We cook for many reasons.
Because we’re famished. Because it’s more economical. Because it can be relaxing or satisfyingly challenging. And because we take pleasure in pleasing others.
But we also cook for the memories it evokes. For flavors that are indelible, and for the times lived and shared with those we love, which we never ever want to forget.
Often, when I try a new recipe, it often makes me think of someone who has touched my life. This lamb dish by the one and only Jacques Pepin is no exception.
It’s from his newest tome, “Essential Pepin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy. It’s filled with more than 700 timeless Pepin recipes. It also comes with a fantastic DVD with demos of fundamental cooking techniques.
One bite of “Lamb Steaks with Soy, Vinegar and Garlic” has me back in my childhood home in San Francisco, watching my Dad in the kitchen preparing steaks in a sizzling frying pan.
His steaks were always beef, not lamb. But the cut of meat, with its substantial presence on the plate, makes me remember his fondness for this type of simple cooking. A piece of meat. Good enough to stand on its on. Cooked in a hot pan until the exterior caramelized and turned crisp around the fatty edges.
My late-Dad would sometimes top that steak with some of his homemade Chinese steak sauce, a generous heap of onions cooked slowly in butter or just a splash of A1. To him, that was as good as it gets.
I thought the same, too, when I tried Pepin’s tender, juicy lamb steak that’s drizzled with an easy pan sauce enlivened by garlic and balsamic vinegar, and given an Asian flair with soy sauce and Chinese chile sauce. Fresh mint adds a refreshing lilt.
I served the lamb steak just as my Dad would have — with a big scoop of steamed white rice on the side.
As I enjoyed each bite, I couldn’t help but think of the times I sat at that old kitchen table watching him savoring his own steak with deep, quiet contentment.
Why do we cook? Sometimes it’s for moments just like that.
Lamb Steaks with Soy, Vinegar, and Garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 lamb steaks cut from the back leg (about 5 ounces each and 1-inch thick), trimmed of all surface fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped (2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese chile sauce with garlic (optional)
1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet large enough to hold the lamb steaks in one layer. Sprinkle the steaks with the salt and pepper and saute them over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. Remove steaks to a tray or ovenproof plate and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce.
Add garlic to the drippings in the skillet and cook for 10 seconds. Add vinegar and cook over high heat for 1 minute, until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Add water, ketchup, soy sauce, and, if desired, chile sauce and boil for about 30 seconds, stirring to mix in all the melted solidified juices.
Pour the juices that have accumulated around the steaks into the sauce. Arrange a steak on each of four individual plates and coat the steaks with the sauce. Garnish with the mint and serve.
From “Essential Pepin” by Jacques Pepin
More Jacques Pepin: His Demo at the International Culinary Center
And: My Dad’s Steak Sauce