This recipe comes from the Camargue in the south of France.
The Camargue is a Regional Nature Park in Provence, just south of Arles. The area includes the Rhone delta and an expansive series of lakes and salt marshes. The Camargue produces sheep as well as long horn Camargue Cattle which are tended by french “cowboys” called les gardians. The word “gardianne” in a recipe, generally refers to a stew from this area.
Braising is a form of cooking with moist heat that breaks down the connective tissue in tough cuts of meat and leaves it tender and succulent. Shoulder lamb chops work especially well in this recipe, but you can also substitute loin lamb chops on the bone. Some versions of this recipe use beef stock rather than chicken stock and omit the onions as well as the fennel. Other versions add olives, especially those from Provence, such as Niçoise or Picholine. In some recipes the potatoes are mashed by hand with a bit of butter and some of the warm stock.
4 large shoulder lamb chops, about 1/2 inch thick, trim any excess fat
4 to 6 boiling potatoes such as Yukon Gold, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
3 to 6 garlic cloves, depending on your taste, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, sliced 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped 1 bay leaf
extra virgin olive oil freshly ground black pepper and sea salt 1 cup of white wine
3 to 4 cups of chicken stock, home made or low sodium, you may not need all of the stock
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter about 1/2 cup of chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 375oF.
Dry the chops and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat the olive oil in a 12” heavy fry pan or skillet over medium- high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the chops to the pan, in batches if necessary and sear all sides until golden brown. Remove to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the sliced onions and fennel with a pinch of salt. Cook until they start to soften and brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the white wine, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat.
Then add the about 1/2 of the sliced potatoes to a baking dish. Cover with the 1/2 of the onion and fennel mixture. Add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Add the lamb chops and cover with the remaining potatoes, as well as the onion, fennel mixture. Add any lamb juices from the plate, the remaining wine from the onion and fennel and 2 1/2 cups of stock to the baking dish.
Baked uncovered, basting several times, until the meat is fork tender and the potatoes golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check the lamb and potatoes after 60 minutes and add additional stock if needed.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb, with the potatoes, onions & fennel to a plate and keep warm
in a 200o F oven. Strain the stock into a small pot, remove any excess fat and cook until the stock is reduced to a sauce consistency. Swirl in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb chops with the potatoes, fennel and onions, some of the sauce on top with the chopped parsley and perhaps a Provencal roasted tomato.