The First Lessons in Bach are simple pieces. Piano players may remember how delightful it was to play one of them for the first time and to discover themselves capable of making beautiful music with their fledgling musical skills.
Whether one is an experienced cook or not, one may find a satisfaction similar to playing that first little Minuet, in making a dish which relies for its goodness on the excellence of ingredients that are put together simply and well. Rack of Lamb Provence Style is such a dish. It is an entire Main Course, makes no great technical demands on the cook, but nevertheless, is a bit spectacular.
One thing is essential to the recipe’s success, and that is….good quality lamb. As the erstwhile food columnist Agnes Jekyll once advised: “The butcher…must not be your enemy, but your friend and ally”.
Rack of Lamb Provence Style (Carré d’agneau a la Provençale) with Roasted Tomatoes (Tomates rôties) and Golden-Roasted Potatoes (Pommes de terre rôties dorées fondantes) (The quantities of the ingredients listed below are for 4 people. By adjusting the recipe based on the amounts of ingredients for serving 4, the recipe may easily be increased or decreased.
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A Timing Note: The racks of lamb are marinated overnight in the refrigerator.
- 2 frenched Racks of Lamb, each with 8 bones and each weighing about a pound: “Frenched” means that all the fat and membrane has been scraped from the rib bones. (Your ally the butcher will french the racks for you. But if you would like to do it yourself, here are step instructions with photos on the simplyrecipes website.) For this recipe a serving for one person is 2 double-rib chops.
- 4 cloves of Garlic
- 1 teaspoon of Salt
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper
- 4 teaspoons of fresh Thyme leaves, chopped or the same amount of dried Thyme leaves (not powdered)
- 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried Rosemary Leaves
- 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 2 large Tomatoes, cut in half : 1 Tomato Half for each serving
- 2/3 cup of thinly sliced Shallots
- 4 Potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch rounds
- 2 Tablespoons of water: This isn’t an exact amount. If the pan appears to become too dry before the lamb, tomatoes and potatoes are roasted, a little more water may be required.
- An optional garnish of a branch of fresh Basil or Thyme for each plate
- a Mortar and Pestle is useful for making the marinade, or, use a Cutting Board and the flat side of a Broad Knife Blade
- a small Bowl for mixing the marinade
- Zip-lock Plastic Bags
- a 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet: This will hold 2 racks. Use a second skillet for additional racks if you increase the recipe.) A Roasting Pan with a Rack will also work well for this recipe.
- a Cutting Board
- Aluminum Foil
1. With the mortar and pestle or on a cutting board with the flat side of a broad knife blade, mash the garlic with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Put the garlic paste in a bowl and add the chopped thyme, the rosemary leaves and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil.
2. Rub the marinade over the racks of lamb. Put them, along with any leftover marinade in the bowl in a couple of Zip-lock plastic bags and refrigerate them overnight.
3. The next day, preheat the oven to 400 F. and set the rack in the middle position.
4. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron skillet over medium heat. Remove the racks of lamb from the plastic bags. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in the plastic bags of leftover marinade while you brown the lamb.
5. When the oil is hot, add the racks of lamb and brown them on all sides. Remove them from the skillet to a cutting board.
6. Add another Tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and cook the shallots and potatoes until they just begin to brown around the edges. Mix 2 Tablespoons of water in with the potatoes and shallots and remove the skillet from the heat.
7. Arrange the racks of lamb directly on top of the potatoes and shallots in the skillet. (If you are using a roasting pan with a rack, place the potatoes, shallots and tomatoes in the roasting pan and place the rack holding the lamb over top of them.) Add the tomatoes to the skillet, tucking them in around the lamb, cut side up…
9. Remove the skillet from the oven and tent it loosely with aluminum foil for 5 minutes.
10. Transfer the racks to a cutting board and cut them into double-rib chops (2 of these double chops per person). To carve, run the knife down the rib, through the meat and find the natural division between the chops where the knife will cut through and divide the chops easily. A medium well done rack will be pink and juicy, but not bloody.
A Note: The Main Course of the Dinner Menu ‘New Year’s Celebration for the Romantic, the Introvert, the Homebody’ is Rack of Lamb Provence Style with Roasted Tomatoes and Golden-Roasted Potatoes. The recipe is based on one that appeared in the October 2008 issue of Gourmet.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012