For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Monday, September 6, 2010

SLO Provence

Thick lamb loin chops marinated in rich olive oil with a blend of lavender, thyme, fennel seeds, and chunks of garlic. Small yellow, red, and purple potatoes sizzling in olive oil with a bit of chopped shallot and fresh thyme leaves. A Syrah-Grenache Rhone blend to round out the meal. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

It was. Superb. Inspired by my mom's recent trip to Provence, where almost every one of her delicious meals included thyme, I conceived of the following dinner. 

If you enjoy lamb, this recipe is for you. Get out your spice grinder, your penchant for herbs de Provence, and prepare to feast. This is a lovely meal that will be requested...maybe even begged for...again. The ingredients are simple yet flavorful, memorable and rich. The prep time is minimal and the payoff is big—happy, satiated guests who will rave about your culinary efforts. Nothing beats that.

(The following ingredients can easily be doubled for a party of four)

Lavender Rubbed Lamb
1 pound lamb loin chops
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon culinary lavender buds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled & chunked

This spice mixture is an experiment loosely based on the traditional herbs included in herbs du Provence (even though I didn't include savory or basil). Place lavender, fennel, thyme, peppercorns, and salt in a spice grinder and...grind into a fine powder. In a glass bowl, add oil and chunks of garlic and incorporate herb mixture. Get out a glass baking dish as well as your beautiful chops. Dip lamb in olive oil rub (be sure to lather both sides of meat) and place chops in baking dish. Pour any remaining oil over lamb; cover and refrigerate for 2 - 4 hours.

Thyme Potatoes
1 pound new potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
Fresh thyme leaves (strip 6 or 7 stems of their leaves and discard stems)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

When it's close to dinner-time, preheat oven to 350ºF. Scrub potatoes and leave skins on. Cut into even-sized quarters. In a medium-sized bowl, add oil, chopped shallot, thyme leaves and salt & pepper. Add potatoes and stir until they're saturated in oil. Dump potatoes and any remaining oil from the bowl in a glass baking dish, sprinkle with a bit more salt & pepper if desired, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes is up, take lamb out of fridge and set on counter. Take foil off of potatoes and finish baking for an additional 10 - 20 minutes (cooking time will depend on the size of your potato pieces). Stir them occasionally while they're in the oven and remove the dish when the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Set on top of stove, covered in foil.

Crank up your oven to broil, place your lamb in the screaming hot, and watch your chops carefully. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the cut and your oven's quirkiness. I used the low broil option on my oven (my chops were VERY thick) and it took about 12 minutes to get them the way I like them—just a bit over medium-rare. Cooking time could conceivably range from 5 - 15 minutes.

Remember, if the juices from the meat run clear, the meat is fully cooked (in my opinion—overdone). You can poke the center of the chops with a fork to test for "bounce." A little bounce and give is good; you still have some rare meat in there. How long you let it cook depends on your own preferences.

Once the savory, fragrant chops are done to your liking, remove from the oven and plate with the rich potatoes. Be sure to drizzle the thyme-infused olive oil (leftover from the pan that the potatoes baked in) over the meal. Pair with a glass of Syrah for a stunning meal and prepare to wow your guests. 

Prepare to feast.

This meal was largely inspired by French herbs, and the savory ingredients were predominantly from San Luis Obispo County. The culinary lavender hailed from an organic farm in Paso Robles, Central Coast Lavender Farm. I picked up the potatoes, fresh thyme leaves and garlic at local farmer's markets. The rich olive oil that I used was a Tuscan blend produced by Hidden Hills Olives & Oaks in Templeton.
But I strayed a bit from my usual SLO County wine selections...

My new favorite hangout in Pismo Beach: Tastes of the Valleys Wine Bar
This new wine bar offers overs 170 wines by the glass that range from San Luis Santa Barbara and beyond. I stopped by to find a nice Syrah to pair with my lamb dinner. Co-owner, Ash Mehta, helped me find the perfect wine—Morgan Winery's "Cotes du Crow's." This 2008 Rhone blend of Syrah (55%) and Grenache (45%), appellation Monterey, was easy on the fruit (translation = it wasn't a fruit bomb) and complimented the Provencal flavors of the meal. Some wine experts feel that the natural "meatiness" inherent in red Rhone varietals makes it an agreeable match with lamb.
I couldn't agree more.

Bon appetit!

All Text and Photos Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

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