Beware bizarre dishes from iffy restaurants. Try, with open arms, unheard of dishes from great restaurants. Chances are that what you are eating is either a delicacy of the chefs great grandmother, or a dish that has been developed after hours of labour. Great restaurants never serve shonky dishes. One of their roles is to surprise and to motivate.
A little-known French provincial dish is the loin of lamb larded with anchovies. Sounds ridiculous, but when I took it at Melbourne’s Paul Bocuse restaurant, compliments of its resident genius chef, Philippe Mouchel, I was immediately in love.
This is Mouchel’s recipe. The sauce makes enough for 2 million serves. Adjust to your needs or make as one batch and freeze. Or just cook the larded loin and forget about the sauce. The intense flavour of the anchovy is not there as a joke. The anchovies all but disintegrate, and the salty flavour impregnates the loin, drawing out the brilliant flavours of the lamb. It works in much the same way as garlic sits neatly with lamb. In this case you hardly know the flavour comes from a dead fish.
1 rack of lamb per person
2 anchovies per rack of lamb
25 g chopped garlic (4-5 cloves)
40 g extra anchovies (12-14 fillets) – Use Western Australian anchovies, handful of tarragon
finely chopped olives (optional)
35 mL olive oil
15 g butter
20 mL cream
a little lamb stock or juice from cooked lamb (optional)
Make two incisions in each rack with a skewer and force an anchovy into each hole.
Cook the garlic, the extra anchovies and most of the tarragon in the olive oil and butter at a gentle, gentle simmer for 15 minutes. The anchovies will disappear into the sauce.
At the end of the cooking process, stir in the cream, swirl about and puree the lot in the whizzer. Turn the pepper mill over the lot.
Roast the racks as usual, in a hot oven (250°C-280°C) for 6-10 minutes, depending on their thickness. Allow to rest in the cooking pan, covered, for 5-10 minutes.
This is optional. For every 2 spoonfuls of anchovy sauce, mix in 1 spoon of lamb stock or juice. Please yourself what size spoon you use. The lamb stock adds lamb flavour to the sauce, obviously, but without it the juices flowing from the undercooked rack will do much the same job.
You can serve the sauce with finely chopped olives dotted around. I prefer more fresh tarragon. Taste for seasoning. There’s no way you will need salt, but it’s possible you will need more black pepper.
Serve the racks sliced with a little sauce. This is marvellous accompanied by no more than mashed potatoes and peas.
For true lovers of anchovies and garlic, this sauce can be used to flavour mashed potatoes. Once you’ve cooked the potatoes and mashed them roughly, work through the anchovy sauce, with an extra slab of butter, and serve the potatoes rather than a sauce with your lamb loin or chops. Alternatively, toss the anchovy sauce through fresh pasta.
WINE: Pinot is sometimes big enough for lamb but with this dish it’s best to stick to a good cabernet sauvignon. Most of the top Australian cabernets these days will drink very well when they are three to four years old, but for best results see if you can keep your hands off one for ten years.