"I don't think the best technique is absorption—it's eating."
Grilled Port Lamb Chops with Garlic Confit and Sauce Vierge "Persillade" is a dish that contains more French words than a high school vocab quiz. A quick translation is a Frenched rack of lamb, cut into finger-food lollipops, soaked in Port, caramelized on the grill, then topped with a fresh, biting sauce made from soft, sweet garlic and parsley.
When I took French in school, my teacher, an outlandishly gentle, white-moustached little man, once tolerated my jabbering my way through an oral exam and then broke his steely silence with, "You speak the French of the Paris gutters." I laughed. Is that where Maman had come from?
Memorization is boring. People can debate all they like about the best way to "absorb" a language, but I don't think the best technique is absorption—it's eating. For instance, when I recently found myself eating dinner on the sidewalk in Paris my duck confit came with potatoes Sarladaise. I had no idea what they were, but I will now never forget the word Sarladaise as long as I live, for it will always conjure up blissful images of Place Dauphine in the summertime, the tinkling of pétanque balls, and sliced potatoes fried with garlic and duck fat. In short, I was mesmerized. Not memorizing.
French cuisine is a precious source of pride, and so much of it is named accordingly: grandly and loftily, after countesses (like Crème Dubarry), cities (like sauce Bordelaise), or battles (like sauce Albufera). If you eat it and you like it, you'll never forget, even if you try, that Crème Dubarry is cauliflower soup, that sauce Bordelaise is made from Bordeaux wine, or that sauce Albufera is a mixture of cream sauce and meat glaze. What you will learn, without further ado, from Grilled Port Lamb Chops with Garlic Confit and Sauce Vierge "Persillade" is the following:
- Confit: an old technique of preservation, in which meats or fruits are soaked to their core, cooked, and stored in either fat, for meat, or sugar, for fruit
- Persillade: the term generally given to a flavoring agent made from a mixture of garlic and fresh parsley
- Sauce Vierge: translates to "virgin sauce" and is a raw sauce made from oil, acid, and fresh green herbs
Make this recipe, and you'll have learned your lesson for today. It is, unlike me and Maman apparently, decidedly not from the Paris gutter.
- Garlic Confit:
- 1 head of garlic, minus the three cloves you will use for the marinade, all skinned but intact
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1-pound Frenched rack of lamb, well trimmed of any fat or nerves, cut into chops
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup port
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 bunch of parsley stems (reserve the leaves for the sauce vierge)
- 1 twig of rosemary, snapped
- A good amount of coarsely ground black pepper
- Sauce Vierge "Persillade":
- 1 head of confited garlic
- 1/2 cup garlic oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or lime juice
- 3/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- The leaves from 1 stem rosemary, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Port Syrup:
- 1/2 cup port
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
Make the garlic confit by placing the peeled garlic cloves and the olive oil in a small saucepot. Sit over low heat, and begin counting 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The garlic will begin to look translucent in the oil, and will be soft to the point of a knife. At this point, take it off the heat, and leave to infuse and come to room temperature. The only thing to keep in mind is that you are not cooking the oil; just heating it. There should be no sizzling or browning of any sort! At the end, the garlic will be absolutely soft and sweet.
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a pie dish. Arrange the lamb chops in it, making sure the lamb touches the liquid and not just the parsley stems. Cover with plastic, and put in the fridge for an hour. After an hour, turn the lamb over in the marinade, and cover and refrigerate for another hour. You could certainly marinate the meat longer, but this is the minimum.
To make the sauce vierge, simply combine all the ingredients and all to sit while the meat is grilling.
For the port syrup, simply set the port and sugar and a pinch of salt in a saucepot over medium heat. The sugar will dissolve, and the port will reduce. You should be left with about 1/3 the volume of liquid from which you started, and it will be thick and sweet like a syrup.
To grill the lamb, heat a grill pan or a grill to medium-high heat. Blot the lamb on paper towel to remove excess liquid from the marinade, and salt the meat. Drizzle the chops with a touch of olive oil, and sear until golden, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
Drizzle the chops with the port syrup and spoon the confited garlic over the top. Serve the sauce vierge on the side.