colorful crocuses are just now starting to pop up. Spring will soon be here and with it will come all the anticipated seasonal delights: tender lamb, crisp asparagus, fava beans and spring peas to name just a few. In our family, we have wonderful memories of enjoying rack of lamb, asparagus and aligot (a mashed potato puree with garlic and melted Tomme de’Auvergne cheese) on the terrace in the hills near Grasse, the perfume capital north of Cannes in France. It is also a special menu we make every time we see our dear Tantine (Annie) as this herbed lamb recipe is truly her favorite. The 1000 year old history of the elastic, nutty flavored, ribbon like aligot puree is worth sharing.The pilgrims of Santiago de Compostelle (The Way of St. James) that traveled this medieval route to the cathedral in Galicia, northwest Spain, have done so since the 9th century. The cathedral is widely believed to be where the Apostle St. James is buried. Monks and farmers along the route would offer something to eat to the weary pilgrims: something in Latin is “al i quad” which morphed into the current name “aligot”.Enjoy this meal steeped in medieval history and our family tradition, yet bright and new with the freshest fare of spring.
Recipe for Herb Parmesan Rack of Lamb
2 – 2lb racks of lamb, trimmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh italian parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5-6 oz grated parmigiano reggiano
1 tsp Fleur de sel
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated fresh breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the racks of lamb, bone side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix all the ingredients into a thick marinade-like paste. Slather the mixture liberally over the meat of the racks. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes until desired meat etnperature is reached (medium rare i recommended). Serve withaligot and roasted or steam asparagus. Serves 4.
Recipe for Aligot (Mashed Potato Puree with Melted Cheese)
6-8 yukon gold potatoes, peels and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
4 tbsp butter
6 oz melted Tomme d’Auvergne, Tomme d’Laguiole or Tomme Fraiche
Cook the potatoes and smashed garlic in well salted boiling water until done and puree it through a food mill. Heat cream and melt butter in same pot. Add the potato mixture and incorporate. Add the melted Tomme d’Auvergne to the potato puree. Working with a wooden spoon or paddle, work the mixture to incorporate by stretching it from the bottom up in long ribbons. Keep working it for a few minutes to make sure you get a nice elastic ribbons. The consistency will be luscious and gooey, like a thick melted cheese, and you will have to “cut” the portions out when serving it.
Cook’s Note: If you have trouble findingTomme d’Auvergne, one can tryFrench Cantal or Cave Aged Montgomery Cheddar as a substitute. The key is a nutty cheese with a good meltability factor. In a pinch you could even use good quality mozzarella.