I CANNOT EAT LAMB without thinking back to Roger Vergé, who, at his Moulin de Mougins on the French Riviera, cooked some of the best lamb chops I’ve encountered: seasoned with herbes de Provence and grilled over petrified grapevines. Today we are honored to work with one of the best lamb purveyors in the United States, Elysian Fields Farm in Pennsylvania, where Chef Thomas Keller is a partner. The lamb, raised humanely and fed a perfectly balanced diet, yields delicate meat with just the right amount of gaminess. Today’s trend is to cook it sous-vide, but I like to roast the meat to a perfect medium-rare, well seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. Zucchini, yellow squash, tomato chutney, and chickpea panisses complete this Provençale combination.
Preheat the oven to 190°F. Brush the olive oil onto 2 Silpat sheets and place 1 on a baking sheet, oiled side up. Gently open the squash blossoms (you will need to make a small tear down the side) and remove the pistil, stem, and stem leaves. Trim each blossom into 3 petals and lay in a single layer on top of the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the second Silpat, oiled side down. Bake for 1 hour and remove the top Silpat. Bake for 1 more hour, then gently flip the petals. If they are still a little floppy, return to the oven for another hour, or until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, cool, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
For the Chickpea Panisses
Lightly grease an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan. In a blender, combine the chickpea flour with 2 teaspoons salt and 2½ cups water and puree until smooth. In a medium saucepan, bring 2½ cups water to a simmer. Whisk the puree into the simmering water and reduce the heat to low. Cook, whisking occasionally, for 15 minutes, to a polenta-like texture and until the mixture no longer tastes starchy. Transfer to a food processor and blend in the oil. While still hot, transfer to the prepared loaf pan, flatten the surface with an offset spatula, and chill for 4 hours, or until set. Turn the panisse onto a cutting board and cut into ¼-inch-wide × 3-inch-long batons.
When ready to serve, fill one-third of a large saucepan with canola oil and heat to 375°F. Gently coat the panisse batons in rice flour and fry them until golden brown. Strain onto a paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Keep warm.
For the Spiced Tomato Chutney
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Core the tomatoes and mark their bases with an X. Boil the tomatoes for 5 seconds, or until the skins loosen. Submerge them in ice water and peel the skins. Quarter and seed the tomatoes and then cut the flesh into ¼-inch dice.
Heat the honey in a medium saucepan until it bubbles. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, piment d’Espelette, and vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the juice has cooked down to a syrup and the tomatoes are the texture of a chutney. Remove the garlic cloves and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For the Summer Vegetables
Trim the pattypan squash and halve crosswise. Quarter the zucchinis and squash lengthwise, trim and discard the seeds, and cut the strips into small triangles. Trim the ends of the haricots verts.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water on the side. Boil the vegetables in separate batches until tender; chill them in the ice water. Allow the water to return to a rolling boil in between batches. Strain, pat dry, and reserve the vegetables, chilled.
For the Grilled Baby Zucchini
Heat a grill or cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Using a mandoline, cut the zucchini lengthwise into thin slices into a bowl. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt; marinate for 5 minutes. Grill the slices to mark well on both sides; set aside and keep warm.
For the Lamb Rack
Preheat the oven to 325°F. If desired, wrap the rack bones in aluminum foil to prevent browning.
Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over high heat. Season the lamb on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the lamb rack until browned, about 5 minutes total. While searing, baste often with the oil from the pan, especially in the areas around the bones. Once seared, reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, garlic, and thyme. Allow the butter to foam, and continue basting for 2 minutes. Transfer to the oven for 5 minutes, flip, and return to the oven for 3 more minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 125°F. Rest the lamb in a warm area, covered with foil, for 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 138°F. Remove the twine and keep warm.
Transfer the lamb jus to a small saucepan with the rosemary and bring to a simmer. Season with piment d’Espelette and keep warm. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the summer vegetables and toss to heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the lamb rack into 8 chops.
For each serving, place 2 spoonfuls of tomato chutney on a warm dinner plate, set 2 lamb chops on top, and sprinkle the meat with fleur de sel. Scatter the sautéed summer vegetables and a few grilled baby zucchini slices around the lamb. Spoon several dots of mosto oil onto the plate and lean 2 crispy panisses against the lamb. Garnish with 3 crispy squash blossoms, a few micro basil leaves, and a sprinkling of black olive. Spoon the jus around the lamb.