Shopping at the farmers' market twice a week has its advantages. By hitting the downtown market on Saturdays and the Maxwell/Broadway market on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I know I'll miss nothing new. If it's there, I'll have it. Some things come and go very quickly. It also assures me that Michael and I will eat seasonally as the fresh produce changes and the market evolves throughout the growing season.
I stopped by the market last Thursday morning before work to scope things out. Fresh plump strawberries. Check. Fresh local rhubarb. Check. Early tender lettuces. Double check. I've done them all.
I drove off with a small pint of Madison County sugar snap peas and spent the rest of the day planning an entire meal around those pea pods.
I had scallops on my mind. Scallops, delicate and fresh-pea worthy. I thought, maybe black sesame-encrusted pan seared scallops with chive oil or blackened scallops over risotto dotted with steamed sugar snap peas.
After work, I drove to the grocery to satisfy my mental scallop orgy. I had my heart set on them.....until I spotted drop dead goegeous Frenched lamb chops. I had to have them. Period.
I mentally reinvented our evening meal while scurrying around the store picking up beef stock, fresh mint, and heavy cream.
Meat and potatoes, kind of.
I had a blast throwing it together.
Potatoes. As an experiment, I thought I'd attempt individual potato gratins. I used my mandolin to thinly slice 2 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes before layering them into two 4-ounce buttered ramekins with sliced fontina d' agosta, parmigiano reggiano, salt, and pepper. Just before topping the gratins with a final layer of potatoes, I drizzled 2 tablespoons of heavy cream into each ramekin, covered them with foil, and slid them into the oven to bake for an hour. I removed the foil after 45 minutes to brown the tops of the gratins.
Sauce. I'm a fool for lamb with mint and a slave to sauces, so I decided to make a fresh mint sauce. I brought 2 cups of beef stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, added 2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar, and 1 tablespoon of aged balsamico di modena. Stirring occasionally, I let the sauce simmer until it reduced by half and was slightly thickened.
Lamb. While enjoying a few glasses of wine, I allowed the lamb chops to come to room temperature. After an hour or so, I brushed the chops with olive oil and liberally seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper. I got a grill pan screaming hot and seared the chops 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare) before pulling them from the smoking pan, tenting them, and letting them rest while I played the sugar snap peas.
Peas. I didn't want to muck around with the pretty fresh peas, so I simple sauteed them in butter until they turned bright green, removed the sugar snap peas from the heat, and scattered fresh julliened red bell pepper strips over the pea pods for crunch.
Just before we ate, I tossed market-fresh baby arugula leaves with fresh lemon juiice and olive oil, nestled the peppery tart arugula salads onto our plates, and topped them with the golden creamy potato gratins. Fresh snipped chives finished them off.
After plating the buttery sugar snap peas, I criss-crossed the lamb chops next to them with a drizzle of mint sauce and showered our plates with diced red pepper for final bursts of color and freshness.
My my my.
Mouth party. Complex. Wonderful.
The succulent lamb was perfectly pink, moist, and juicy. The mint sauce gently bathed the chops with subtle savoury and sweet mint essence. Lucsious and light.
When sliced, the tiny gratins oozed cheese and cream through seven layers of thinly sliced soft baked yukon gold potatoes. Caramelized. Ridiculous. Three luxurious bites of potato perfection with a biting lemon-dressed peppery baby arugula salad cutting through the richness with bright acidity. Heaven. Really.
Through the frenzy of the lamb, sauce, gratins, and arugula, the buttery sugar snap peas were key. They were snappingly crisp and bursting with garden fresh wetness. Clean. Perfect balance.
The added bonus of frenched lamb chops? Built-in handles to gnaw the meat from the bones. Yep. Did it. Stripped. Clean bones.