Friday, October 23, 2009

An Amazing Dinner!

I had some leftover thyme and I was searching for a way to keep it fresh
in some water on my windowsill when I discovered this little egg cup! It is so cute and worked perfectly!

When it comes to cooking, I often feel like an explorer searching for greener pastures. In my case, the promised land of the kitchen includes dishes that look impressive, taste divine, and, unless they are for special holidays once a year, simple and easy to toss together. I dream of discovering a collection of these recipes that I can keep together in a big binder and refer to ten years from now (or whenever I get too busy with children to try out new recipes and think up new menus).  I hope that by the time I've been a housewife for 25 years or so I will have developed quite a collection.

Although there is always a bit of a risk in trying out a new recipe, sometimes you hit upon a real gem which makes up for the bad experiences with things like apple cranberry pancakes. : )

I had just such an experience on Tuesday night when trying out a recipe for Proven├žal Rack of Lamb which I found on Epicurious. This recipe seemed particularly brilliant after my experience with Monday night's dinner. I had never cooked a rack of lamb before and was a bit nervous about it, but I was thrilled to discover that it was very very easy and it took just a little over an hour to assemble and cook. A rack of lamb is a fancy and rather expensive cut to cook for an ordinary dinner, so in the future I think I'll save this recipe for special occasions or for when I want to impress company. :) 

Proven├žal Rack of Lamb 
Serves 2
From Gourmet Magazine, October 2008 via

2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1 (1-pound) frenched rack of lamb (4 to 8 chops, depending on size) cut in half
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons water

1) Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.

2) Mince and mash the garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir together with herbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil. {On the day I made this recipe I had a really tight schedule in the evening so I was trying to get as much done as possible ahead of time. To help make things easier, I put the garlic herb mixture together earlier in the afternoon and then let it sit out on the counter until it was time to make dinner.}

I just love my mortar and pestle! It took me quite awhile to finally invest in one, but it is so nice to have!

It makes mashing up garlic and herbs so much easier!

3) Put the tomatoes, cut sides up, in an oiled small baking dish and drizzle with a third of the garlic mixture. Roast until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, pat the lamb dry and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

5) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch, ovenproof, skillet {I used my lovely cast iron skillet!} over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown the lamb on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer lamb to a plate and discard the oil from the skillet.

6) Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots and potatoes, stirring occasionally, until the edges are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. {I found this took more like 10 minutes and I could probably have let them go a bit longer than that even.}

7) Stir in the water and half of the remaining garlic mixture and remove from heat. {I love how the delicious garlic herb marinade is infused all through this dish!}

8) Rub the remaining garlic mixture on the fat side of the lamb racks. Arrange the lamb over the potatoes and roast in the oven until an instant thermometer inserted into the center of the meat (do not touch the bone) registers 130F for medium-rare, about 20 to 25 minutes. {I let my lamb cook until it registered 145F and it was still a bit pink in the middle. Normally I would want mine to be more done, but since we had to leave the house right after dinner, I ate it the way it was and it was delicious! I didn't even mind the bit of pink!}

9) Let stand, loosely covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the tomatoes.

Woodley was very, very impressed by this dinner and kept remarking over and over again what a good housewife I made. :) That was definitely one of the things that let me know this recipe was a keeper!

Another thing is that it almost makes a complete meal by itself. The tomatoes and potatoes act as a nice side dish and I served it along with a green salad and that felt like plenty of food to us.

Yet another fabulous aspect of this recipe is that you really don't get very many dishes dirty while you are making it. I left the tomatoes in the oven while the lamb was cooking and managed to do all the prep dishes while the lamb was in the oven. Woodley came into the kitchen about 20 minutes before dinner was to be served, just as I was cleaning up the last of the dishes. He asked if I was actually cooking dinner and if it would really be ready in 20 minutes because there was nothing on the counters and nothing on the stovetop. (At that point the tomatoes and the lamb were in the oven!) I assured him that, yes, dinner would be ready shortly and then tossed together my salad and set the table. :) It worked perfectly!

Needless to say, I would highly recommend this recipe!! If you try it out, be sure to let me know how it worked for you.


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