Last summer when I was in Provence, I stopped at a farm, La Ferme Gerbaud, in Lourmarin. The farmer grows fresh, organic herbes de Provence in the rocky soil, and she took me on a tour of her grounds, explaining to me as we walked the significance and historical use of each of the herbs in the classic Provençal bouquet.
Sage is an anti-worm agent, which is why it was traditionally paired with pork. Thyme stimulates and calms the stomach—why some sip thyme tea instead of chamomile. Savory, she explained, is added to soupe au pistou, which usually contains beans, because it fights against flatulence. And most relevant to this recipe, rosemary was used in roasting meats because of its antiseptic quality. She reiterated over and over again in her firm farmer's voice that no herbe de Provence was ever used originally for flavors, but for the medicinal properties the herb brought to the food in a time before refrigeration and regulation.
Abroad, we often think of Provençal flavors as anchovies, olives, tomatoes, garlic—and these are marks of Southern French cooking. However, after spending more time there, the flavors I left recalling are far more earthy, and more unique in their pairings, redolent only of Provence. Rosemary, which we often think of as Tuscan, is distinctly Provençal in French cuisine, and makes its way only into the bouquet garnis of Provençal chefs. Likewise, the flavors of apricots and almonds, along with thyme and bay, were the flavors that reminded me most of the region once I had left—and it was both there and in culinary school where I learned the distinct piney-sweet regional pairing of rosemary with apricots themselves.
This recipe is just about these easiest way to recreate the flavors of Provence in your kitchen. Cubes of lamb loin are skewered onto rosemary twig brochettes, drizzled with ubiquitous olive oil, and seared to a rare crust. It is served with a simple sauce of apricot preserves and crème fraîche. Nothing could be simpler, or more surprising. These brochettes are perfect Provençal party food.
Rosemary Lamb Brochette with Apricot Crème Fraîche
- 1 pound lamb loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 sticks of rosemary
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- Salt and pepper
Preheat a grill pan on high heat.
Prepare the rosemary skewers by stripping off about 1/2 to 3/4 of the leaves off of each twig, so that you have an exposed "skewer" with a beautiful head of rosemary leaves. Chop up the stripped off rosemary leaves to flavor the lamb.
Toss the lamb with the olive oil, some of the chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper. Skewer onto the rosemary sticks.
Sear on all four sides, until just golden and crusted—1 to 2 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by whisking together the crème fraiche and preserves.
Serve the skewers hot off the grill with the sauce.