off, check a couple of other areas of the roast with an instant-read thermometer to make sure the whole roast is at the correct temperature.