Aggressively Garlicked Lamb
Tavern-style “fast food” from southeastern Darthen
When Freelorn and his small band of followers are making their way westward toward Arlen in The Door Into Shadow, they occasionally employ a risky but useful ruse to avoid being recognized for who they are. They pose as a troupe of traveling performers, the kind who turn up at weekly markets and festival gatherings at small towns across the Kingdoms. In one of these, the market town of Chavi, they perform at the local tavern and (as part of their agreement for appearing) are given their dinner for free.
The main course of that meal is this lamb dish, offered with buttered turnips, as well as baked bannocks with a soft sheep's milk cheese for spreading. It's a kind of tavern fare typical enough for one of the transitional regions of southeastern Darthen, where arable farmland gives way here and there to country less suitable for grain and better suited for the grazing of cattle and sheep.
The lamb dish in particular qualifies as what we'd think of as "fast food": something that can be thrown together in a hurry in a pan over the fire... then left to one side to wait for a customer to order it, and finally thrown into the oven for its finishing stage. In a market town where sheep are usually driven in weekly for livestock sales, lamb* butchery will go on without much regard to season, and the tender loin cuts—always good for quick cooking, as opposed to the low-and-slow approach usually taken for legs and bigger cuts—will be readily available.
The dish can easily be dressed up or down as the cook prefers. Our version includes spicery typical of the southeastern regions where Darthen and Steldin run together—especially the more or less ubiquitous chilies—as well as garlic in three styles: minced up, in the whole clove, and as cloves poached in stock.
The text of Shadow doesn't make it plain whether the cook in the kitchen at the Yale and Fetlock in Chavi went to the slight extra effort involved in deglazing the pan to make a sauce, as our version does... but it would've been a nice thing to do for a bunch of traveling players. And after all, it is said that the Goddess goes wandering Her world in disguise to test Her people's hospitality. No harm in staying on Her good side...
See the right-hand tab above for the recipe.
*In the Kingdoms, as in various parts of our own Earth, "lamb" as a generic term can mean any sheep up to a year old; in some places, up to a year and a half... though other regions may prefer to refer to a sheep of that age as a hogget. Mutton, which describes meat that's come from a sheep more than two years old, would be seen as too assertive for a quickly-cooked dish like this, and would be preferred for slow roasts and stewing.
Before we begin: You'll need a frying pan or other relatively shallow pot that can go from the stovetop to the oven.
- 4-5 lamb loin chops (bone-in will be fine, but boneless if you prefer)
- 2-3 heads of garlic (Or possibly more. "There is no such thing as too much garlic.")
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
- Seasoning for the lamb: salt, coarse-ground pepper, flaked chilies (optional: ground allspice, ground Sichuan pepper)
For the lamb's sauce:
- 250 ml water
- 250 ml red wine
- 1 stock cube: lamb if you can get it, but otherwise beef will work just fine
First gather your ingredients. Peel all the garlic cloves you're going to use, and trim off their root ends.
Once they're peeled, finely chop about a third of the total amount of garlic. Leave the rest whole.
Heat the water to boiling, add the broken-up stock cube, and when it's dissolved, add half of the peeled garlic cloves. Turn the heat down to a low boil/simmer and allow the cloves to simmer for about 20 minutes.
When they've simmered for that period and are going tender, add the red wine. Allow to simmer for about another five minutes; then remove from the heat.
At about the 15-minute mark in the garlic's total simmering time, preheat your oven to 200° C / 400° F.
On the stovetop, heat your frying pan and add the olive oil. Then put the lamb loin chops into the pan and brown them on one side, cooking for about 3-4 minutes.
Turn the chops and add the minced garlic, the uncooked garlic cloces, and the seasoning. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring the garlic around to help it brown.
When the chops have finished their cooking time in the pan, the garlic that you've been simmering should also be finished with its cooking. Use a slotted spoon to remove the simmered cloves from the stock, and add them to the loin chops. Set the stock aside, and put the pan into the oven so the lamb chops and garlic can cook there for a final 7-10 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and remove the chops from the pan: set them aside to rest. Meanwhile, stir the garlic around to help it finish browning. Then deglaze the pan with the stock by dumping it in, bringing it to a boil, and scraping the pan to get the flavor of the cooking fully into the pan juices. (Once the heat is turned off under the pan, you can optionally whisk a tablespoon or so of butter into the sauce to "mount it up" and make it a little creamier.)
Plate up the chops and serve with the sauce alongside. A light salad works well with this; though in the Kingdoms so basic a dish is usually served with bread or a mashed roast vegetable such as parsnips or baby turnips to help soak up the sauce.