The missus and I have been working so hard recently that a break was in order. Having an eighteen month old put a far flung tropical location out of practical reach, so a rural retreat in central Wales was chosen. Now I sit dreaming of palm trees, staring out of the large picture windows of my cottage, the rain lashing at the window as ominous steel grey clouds race across the sky propelled by sub hurricane winds - comfort food it is then!
Fish and lamb may sound weird but this is a classical pairing in Mediterranean climes (ah - sun...heat....blue sky...). The trick to a good dauphinoise is to allow the aromatics to infuse the cream before decanting onto your potatoes. The amount of anchovy I have used here is subtle, feel free to add more or less to taste.
6 bone rack of lamb, French trimmed
Potatoes - 500g, peeled
Double cream - 150ml
Full fat milk - 250ml
Brown anchovy fillets - 2 or 3 if small
Rosemary - 1 large sprig, crushed up
Bay leaf - 2, crushed up
Garlic - 2 cloves, smashed
Medium onion - 1, sliced
Cracked black pepper - 1 heaped tsp
Marinade your lamb for a few hours in what ever flavourings you have to hand. I used a little garlic, white wine, bruised rosemary and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.
Slice your potatoes as finely as possible - in the pub we would use a mandoline but at home a more rustic approach is acceptable. In a deep ceramic baking dish add the potato, layer by layer making sure you push potato into the corners. Select some nice even slices for the final presentation layer and neatly arrange the top layer like scales on a fish.
Gently warm the milk and cream with the anchovy, garlic, herbs, and onion. Many recipes advise you season between the layers of potato in a dauphinoise but I prefer to season the milk mixture and allow the liquid to carry the seasoning to the potato. To these ends you must generously season the milk. Keep adding salt and tasting until you think it tastes just right, then add a little more as the potato will absorb some.
When the milk is just below the boil, take off the heat and leave for 30 mins to infuse. Heat the oven to 160c and pour your milk through a sieve onto the potatoes. You may not need all the liquid, it should come just below the top layer of potato. Push the top layer down into the milk and bake for 45 mins to 1 hour until the potato is completely soft when pieced with a knife. If the top is not golden, turn the oven up for the last 10 mins or place under a hot grill to colour.
Remove the lamb from the marinade and brush off any herbs and garlic. Heat your oven to 180c and a frying pan over a medium high heat. In a little oil, take your time frying the lamb - fat side down - to get some really good colour. Flip the lamb over onto the flesh and run through the oven for 8 to 12 mins - this should give you a medium rare cooking degree but this will depend on the weight of the lamb. Use a thermometer to check the core temperature - about 55c is perfect. Take it to 60c or 65c if you like your meat cooked towards well done.
Allow the lamb to rest before carving between the bones - 3 chops per person. Serve with the dauphinoise and greens - allow your guests to dig into the dauphinoise themselves - such a pleasure.