Just the thought of the rack of lamb at the Butcher’s House Brasserie makes me ravenous. The just-right pink interior is juicy and filled with meaty goodness, while the exterior offers the contrast of crisp caramelization. Subtle notes of smoke frame its irresistibility, while thyme and garlic play their seductive part.
I welcomed the Costa Mesa restaurant’s owner-executive chef, Jeoffrey Offer, to share the culinary secrets of his glorious New Zealand, free-range lamb, as well as the step-by-step prep of potatoes roasted in duck fat. He explained that sous-vide cooking is used at the brasserie, the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. Many argue that this produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method. Just before service, the lamb rack is fired to perfection over a wood-fired grill.
In my house, Offer altered his method to adapt to a home kitchen, searing and then roasting the seasoned and marinated lamb racks in a hot oven. Delicious, no problem with the switch. And those golden, duck-fat browned spuds were the ideal sidekick.
Growing up in Toulouse, France, the son of a butcher, he was inspired by the artistry he observed in his father’s shop. Although becoming a movie star in America was his initial ambition, he realized that being a chef would enable him to travel.
“I was always interested in slicing, cutting, and mixing; I wouldn’t be happy sitting in an office typing and reading reports,” he told me, explaining that he attended culinary school in Toulouse and began working at Le Cercle d’Oc, under chef Raymond Serres.
Other opportunities followed and his dream of working in America came true when he turned 25. After a series of gigs in Los Angeles kitchens, he made his way to Orange County and became executive chef at Moulin in Newport Beach, helping to expand the brand to five locations over six years.
His recipe for roasting racks of lamb and preparing those scrumptious potatoes follows.
Luxury Likes: Simplicity and silence.
Early Influencers: My dad cooked when he wasn’t working, but I grew up with the influence of my mother’s Portuguese cooking—often that meant seaside meals of octopus, salt cod, and grilled sardines.
Favorite “Restaurant:” Dinner at home in France with family. It’s not just about cooking, it’s about the company.
Special Talent: The patience and acceptance that I have developed over the last five years.
Drink of Choice: Lately it’s been a dry, crisp white wine, a white Bordeaux such as Grande Enclos du Chateau de Cerons Graves Blanc.
Advice to New Chef: Don’t look at your watch. Better your skills every day. There’s no vocabulary for giving up.
Cookbook Source: Auguste Escoffier’s cookbook. A priest has a bible beside his bed, for a chef it’s Auguste Escoffier.
Offer’s Racks of Lamb and Roasted Potatoes
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 (8 bones each) racks of lamb, bones “frenched”
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
- For sauteing: 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola, vegetable, or grapeseed
Thyme-Infused Au Jus:
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3 cups demi-glacé, see cook’s notes
- 1 bunch (stem on) fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat:
- 1 pound mini Yukon Gold (creamers) potatoes
- 2 tablespoons duck fat, see cook’s notes
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped and stirred into 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnish: chopped fresh chives
Cook’s notes: I buy frozen demi-glace at Bristol Farms; I keep it in my freezer to use when needed. They also often stock containers of duck fat. There are other sources online.
- Season and marinate lamb 24 hours in advance of cooking. Rub generous amount of salt on both sides of lamb. Grind black pepper on both sides. Drizzle both sides with a little olive oil and sprinkle each side with chopped garlic. Tuck in sprigs of fresh thyme between the two racks and top with additional thyme. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.
- Prepare Au Jus: In a medium-size saucepan cook shallots in oil on medium-high heat until softened. Add wine and bring to boil; boil until reduced by one-third in volume. Add demi-glace and simmer for 10 minutes, reducing heat as needed. Add thyme; cover and set aside off heat. Butter will be added just before serving.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile sear lamb. Heat oil in ovenproof pan on medium-high heat. Add lamb racks fat side down and brown nicely. Turn and regroup them in pan so that there is “breathing room” between them. Place in preheated oven for about 13 to 15 minutes for rare, pink lamb (130 to 135 degrees internal temperature). Allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting into chops.
- Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water and add some salt. Bring to boil on high heat. Boil until 70 to 80 percent cooked, just barely fork tender. Cut potatoes in halves. Place ovenproof skillet on high heat with duck fat. When fat is hot, add the halved potatoes. Brown on all sides. Transfer potatoes to preheated 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until beautifully browned. Toss hot potatoes with garlic (and oil). Add parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss again.
- Finish jus: Remove and discard thyme from the au jus. Heat it to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Whisk in butter pieces one at a time. Be patient. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Chef likes to serve the lamb atop the potatoes with the bones crossing over one another. Sprinkle a little coarse salt on lamb. Drizzle some of the jus over the meat. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.” For more than 30 years, she has written about cooking, chefs, and food trends for newspapers. She was the first newspaper food journalist to pioneer taping how-to culinary videos for the Web. CathyThomasCooks.com