a l'Ail et a la Marjolaine
With Garlic and Marjoram)
(Makes 4 main-course servings)
"Since half the year I have marjoram growing in my garden and there's always plenty of garlic around, this is the dish that often comes about when I decide to saute lamb chops. Garlic is a natural with lamb, but you can always substitute shallots or a little onion. Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs. Don't confuse it with oregano, whose flavor is more aggressive and is better on grilled foods. If you don't grow marjoram and can't find it at the greengrocer, substitute thyme or a little fresh sage. A lot of cooks associate rosemary with lamb, but I find rosemary so aggressive that I prefer to sprinkle it, chopped fine, on grilled foods or wet it and put it right on the fire so it smolders and contributes its flavor more subtly.
"I deglaze the pan used for sauteing the lamb with white wine, chopped garlic and marjoram and then add concentrated broth (ideally made from lamb trimmings), if I have it. I finish the sauce with a little swirl of butter, season it with salt and pepper, and serve it at the table with a sauceboat. I don't use too much butter, because lamb is rich and the sauce, rather than being thick, should have the consistence of a jus. If you end up with very little sauce -- because you didn't use broth -- spoon 1/2 tablespoon over each chop before serving. Both clarified butter and olive oil are ideal for sauteing lamb chops because they can be heated to a very high temperature before you put in the meat. If you have very thick chops, you can use whole butter [non-clarified] because the chops can be cooked at a lower temperature -- they'll have more time to brown before they overcook."
-- From "Glorious French Food:
A Fresh Approach to the Classics"
8 rib or loin lamb chops if cut from large American lamb, or 8 double rib chops or inch-thick loin chops if cut from baby lamb such as New Zealand lamb (about 2 pounds total)
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves
1 teaspoon olive oil (for chopping the marjoram)
2 tablespoons clarified butter, unsalted butter or olive oil (for sauteing)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large clove garlic, chopped fine, crushed to a paste with the side of a chef's knife
1/2 cup lamb broth (may substitute beef broth or hearty chicken broth)
4 tablespoons butter (for finishing the sauce)
Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper -- ideally 1 or 2 hours before sauteing -- and pat them dry just before you put them in the pan. (Seasoning ahead of time causes the salt and pepper to penetrate the meat and allows you to pat off the moisture drawn out by the salt, which would inhibit browning.)
Place the marjoram leaves on a cutting board, drizzle with the olive oil and finely chop the leaves. (The oil will prevent the herbs from sticking to the knife.)
Heat the butter or oil in a saute pan just large enough to hold the chops. If you're using clarified butter or oil, heat it until it ripples before putting in the chops. If you're using whole butter, wait until it foams and the foam begins to subside. Arrange the chops in the pan and brown them 2 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on their thickness. I calculate 2 to 21/2 minutes on each side per 1/2 inch of thickness. When the chops are browned on both sides and bounce back to the touch, or are a juicy pink when you cut into one, transfer them to hot plates and pour the cooked fat out of the pan.
Pour the wine into the still-hot pan and immediately stir in the garlic and marjoram. Boil the wine down by half. Then pour the broth in and reduce the sauce again by half. (The exact amount of reduction will depend on the concentration of your broth. Keep the sauce light and don't let it get syrupy.) Whisk in the 4 tablespoons of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chops or serve it at the table in a sauceboat.
Per serving: 339 calories, 26 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 114 mg cholesterol, 11 gm saturated fat, 174 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
You can fool around with the usual sauce by adding different aromatic vegetables, substituting slightly sweet or fortified wines for the dry white wine, and finishing the sauce with different herbs or herb butters. Lamb chops are also delicious when grilled and served simply. Use a good hot fire.
Classic lamb chop recipes in Escoffier may be what gave French classic cooks the reputation of not ever leaving a good thing alone. The poor chops are flattened, breaded, stuffed and cooked and cooked again until they're hopelessly rich and their innocence is lost. Breading was the favorite habit, but instead of being simply breaded a l'Anglaise -- with flour, eggs and bread crumbs -- the chops were often coated with thick sauces (usually sauce Parisienne, a veloute thickened with egg yolks) before being wrapped in caul fat and coated again with the bread crumbs and plenty of butter. Even grilled chops didn't escape the breading treatment and were breaded by being first dipped in butter and then in the bread crumbs, a method called paner au beurre or paner a la Francaise. To me, none of these treatments improves a simple grilled or sauteed chop.
(Baked Creamed Potato Gratin)
(Makes 8 side-dish servings)
"I so love heavy cream that a friend once remarked that all my recipes could be pared down to very simple directions: Pour heavy cream over it and bake.
"In my own defense, this is true only for potatoes and certain other gratins. With little variations here and there, a gratin Dauphinois is essentially a baking dish filled with sliced potatoes stacked in layers, with heavy cream poured over each layer, and baked. While strictly traditional recipes for gratin Dauphinois don't contain cheese, I sprinkle the layers of potato with Gruyere simply because I like the flavor and the strings of cheese that pull away from the gratin as everyone takes a bite. Other nuances include rubbing the gratin dish with garlic -- this is a solid tradition and shows up in most recipes -- and sprinkling the layers with a little nutmeg -- essential to some, heretical to others. My own approach is to use a tiny bit."
"Some recipes try, mostly in vain, to lighten a gratin dauphinois by replacing the heavy cream with milk. In fact, replacing some of the heavy cream with milk is a good idea because the gratin is lightened without taking away from the effect of the richness, but if you try replacing more than half the cream with milk, the milk will separate and leave the potatoes specked with little pieces of milk solids instad of a creamy and gooey coating.
"Threre are three other issues that are oten debated: what kind of potato to use, how thick to slice them, and whether to wash the slices. Frankly, you can make a gratin dauphinois out of any potato you want; the effect will just differ accordingly. Russet potatoes have a slightly mealy texture, but they hold together nicely; yellow-fleshed potatoes like Yukon Golds and Yellow Finns have a delicious flavor and a melting texture, but I find them to be a bit too fragile. I use white waxy potatoes because they hold together well and have a fine creamy texture (although not as creamy as a Yukon Gold's) when baked. I buy the largest ones I can find so there aren't as many to peel. Most recipes insist that the potatoes for a gratin dauphinois not be washed after slicing, the idea being that the starch left attached to the potato helps bind the sauce. I haven't been able to tell much difference between gartins made with washed and unwashed potatoes. I wash the potatoes when I've peeled and sliced them ahead of time so they don't turn dark, but I skip the washing when I'm constructing the gratin as I go along, which is most of the time. The thickness is, again, up to you. Thick-sliced and thin-sliced potatoes work equally well; you'll just end up with different effects. A gratin made with thin-sliced potatoes will hold together in a kind of cake, while a gratin made with thick potatoes will almost look like a gooey and creamy potato stew when you serve it.
"One tip: Don't skimp on the cheese. Use authentic Swiss Greyere and not Emmentaler (the kind with the big holes), because Emmentaler doesn't have as full a flavor and it will be too stringy. If you want to substitute a different cheese entirely, just use one with a lot of flavor -- aged cheddar (I prefer the farmhouse English or American kind that hasn't been dyed orange), Comte, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Gouda, or a good blue cheese (Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton -- not Danish blue, which is too strong) -- but, for blue cheese, use half the amount that's in the recipe, broken up into little pieces since it's too soft to grate."
-- From "Glorious French Food:
A Fresh Approach to the Classics"
21/2 pounds red or white waxy potatoes (about 3 very large or 6 medium)
1 small garlic clove, crushed with the side of a chef's knife
1 tablespoon softened butter
2 cups heavy cream, or 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream (mixed together), or 2 cups half-and-half
Nutmeg (tiny pinch)
3/4 pound Gruyere, grated fine (about 4 cups when grated)
Peel the potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning dark.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Thoroughly rub the inside of a large gratin dish or baking dish with the garlic clove. Smear the inside of the dish with the butter to make the dish easier to wash. Bring the cream to a simmer in a saucepan and pour enough into the dish to form a thin layer. Sprinkle salt and pepper and a tiny bit of nutmeg into the cream. Slice the potatoes about 1/8 inch thick (the thickness of 2 quarters) and spread them over the layer of cream, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle the potatoes with some of the cheese, pour more cream over them, and season again with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Repeat until you've used everything up, finishing with a layer of cheese.
If you've used a flame-proof dish, place the dish on top of the stove and move it gently back and forth, positioning it in different spots, over medium heat, until the cream comes to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Bake for 1 hour (or slightly more if you didn't heat it on the stove), until the top of the gratin is golden brown and a knife slides easily in and out of the potatoes.
Per serving: 432 calories, 17 gm protein, 31 gm carbohydrates, 27 m fat, 96 mg cholesterol, 16 gm saturated fat, 227 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
Judging when a gratin is done: It's impossible to give exact recipes for gratins because there are so many variables, such as the thickness of the mixture in the dish (itself dependent on the size of the dish you use) and the exact temperature of your oven. It's important to recognize, especially when making gratins with cream, that if the cream is cooked too long, it will break and turn into butter. The trick is, obviously, to cook it less. But what if your gratin isn't browning properly? There are a couple of things you can do. You can cook the gratin at a higher temperature for less time so the crust forms while the cream has less time to evaporate. Check the gratin from time to time to see if the cream is thickening and a crust is forming. If neither is happening, turn up the heat. If the cream is thickening but the top isn't browning, either turn up the heat to high to quickly brown the top without overcooking the cream, or, if it looks as if the cream is about to break, slide the gratin under the broiler to brown it on top. Gratins made with bechamel sauce are more forgiving than those made with cream, but they can still break if overcooked. Again, judge the oven temperature by seeing if the bechamel is thickening and a brown crust is forming, and adjust the oven temperature accordingly.