I overslept my alarm this morning by 45 minutes. Oops! That shocked me into action and I was out of the house in 3 minutes, literally. A new record. Fortunately traffic lights were favourable and I was in school by 7:30am with half-hour to spare. Phew.
I’m still heading East along the bottom of France. Bienvenue au Languedoc Roussillion. Vineyards everywhere. This was once the most important wine-growing area in the world. Fishing is huge. The city of Sète is France’s top Mediterranean port. Anchovies are a thing. Lagoons along the coast produce oysters and mussels. Stuffed mussels are one of Sète’s most appreciated specialities but the town of Agde gets the most out of these morsels, simmering them in a bouillabaisse livened up with vermouth. There are meaty delicacies too. Petits Pâtés, bitesize pieces of mutton with sweet and sour flavourings enclosed in a crisp crust. And Fricandeau, a larded loin of veal.
In a similar fashion, we used a Lardoire to stud anchovies into a rump of lamb. The dish is Pavé D’agneau Piqué aux Anchois et Tian de Légumes.
Speaking of oysters and rump, here’s an interesting ditty. My favourite meat on a chicken is the oyster. Tender and tasty. They’re two small, oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat located either side of the backbone. Chef explained that, anatomically, the rump cut is the oyster of the lamb. Same for beef. Ahah! I never realised that. It makes sense and explains why I love beef and lamb rump.
Straight into the kitchen at 8am—just about awake. First up, butchery. I deboned the lamb rump and went to work on the bone with a cleaver. Not ideal given my drowsy state. There’s often some blood when you crack into bones. Bones in the oven to brown. Clean down. Hey, there’s still blood. Where dat from? Somehow a bone shard had punctured my thumb. First injury—tick.
The skin was removed from the rump and the fat trimmed for an even covering then scored. The meat was divided along the grain. The anchovies were then threaded into the meat, also with the grain. That way, when carving across the grain, each slice of lamb would contain 3 sections of anchovy. It’s important to always carve across the grain because it makes meat feel more tender in the mouth.
A red wine jus was made from the bones and lamb trimmings, and a slightly bitter herb called Savory. Never heard of it.
The rump steaks were cooked in olive oil, fat side down. Sprigs of rosemary and thyme were dropped in with a bruised garlic clove as a hot marinade. Then into the oven. The meat side was basted every 2 minutes until medium reached; the steaks were never turned. Rest. Carve. Rest again. A quick rest after carving yields the best results. Keep the slices out of any blood and juice otherwise they will take on a soggy look.
Garniture was a vegetable Tian constructed with disks of aubergine, courgette and plum tomato petals lightly fried in olive oil, filled with onion fondue and topped with a quenelle of roast garlic purée. Fancy. Here’s a thing—now that I know what a Tian is, strictly speaking, the popular animation movie Ratatouille should’ve been called Tian. Just saying. The Tian was garnished with a couple of anchovy Beignets.
Despite the morning traumas this was a good day. My lamb rumps were bang on. I inadvertently carved the best steak in the wrong direction so had to plate up the other one. No matter. My Tian was pretty as a peach. Chef said, “this is the food I want to eat.” The highest accolade. Chuffed.
Chef also prepared Encornet Farci à la Sétoise, a stuffed squid from Sète. The squid body was stuffed with pork, onion, garlic, parsley and Panade. Fried in olive oil with the tentacles and wings. Flambéed in cognac. And finished in a sauce made with white wine, onion, garlic and tomatoes.
I’m so tired.