Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going home to Abaco

My husband Meakin and I followed a dream of living on a tropical island and retired to Abaco in the out islands of the northern Bahamas and lived there for ten years on the tiny private cay (cays are smaller than islands) of Lubbers Quarters. One day when Meakin was 53 he came home from work and announced that he’d quit his job and we were moving to the islands and I had thirty days to sell anything that wouldn’t fit in our house there. As you can imagine, that came as quite a shock to me.

Lubbers Quarters, below, is a lush, tropical paradise comprised of about 300 acres. When we had Lazy Days, our first house built, it was the fourth one on the south end of the cay. It was laid-back living in “de the land of de rum and de coconuts.”

Aerial of the south end of Lubbers Quarters with the Atlantic Ocean at the top

The two houses on the water in the photo below were ours. We built the second one, Sandy Bottoms, on the left when we moved their permanently. Lubbers Quarters is completely surrounded by the protected waters of the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean is at the top of the photo above. We were about seven minutes from our dock by boat to the six hundred foot drop off point in the Atlantic Ocean where you could catch the big fish - tuna, Wahoo and dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi). Some days when the fish were running, it seemed like they just jumped right in your boat.

When we designed the house, we wanted to make sure we could see the Sea of Abaco from every room in the house, including the bathroom. Below is the view from the kitchen window at Lazy Days where I would stand each day at the cutting board chopping onions, peeling vegetables, and preparing our meals. Not bad - and the frequent rainbows made it even more special. Many days bottle nose dolphins swam by the dock, playing and jumping in unison in the sea and catching needle-nose fish near the shore for their dinner just outside that very window. The boat that you see hanging off of the dock below was our “car” as there weren’t any stores on Lubbers Quarters and there still aren’t today.

View from my kitchen window at Lazy Days

Here’s our small but efficient kitchen pictured below with a tiny walk-in pantry behind the door in the corner. The walls are pine, pickled a soft driftwood gray/white. The house was always open to capture the sea breezes. When we built in 1989, there was no city power and we used solar panels on the roof for electricity. We also had no telephone and cell phones were a thing of the future in a tiny country such as this. The black radio with mike hanging below the copper pan on the cabinet is the VHF, the main means of communications in a boating community such as ours. Jimmy Buffett famously called it “the coconut telegraph” and wrote a tune about it. As the song The Coconut Telegraph goes,

You can hear ‘em on the coconut telegraph,
Can’t keep nothin’ under their hat.
You can hear ‘em on the coconut telegraph,
Sayin’ who did dis and dit,
Dis and dat, dis and dat.

We wanted to live in Abaco, as the song goes, “where everyone knows your name,” but we had no idea that they would also know our business. There’s no such thing as a private conversation on the VHF.

Our island kitchen, small but efficient - VHF radio with mike hanging on the cabinet on the right

We’re going back home to visit friends in Abaco. It will always feel like home to us because we made so many friends and have such wonderful memories of the good times we had there. Lubbers has grown a lot since the early days of our arrival. At the insistence (and might I add persistence) of Meakin, my lovely husband, the government finally agreed to lay an underwater cable from the mainland and dig a ditch in the road around the south end in the stubborn coral rock so we could have city power and telephones. There are over 60 houses on Lubbers today and much of the growth is due to amenities being available.

Our "road" - an old coral path that winds its way around the south end of the cay

Of course Lazy Days isn’t our home any more, but we’ve become great friends with the people we sold it to and they’re having a party for us while we’re there. It should be a wonderful time catching up with old friends, many of whom we’ve known for over twenty years.

As some of you know, I’m in the process of writing a lively memoir. The book is a travel adventure filled with zany characters, funny stories, and all of the wonderful friends we made in Abaco. It includes building a house, boating and fishing tales, entertaining, food and recipes as well as all of the trouble we managed to get into. Yes, trouble. Life isn’t always perfect in paradise.

My other blog, Island Time in Abaco, has lots of pictures of the beautiful settlement of Hope Town, about 10 minutes by boat from Lubbers. The first inhabitants arrived in the 1700’s and were Loyalist to the Queen of England after the Revolutionary War in the States. A barrier reef, just off shore of the settlement, protects miles of beautiful white sand beach and the clear turquoise water is filled with tropical fish and dolphin. This gorgeous, candy striped lighthouse, built in 1863, dominates the harbor filled with sailboats and trawlers, bobbing at anchor in the water.

Candy stripped lighthouse in Hope Town, Abaco, The Bahamas

We’ll be back before you know it, but while I’m gone I won’t be able to drop by your blogs for a visit as I usually do. I’ll miss you all, so take care, stay warm and I’ll see you soon.

I think I’ll just let Alan Jackson describe the islands of Abaco for you on this video in an interview with him where he sings the catchy tune he wrote and consequently sang on an album about his own personal visit to Abaco - Laid Back ‘n Low Key. If you like Alan Jackson, this is a "do not miss" video. Click this link and sing along with Alan and think of us going home “Down in Abaco.”

Laid back ‘n low key
You and me on that white powdered beach
Side by side with the sand and the sea
Laid Back 'n Low Key

Gentle roar of a wave on the shore
Makes its way through the crack ‘neath the door
Wake up call from the ocean floor
Down in Abaco

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks and the 17th century Château de Barbentane in Provence

We like lamb shanks, but they tend to be quite rich and fatty so we don’t serve them often. When I saw this recipe on Stacey’s Snacks, she made it look so tempting that I decided to give it another chance. I always look forward to checking my email each morning, because it always has a post from Stacey containing the tasty food she’s prepared the previous night. She served the lamb shanks at a dinner party and said it was great because it was so much less expensive than Ossobuco for a crowd. I like veal shanks too and agree with Stacey. I served them with polenta rounds that I browned at the last minute.

Since experience had taught us that the lamb shanks are too fatty for our taste, we refrigerated them overnight and skimmed off of the fat layer the next day. It turned out to be a good idea, because it helped to reduce the fat. I made very few other changes and my notes are in parenthesis below. Primarily I believe that if you add the herbs to the end of browning the vegetables and cook for a few more minutes, that brings out the essence of the herbs rather than just adding them to the liquids. I also thickened the sauce with a beurre manie of butter and flour.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary
Adapted from Stacey’s Snacks via All Recipes

6 meaty lamb shanks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
10 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 (10.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth

Sprinkle the shanks with kosher salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, (Don’t crowd the skillet or they’ll steam rather than brown), brown the shanks on all sides, about 8 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions and carrots to pot and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook a minute or two more. (I always like to incorporate the chopped herbs with the onions at the end of browning them, because I think it brings out their flavors instead of just throwing them in with the liquids.)

Stir in the wine, tomatoes, chicken broth and beef broth. (Break up the tomatoes with a large spoon.) Return the shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about two and a half hours.

Lamb shanks can be fatty, so I removed the pot from the heat, let it cool and refrigerated it overnight. The next day before you’re ready to serve them, scrape off all of the accumulated fat at the top and discard. Heat the pot and bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes longer. Transfer the shanks to a platter and place in a warm oven. Boil the juices until they thicken, about 15 minutes. Serves six.

If your sauce is not thick enough (ours wasn’t), make a beurre manie by blending 3 T flour with 2 T softened butter to make a paste. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manie, then simmer the sauce for 2 minutes as it thickens. Spoon over the shanks and serve.

Château de Barbentane 

While we were in Provence, we toured the impressive 17th century Château de Barbentane, 10 km south of Avignon, and were able to see what it was like to live in such a grand château centuries ago. Upon closer inspection, the château and the grounds are showing signs of wear and tear, but if I’d survived the French revolution as Barbentane did, I suspect I would be a bit tattered myself. It must be a huge expense to maintain such a massive château, even if you are a Marquis.

Here’s the château’s history according to Provence Web, “The construction of the Château de Barbentane was started in 1674 by Paul François de Barbentane, but it was only completed at the end of the 18th century. This château is the home of the Marquis de Barbentane. It is to Joseph Pierre Balthazar de Puget, who was Marquis de Barbentane and Louis XV’s ambassador to Florence, that the splendid reception rooms owe their sumptuous decoration. They are ornamented with plasterwork and Carrare marble which show off the château’s Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture to great advantage. Having miraculously survived the 1789 French Revolution, the house is still inhabited today by the Marquis de Barbentane.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vegetarians beware – there’s a bumpy road ahead - steak tartare

I know you’re thinking – what’s next. First we went to an ancient festival in Provence where the sheep run through the villages to the mountains to escape the heat of summer and then dined on a delicious leg of lamb. Next I presented a lovely rabbit dish and several of you could only think of the bunny in your garden and said, “oh no, not me.” I understand. I really do. I couldn’t eat the fat little rabbit we used to see in our garden that we nicknamed Edward, and called, “Run Edward run,” every time we let our Collie out the door. But the rabbit we had last time had no name and he was delicious.

But beware. The French love to eat all of the parts and some things can be easily confused. As an example, le ris de veau could easily be confused for rice, which is riz. Le ris de veau is sweetbreads, which we adore and ate several times while we were in Provence. It was prepared in a rich cream sauce and was to die for. But don’t worry, I’m not preparing sweetbreads today. However, if you are a vegetarian, please just enjoy these lovely old vintage cars, mostly from the thirties, as they drove around the ring road that circles Saint-Remy-de-Provence on their way to a car show in Beaucaire. We think the blue one below was a boattail Bugatti, but we’re not sure. If you can identify any of them, please let me know. Now, if you’re ready for a true meat lover’s treat, stay with me.

The next dish is a French classic and one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites. Anthony, or Tony as he’s sometimes called, is the Travel Channel’s host of “No Reservations. I write, I eat, I travel and I’m hungry for more.” Tony will eat almost anything. The dish I’m about to prepare is from his Les Halles cookbook, which I have and love if you’re into classic French cuisine. Here’s a link to his recipe on The Foodinista. Les Halles is the kind of cookbook you can just sit and read for hours if you enjoy Tony’s matter of speaking, which is pretty blunt for some tastes.

This recipe is one of my husband Meakin’s specialties and it’s been in his family for years. Meakin loves to tell the story about his grandfather Papa sampling some of the hors d’oeurves his mother Bette had made before a cocktail party years ago. Papa found a tray of small party rye breads with a little mound of something he didn’t recognize with sliced French cornichon pickles on top. After he devoured several, he said, “Bette, these are wonderful.” “Dad, I thought you didn’t like raw meat.” “You know I don’t Bette.” “Well you must, because that’s steak tartare.”

Steak tartare is very finely chopped raw sirloin mixed with onions, capers and seasonings served on toast or party rye. It is imperative that you use the finest and freshest steak available since it’s eaten raw. Steak tartare is a bistro dish in France and is traditionally served with frites, French for fries, and a salad. Sometimes Meakin chops his own meat by hand as Bourdain does, but if you’ll tell the butcher that you plan to serve it raw and you know the store and the quality of meat they sell, the butcher can chop it for you. Be sure to take it home promptly, don’t let it get warm in the car, and eat it right away. You can also use a meat grinder, but never, and I repeat, never use the food processor. It turns the meat to mush. Serve it with fries (I made oven fries), a green salad, and pour a nice glass of red wine or a good cold beer. We like a good French Cote du Rhone. Select your guests carefully, because this is way too good to have someone throw it away.

Meakin’s Steak Tartare

Put one egg yolk in a bowl and add ½ teaspoon prepared horseradish, 2 anchovy filets, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 3 good shakes of Tabasco and mix well with a fork. Add ¾ of a pound of top quality ground sirloin, ½ of a white onion, chopped, 2 teaspoons drained small capers (chop if large), and a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and mix well. Season the mixture with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and taste. Sometimes he adds a teaspoon of ketchup as he sees fit after he tastes it. Serve immediately on slices of a toasted French bread or little party ryes that have been lightly smeared with good sweet cold butter. Top with thin slices of French cornichons if you like. (We like).

Note: For some unknown reason he forgot the chopped parsley for the picture above. Don’t leave it out. It adds a fresh flavor in addition to color


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A French Valentine’s Day Bistro Lunch featuring Eggs in Coquetiers all the way from Paris

I was the lucky person to receive these little black French coquetiers, French egg cups, from Laura at Laura’s Paris Cooking Notebook. Laura found them at the Christmas Market in the Champs Elysees and she mailed them to me all the way from Paris. Laura says in Paris, “black is very trendy in the French arts de la table (everything related to the table, tablecloths, decorations, chinaware, glassware, silverware ...) and these have a Paris touch with the Eiffel Tower in white.”

Thank you so much Laura. I’ve been saving these darling little egg cups for a special occasion and that occasion has come. It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday, so why not prepare your valentine a French bistro lunch of Oeufs a la coque avec mouillettes, or soft boiled eggs with toasted fingers of bread, and a frisee salad with lardons or a simple green salad of curly endive with bacon gently dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette that you've seen on my blog several times.
I adapted the eggs and bread fingers recipe from Clotilde Dusoulier’s cookbook, Chocolate & Zucchini, in which she writes about her daily adventures in a Parisian kitchen. The toast fingers are normally spread with a little butter, but I mixed some goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Clotilde also used goat cheese but mixed hers with artichokes, which also sounds delicious, so be sure to check out her recipe.

Soft Boiled Eggs with fingers of bread

Oeufs à la coque avec mouillettes

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier

Four extra large, high quality brown eggs

4 of 5 sun-dried tomatoes, depending on their size

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 4-ounce log of soft goat cheese

French baguette

Bring the eggs to room temperature to avoid the shells cracking as you lower them into the simmering water. Put the eggs in saucepan with enough water to cover. Remove the eggs and bring the water to a gentle boil. With a slotted spoon carefully put the eggs back in the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat to low and allow the eggs to simmer gently for four minutes. Do not overcook or you’ll end up with hardboiled eggs.
While the eggs are cooking, chop four or five sun-dried tomatoes (the dried ones not packed in oil) that you’ve previously plumped in hot water to soften. If you are using the ones packed in oil, you can skip the plumping step. Mash the goat cheese with a fork and add the tomatoes and basil and mix together to make a smooth paste.
Slice the baguette lengthwise as if you were making a sandwich and toast it. Spread the toast with the goat cheese mixture and cut into fingers thin enough to be easily inserted in the soft boiled egg.
Drain the eggs and put them in egg cups. Serve with the toast fingers. Serves four as a light main course. (Instructions for how to properly eat the eggs is below.) Excellent with a frisee salad with lardons.

Here are Clotidle’s suggestions on the proper French way to eat a soft boiled egg with toast fingers:

Tap the pointy end of the egg gently with a knife all around so you can slice off its hat. Remove the hat and season the egg and the hat with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Scoop out the inside of the hat with a spoon and eat that first. Take one mouillette, or toast finger, and dip it in the egg, and eat the egg coated end. Repeat until you’ve eaten all of the bread. Use your spoon to eat the remainder of the egg. When you’re finished, drop the hat into the empty shell for good luck.

To make your valentine’s lunch complete, grab a fresh baguette and some flowers and a nice cadeau, French for gift, and you’ll be set.

I’ve received a couple of awards and would like to say thank you to Laura of Laura’s Paris Cooking Notebook for the Kreativ Blog award and to Mama Bird at Mama Bird’s Nest and Sophie of Sophie's Food Files for the Honest Scrap award. I’m honored and pleased. You are all special ladies and I hope you have an exceptionally great Valentine’s Day. Also I want to thank two of my blogging friends, Christo of ChezWhat and Danielle of Cooking for My Piece of Mind, for generously sharing their knowledge of blogging. They both have helped me make my blog better. A big French merci beaucoup to you both.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone,


Friday, February 5, 2010

A recipe for rabbit - Lapin a la Chasseur and the beautiful village of L’Isle Sur la Sorgue

Lapin a la Chasseur

Every time I think about rabbit, or lapin as it’s called in France, I think of a charming story I read about an American family from South Carolina that moved to France. The father worked for the Michelin Tire Company and was transferred, so he took his wife and family with him. They had two small children and the little girl was having difficulties learning French, so the mother asked the neighbor, a grandmotherly type, if she would help her daughter. The neighbor took the girl under her wing and one day they were on a walk and saw a rabbit in the garden. The grandmother told the little girl that it was called lapin. The little girl said, “He’s so cute.” “Non,” the grandmother replied, “delicieux.”

If you don’t like rabbit, don’t worry. The French Impressionist Claude Monet didn’t eat rabbit either. Who would dare to say the famous Monet didn’t have good taste. Just enjoy the photos for today. They are from L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, a charming French village with river canals of crystal blue water from the Sorgue River running between its ancient streets. There are several large old waterwheels that still turn. Sunday is the most popular day of the week in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, because they hold a huge antique and flea market in conjunction with their farmers market. The village is a “do not miss” in travel guides. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Because, as the grandmother said, the French think rabbit is delicious, we wanted to try to make it at home. We’d heard that rabbit was difficult to prepare because it’s often dry in texture. We’d made difficult dishes before, so as you can imagine, that didn’t’ stop us. One day while shopping at a butcher shop in a nearby town, we saw a package, so we snapped it up. As soon as we returned home we looked through all of our cookbooks for recipes for rabbit and found Lapin a la Mourtarde, meaning with mustard. In the past we’d used a similar recipe for chicken with mustard, carrots and onions that had been a success and decided to give it a try. We made every effort not to overcook it, but it turned out dry and we didn’t like it, although the sauce was delicious.

When we were in France, we asked Claude and Dana, owners of Bistro Decoverte, one of our favorite bistros in Saint-Remy, “Do you ever have lapin as your plat du jour?

“Not often,” Claude replied. “Why?” we asked. “Because it doesn’t sell well? “No,” he said, “actually it sells quite well, but it’s difficult to prepare.” Whew, even a Frenchman thinks it’s hard to prepare. It’s not just us. We told him to call us if he ever happened to have it on the menu and left it at that.

The next week I was walking along the boulevard when I heard someone call my name. Surprised that I might know someone in Saint-Remy, I looked around. It was Dana, Claude’s wife. We’re having lapin this Sunday she said. Would you like to make a reservation? Needless to say I said, “Oui Dana, s’il vous plait.” The lapin was delicious and was prepared a la Moutarde, with a mustard sauce. Claude quickly sold out of it and, much to our good fortune, featured it several more times during our stay.

When we returned home I was flipping through Mark Bittman and Jean- Georges Vongerichten’s cookbook, Simple to Spectacular, and ran across a recipe for Lapin a la Chasseur and decided to give rabbit a second change in my kitchen. Thanks to their excellent instructions, it turned out great and, as the French grandmother would say, delicieux. Because of their reputation and the fact that we’d failed before, I didn’t make many changes. I mean, who would have the audacity to think they could improve on a recipe from Jean-Georges? Not moi for certain. However, I took two shortcuts and used frozen little pearl onions and bought pre-sliced mushrooms. Rice or buttered noodles and a green salad make a nice accompaniment.

Lapin a la Chasseur
Adapted from Simple to Spectacular – serves 4

One 2 – 3 lb rabbit, cut into 10 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
15 small pearl onions, peeled (thawed and patted dry if using frozen)
8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon sweet butter
¼ cup minced fresh chives or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add rabbit pieces (do not crowd the pan; may have to do more than one batch) and turn the heat to high. When the rabbit begins to brown, turn heat down to medium and add garlic and thyme. When it’s nicely browned, stir in the pearl onions and mushrooms and put the pot in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove all but the legs from the pot to a platter, cover and keep warm. Add wine, stir and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Remove pot from oven and return to stove top. Remove legs and set aside on platter with remaining pieces. Add butter to cooking liquid in the pot and stir until butter melts. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Spoon sauce over the rabbit and serve, garnished with chives or parsley.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Leg of Lamb and Transhumance, the ancient festival in Provence of the running of the sheep

When we were in Provence, lamb or l’agneau du Pays seemed to be the plat du jour at almost every bistro at least once a week. If your family isn’t lamb friendly, please don’t click away because I don’t want you to miss a festival in Provence that you’ve probably never seen – the ancient custom of running of the sheep. There are pictures and a link to a video, so just jump to paragraph four and I’ll join you later.

One of the places we enjoyed the local lamb happened to be one of Patricia Well’s favorite bistros, Le Bistrot du Paradou, a short fifteen minute drive from Saint-Remy. While we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, we watched the man at the next table return his lamb to the waiter and request that it be rose, or medium-rare. Meakin caught the waiter’s eye and ask that ours be rose as well. We enjoy leg of lamb and will sometimes serve it at dinner parties. I say “sometimes” because we like our lamb medium rare to rare and not everyone does. So if we’re having guests who like it well done or even medium well, we forget the lamb, just as we would forget a fillet of beef, and serve something else. 

This picture is from one of those dinner parties. I served it with one of my favorite salads, asparagus with hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, and red onion slivers, which you would not find in Provence. If the picture looks familiar, that’s because you’ve seen the asparagus salad in a post last August. The recipe for the leg of lamb is below, but first I want to tell you about a festival held in Provence in late spring that celebrates the migrating of the sheep to the hills to escape the summer heat.

Sheep are raised all through Provence and the migration is an ancient tradition in the area. In order to get them to the mountains, the sheep are herded through the winding streets of the villages. It’s celebrated with a festival known as the Fete de Transhumance, or the running of the sheep. In Saint-Remy Transhumance draws huge crowds of tourists on busses, jet-setters and locals, as you can see in this video from Monty and Marsha. They did a great job of videoing the festival, so be sure to click over and watch. You’ll feel like you’re right there, standing on the edge of the sidewalk, as hundreds of sheep run through the streets. 

Our stay ended two weeks before Transhumance in Saint-Remy, but fortunately we were able to find one being held earlier in Senas.  We hopped in our car and headed east out of Saint-Remy on the D99, a lovely plane tree lined highway in search of Senas.

Senas is a very small farming community, not the tourist town Saint-Remy is and you are unlikely to find it in travel guides. There won’t be any tour busses at this Transhumance and there won’t be any English spoken here. We will be experiencing the festival in rural France with the locals. We arrived early and strolled around the village waiting for the festival to begin and watched children riding horses in the streets, and a farrier making horse shoes. A few people came out of the boulangerie carrying baguettes, but there wasn’t a lot of activity for a Saturday morning. Around eleven we stopped at small café and Meakin ordered une petite biere, a small beer, for both of us. When the waitress replied, “Pression?” we shrugged our shoulders, not knowing what she meant. This is where charades comes in handy. She took her hand and pulled down and repeated pression. Ah, she meant draft beer. “Oui Madame, je voudrais pression,” Meakin said.

The mayor gave a speech before the festival. We caught only a few words that we recognized now and then, but we politely smiled and applauded when others around us did. Afterwards we stood with the other onlookers on the edge of the sidewalk of the narrow winding street waiting and anticipating the arrival of the sheep. Finally someone in the crowd yelled, “Something, something, something les moutons,” in rapid French that we assumed was “here come the sheep.” Seemingly out of nowhere, a large herd of sheep and a few brown long horn goats began racing through the streets. These pictures are from our trip a couple of years ago.

Notice below that only one shepherd and his dog control the entire flock. A young curious lamb stopped briefly near us and tried to eat a flower from an urn, but he was quickly corralled by the dog and rejoined the pack. No misbehaving allowed here.

We never knew who the people in the carriages were. To experience watching this ancient tradition with the locals in a tiny village in Provence was a fantastic experience and one we certainly won’t forget. 

Now, back to the leg of lamb. My favorite recipe for leg of lamb is from Patricia Well’s Bistro Cooking. The lamb is roasted on an oven rack set above thinly sliced potatoes, onions and tomatoes. The lamb’s juices drip on the vegetables, flavoring them while they cook.

Patricia Wells uses a bone-in leg, but we used a boneless one. The butcher will do all of the boning work for you if you ask. I added rosemary because it goes so well with lamb and I also have it growing in my herb garden. Instead of chopping the garlic as the recipe calls for, I sliced it into very thin slivers. I’ve noticed that Mario Batali thinly slices his garlic and I’ve found it works well. 

If you like your lamb as rare as we do, I suggest that you slice the potatoes as thinly as possible or they tend to not be done when the lamb is. This has happened to me, so now I slice the potatoes with my mandoline, but a sharp knife will do the trick. If your oven has a built-in thermometer, be sure to use it so you don’t have to constantly check the lamb for doneness.  

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Rosemary
Adapted from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells – serves 8 to 10

1 boneless leg of lamb, about 6 to 7 pounds
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into very thin slivers
2 pounds of baking potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
5 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T chopped fresh thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400F. Arrange the vegetables as follows: first a layer of the potatoes, then the onions, followed by the tomatoes. Season each layer with one third of the garlic and thyme plus some salt and pepper. Pour the wine over the vegetables, followed by the olive oil.

Trim the leg of lamb if it’s fatty. Season liberally with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the fresh chopped rosemary. Place a rack over the vegetables to hold the lamb. Roast, uncovered, for about an hour and fifteen minutes, turning the lamb every 15 minutes and basting it with some of the liquid underneath.  For rare to medium rare, remove the lamb from the oven when it reaches 125 degrees for rare and 130 for medium rare. Tent the lamb with foil and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes to rest. Slice and serve alongside the vegetables.

This post is linked to Oh the Places I've Been hosted by the Tablescaper. Have a nice weekend everyone.