WINE WITH…Lamb Steaks with Oven-Baked Potatoes and Eggplant
In his classic tome Simple French Food, Richard Olney, one of the twentieth century’s most revered cooks and food writers, offers a
wonderful recipe for a gratin of lamb chops and vegetables. Some of us love this dish, but for people who prefer their lamb rare, or at least medium-rare, these thin little chops seem considerably overcooked after spending an hour and half or so in the oven buried in among the vegetables. To please those epicures who prefer their lamb rosy or red, we tweaked the recipe by substituting lamb steaks for the chops, searing them first and then adding them to the baked veggies only for the last 15 minutes or so in the oven. We also used eggplant instead of artichokes because, unlike Mr. Olney, we do not live in the south of France, where artichokes are readily available. Admittedly, the liberties we took with the original recipe were a bit radical, but since we found the results not only tasty but also an extremely savory accompaniment to red wine, we decided—with deepest apologies to the spirit of Richard Olney--to share it with you.
Lamb Steaks Wth Oven-Baked Potatoes and Eggplant
Cut the steaks yourself from a boneless leg of lamb, or ask the butcher to do it for you if they aren’t available in the meat case.
For the Vegetables:
1/3 cup olive oil
about 2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 large eggplant
5-6 medium-size waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 2 tablespoons minced fresh)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup parsley, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup water
For the Lamb:
4 boneless lamb steaks, about 6-8 ounces each
1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh)
3/4 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 350°
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy skillet such as cast iron. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat. When they are tender and beginning to color a little, transfer them to a baking dish.
Cut the eggplant, unpeeled, into slices about 1 inch thick. Add the rest of the olive oil to the skillet and cook the eggplant slices in it. Turn them frequently, adding more olive oil if necessary, until they are fairly soft. Arrange the slices over the mushroom mixture. Do not wash the skillet.
Peel the potatoes and slice into rounds about ½ inch thick. Scatter them over the eggplant.
Mix together the thyme, rosemary, garlic and parsley and distribute it over the top of the potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper and add the water. If the baking dish does not have a lid, cover it with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and bake for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, pat the lamb steaks dry with a paper towel. Trim off most of the fat along the outer edges. Mix together the ¼ cup of olive oil with the herbs and salt and pepper and rub the mixture into both sides of the steaks. Place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and heat it until a few drops of water sprinkled into it sizzle and “dance” across the surface.
Add the steaks and leave them undisturbed for a minute or two so they can develop a nice brown sear. Flip them and sear the other side for another minute or so. Arrange the steaks on top of the vegetables. Pour the wine into the hot skillet and cook it over high heat and cook it, stirring constantly, until it has reduced by about half.
Drizzle the reduced wine over the steaks and vegetables and return the dish to the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the steaks are cooked to the desired degree of rareness.
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This dish likes red wine so much that it doesn’t even mind fairly aggressive tannins. The fat in the lamb, coupled with the olive oil that helps cook the vegetables, tames them, making wines that may seem too astringent when sipped on their own turn mellow and even supple. So don’t fear big, rambunctious reds. This dish will handle them just fine.