Don’t hold me to it as I occasionally sleep until 7:30, but I’m mostly an early riser. A little time alone and a big cup of coffee or two go a long way to beginning my day properly. I turn on the local news and weather — I may not really watch much of it — check the sky for signs of sunrise,
and try to keep Rosie from going ballistic if a bunny or even sometimes a robin crosses the front yard. The herb garden gets a viewing and pots indoors and outdoors are watered.
I think over my whole world…family, friends, church, blog, house, herb garden, and so on. These are probably the moments I need the most on all levels and it’s in this time that I also become aware of ideas for cooking or blog posts. Sometimes a book or a magazine I’ve been meaning to spend more time with is read and provides sustenance, a sense of continued learning, and plain old happiness. In other words, time alone lets me know who I am.
And so it was the other morning when I had the night before stuck Susan Herrmann Loomis’ 2018 book FRENCH GRILL (The Countryman Press) on the small table I keep next to my reading chair. Get to know Susan, an American who has lived, written stellar cook books, and taught cooking in France for many years. If there’s a book Susan’s written that I don’t have, I’d be surprised! And if you, by the way, need a wedding or Father’s Day gift or just want to take your grilling up to the next level, order this book and be very contented with having completed that task just like THAT!)
While I could write something about Susan’s lovely book, her own words from her website On Rue Tatin might better serve:
French Grill is my latest book. It takes place mostly outside, over the coals and over the gas grill, and it is guaranteed to change your grilling forever, because you’ll find yourself grilling the French way. What does that mean? Well, it means ingredients forward, simple rather than complicated, smokey enough to thrill but not so much it covers the flavor of the food, beautifully grilled, perfectly presented, all with the ease of the grill.
Odd reading habits of mine include leafing through books or magazines from the back to the front; I have no idea why, though it’s been with me from the get-go. (No, I do not want to know the ending first; that’s not it!) So the recipe that first caught my eye was from chapter 8, “Building Blocks,” which included things like aioli, mustard cream, vinaigrettes, vanilla sugar, and finally RED PEPPER SAUCE (La Sauce Poivrons Rouge in French) on page 255 out of 288 pages.
This sauce is not Romesco (the slap-happy later in summer Catalan sauce that includes red bell peppers, tomatoes, and nuts, among other things) — though there’s a version of that in the book, too — but a simpler topping. The main elements and tastes are only two: steamed garlic and grilled red bell peppers, though the seasonings, Piment d’Espelette and sea salt, are just as critical as the ingredients. (If you can’t find Piment d’Espelette–a ground, mild Basque pepper, Susan gives you the option of subbing a blending of paprikas.) My mind immediately went to a package of lamb loin chops waiting anxiously for my attention in the freezer.
The sides would be no problem. As lamb is so very rich and caloric, they would need to be all vegetables for balance, but a sauce wants a bed or bread for sopping it up. A cauliflower-broccoli mash under the chops sounded perfect, particularly if they were to be topped with the just nearly spicy pepper sauce. Lemon Green beans, my go-to, would serve for a green vegetable, the lemon helping to cut the fatty nature of the meat.
OPTIONS/DO-AHEADS: If lamb isn’t your thing, this meal would sing with pinkish bone-in pork chops or pork steaks, sliced pork tenderloin, grilled salmon, or even grilled tender bone-in chicken breasts. No beans? Steamed and sautéed carrot coins or gently cooked leeks might sub. Whichever way you put it together, this is a meal worthy of a wow-ee type family occasion, promotion celebration, goodbye-fete, or a dinner party despite its simplicity. If you like, the mash and the sauce could be done a day or even two ahead, which leaves only the few minutes work of grilling the meat to be accomplished. In fact, I’ve frozen the mash with great success. Unthaw overnight in the refrigerator before heating. If serving the green beans, you can cook them, too, a day or two ahead. Season with salt, peppers, and olive oil, but don’t add the lemon zest until just before serving or the beans will melt away at the ends and discolor as lemon bleaches.
WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine for lamb according to experts, though I often prefer a Syrah, a spicy Shiraz or even a hearty Pinot Noir. In this case, we had a 2005 Chase Cellars Petite Sirah--quite inky and deep — that needed drinking. We uncorked the bottle an hour ahead to let it breathe and that was none too soon. This is a hefty wine that stood up to the fat of the lamb admirably and while it was truly lip smacking yummy, it was a bit too large to drink much of. We left some for another night and called it good.
If you need wine to start the evening, go with a sparkling wine you enjoy or ask the wine shop for a recommendation for an inexpensive cava or a prosecco, Spanish and Italian sparkling wines respectively. Want American? Ask for Gruet–a tasty bubbly from New Mexico. No need to pay for Champagne unless this is a truly big occasion–25th wedding anniversary, college graduation, or baptismal party.
Our wine is tracked on the computer and our phones by Cellar Tracker, which keeps our cellar up to date and lets us know what’s to drink now or later.
STARTERS: Roasted nuts or a small vegetable tray with a vegetable-based dip. Small and light are better attributes here. Not the time for your best cheese platter.
DESSERT: Berries with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream or perhaps only a fruit (lemon?) sorbet. This meal packs a filling wallop and needs nothing much beyond closure. Since you’ve served a fairly celebratory meal, you might offer a tiny digestif… with or even in place of dessert to sooth the tummy and round out the menu.
It’ll take a bit of planning, but try this:
lamb chops with red pepper sauce on cauliflower-broccoli mash
Cauliflower Broccoli Mash:
- 1/2 teaspoon each: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 4 cups each cauliflower-broccoli florets and stems, a bit more than a pound
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, and diced–optional
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons salted butter or olive oil or more as desired
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
Red Pepper Sauce:
- 8 fat cloves garlic
- 4 grilled red bell peppers, skin and seeds removed (Steam for twenty minutes in a closed paper bag after grilling, and then remove skin, slice, and take out seeds.)
- Fine Sea Salt
- Piment d’Espelette* or a blend of hot and sweet paprika
- 8 lamb loin chops, 4 ounces each, 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 " thick
- Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher Salt
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Make the Cauliflower-Broccoli Mash:
- In a 6-8 quart covered pot, heat 3-4 quarts of water seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper over high flame. When boiling, add all of the vegetables, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until everything is very tender– 15-20 minutes. Drain well and while in colander, push out excess water with a wooden spoon or with another, smaller colander. Spoon vegetables into food processor, add red pepper, 1 tablespoon butter or oil and cheese. Process pulsing until quite smooth, adding more butter if needed. (Or mash by hand with a potato masher.) Taste and adjust seasonings. Return to pot and cover to keep warm or set aside and reheat as needed over very low flame, stirring often.
Make the Red Pepper Sauce:
- Bring 3 cups of water (750 mto boil in the bottom half of a steamer. Place the garlic in the steamer, cover, and steam until the garlic is completely soft, which will take 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat. When the cloves are cool enough to handle, remove the skin.
- Purée the peppers and the garlic in a food processor, then transfer the purée to a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat. Cook just until all of the pepper liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and piment d’Espelette. (Start with ¼ teaspoon each and add more as needed.) Set aside until needed. The sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator and for up to three months in the freezer.
Grill the Lamb Chops and Serve on the Cauliflower-Broccoli Mash Topped with Red Pepper Sauce:
- GRILLING: Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 degrees F – 450 degrees F). Brush the lamb chops with olive oil and season them well with salt and pepper on all four sides. Let them rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Place the chops on the grill bone-side down and close the lid. Grill for 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides (1.5 – 3 minutes each), closing the lid after each turn. Cook the chops as done as you like, about 8 minutes total for medium rare to about 15 minutes total for well-done, using an instant read thermometer to check temperatures. Remove from the grill and let rest 2 minutes. The chops are rare at 120°F, medium rare at 125°F, medium at 130°F, and well done at 145°F and higher. (Lamb chops at medium rare are tasty and are my recommendation; overdone chops are tough and dry. FDA recommendation, however, is 145°F plus a 3-min. rest)
- SERVING: Spoon ¾ cup or so of the Cauliflower-Broccoli Mash into a shallow serving bowl and spread it out a bit; gently place two chops side by side in the middle of the mash. Ladle ¼ cup of the Red Pepper Sauce on top or to taste. Serve with Lemon Green Beans if you like. (Recipe on blog.)
COOK’S NOTES: The vegetable mash is still delectable when simplified by omitting the onion, garlic, and fennel; make sure and season well with salt, peppers, and butter or extra virgin olive oil. It can also be made with all cauliflower or all broccoli or with the vegetables in different proportions–say 1/4 broccoli to 3/4 cauliflower florets. Do make sure and get all of the water you can out of the cooked vegetables before pureeing or your mash will be somewhat watery and much less appetizing. Some cooks even use paper or cloth towels to press out as much moisture as possible. Smaller appetites might require only one lamb chop as lamb is so rich. If that is the case, you may get more servings from 8 chops.
FDA Safe Minimal Internal Temperatures PDF Print a copy, place in a clear plastic folder and keep near your stove and/or grill for reference.
A LAZY COOK might…
a. buy a big jar of roasted red peppers, drain, purée, and season them.
b. skip the veggie mash and instead serve the sauced chops on sautéed spinach or purchased mashed potatoes
ALYCE’S LEMON GREEN BEANS…good with almost anything
DIRECTIONS FOR BREAKFAST Makes one frittata: Heat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-low heat for a minute; drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and let heat another minute. Spoon into center of the skillet a 1/3 of a cup or so of the cauliflower-broccoli mash and then spoon about the same amount of red pepper sauce around the edge of the mash. Make a well in the center of the mash and pour in two well-mixed eggs seasoned with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the eggs are done to your liking– perhaps another 3 minutes, checking a few times to make sure they aren’t being overcooked. Slide a rubber spatula around under the eggs and vegetables and tip the skillet to release the frittata onto a plate. (You can also just crack the eggs whole into the center of the vegetables and “poach” them for runny eggs instead of mixing them for a more scrambled egg effect. Don’t forget to season the eggs in the pan for this method. Salting the yolk is particularly necessary.)
More ideas for leftovers: Eat mash cold out of the fridge. Make patties from mash and fry until golden, turning carefully only once. Spoon red pepper sauce on top of grilled, sliced baguette. Add red pepper sauce to fried eggs on toast. Should you miraculously have a lamb chop that survives dinner, it’s great cold, eaten with your hands, please. If you must heat it, do so only for a minute or it’ll become overdone before you say, “Bob’s your uncle.”
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY
Made From Scratch Burrata (Fine Cooking)
Common Health Beliefs Not Necessarily True (Is chicken better for you than beef? Do you really need 10K steps each day?)
thought for the day…
“The world can use more light and less noise. More solvers and fewer blamers. More folks showing a better way and fewer folks complaining about how much better things used to be. More folks offering help and fewer folks wringing their hands about the problems. More hope bringers and fewer hope killers.”
― Steve Goodier
I’m hoping you’re getting your grill on to celebrate something stunning, even if it’s just a friendship for which you’re oh-so-grateful,