MasterChef challenge, day 5: Baby Lamb Chops and Stove-Top Pommes Anna

masterchef_day5.jpg

It's now the second week. The ingredients for this day (day 5 overall, and the first day of the 2nd preliminary round) were:

  • Lamb chops
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Dried apricots
  • Mozzarella cheese

I couldn't get my head around the dried apricots in this one - I love them to snack on, but in savory food? Also, mozzarella cheese and lamb just didn't seem like a good match to me. So out those ingredients went.

The lamb chops were the easiest to figure out - I don't know of a better way of cooking baby lamb chops other than simply pan-frying or grilling them briefly, leaving them a bit pink on the inside. (On the show they used larger lamb chops but these small (about 5cm / 2-3 inch long) ones were what were available.)

I thought briefly of mashed potatoes, but instead I went for an individual-sized Pommes (Potatoes) Anna that are started on the stove in a frying pan, then finished in the oven.

I am fairly sure that the show was taped during the warmer months, or at least not in the dead of winter, otherwise I don't think they would have selected tomatoes and basil. Right now tomatoes are totally out of season, and the ones we can get in the supermarket are hard and rather awful. Nevertheless, I did use them for this dish - and even those pink, hard and slightly mealy-textured beasts came out fairly ok in the tomato-basil-red onion relish. With really ripe tomatoes it should be even better. The sweet-sourness went very well with the lamb.

All in all, this one was a winner - quite quick, and something I think I could repeat even for guests, though I think I'd need more small frying pans for multiple portions.

Here is the order to make this meal:

  1. Heat up the oven
  2. Make the relish and put in the refrigerator
  3. Peel, slice and start cooking the potatoes
  4. Once the potatoes are in the oven, prepare the lamb chops if you need to. Heat the pan you're going to cook them in and start cooking. Once they are done, take off the heat and let rest.
  5. Take out the potatoes and invert on the plate.
  6. Put the lamb chops on top of the potatoes, and garnish with the relish.

Individual sized Stove-Top Pommes Anna

Per serving:

  • 2 or 3 small boiling-type potatoes - new potatoes would be ideal (you can use larger potatoes, but small (about 3 cm / 1 1/2 inch) diameter potatoes are a nice match to the tiny lamb chops)
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

Equipment needed: a small, non-stick frying pan with an oven-safe handle

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Peel the potatoes, and cut off the tapered end parts so you will end up with more or less even-diameter cylinders. Slice into thin rounds, and pat them dry with a paper towel. Do not put into water - you want to keep the starchiness on the surface so the rounds will stick to each other.

Melt some butter in the frying pan, and line the bottom in as attractive a pattern as you can manage with the potato rounds. Careful, don't burn your fingers! Salt and pepper the top. Press down firmly with a spatula, so that the potato slices stick to each other: just do this one then don't touch the slices anymore or they will separate! Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the bottom has browned (you can tell by looking at the edges).

Put the frying pan in the oven, and set the timer for 10 minutes.

To plate up, turn a plate over the frying pan and carefully invert. If you are lucky the whole thing will flop over intact. If not, just rearrange the potatoes on the plate into more or less a circle.

Note: If you don't want to bother with the individual sized portions, and you are making dinner for several people, consider the classic oven-baked Pommes Anna - this one you can just leave in the oven and forget until it's done.

Tomato, red onion and basil relish

  • 2 medium-sized ripe as possible tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, to produce about 1 1/2 Tbs. of finely chopped
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Dunk the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds and peel. De-seed and chop up into very small cubes.

Chop the onion as finely as you can imagine.

Chiffonade the basil leaves (finely julienne.. argh these French terms. I mean roll up the leaves into a tight roll and slice as finely as you can manage.)

Mix all of the above together with the vinegar. Season carefully with salt and vinegar.

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