I had never heard of champvallon before but if Martha Stewart says it’s a real dish, I believe her. Apparently, it’s a French dish of stewed lamb and potatoes that may have been invented by a wife of Louis XIV. It seems to me more like peasant food than a dish of kings, but wherever it came from, it’s delicious. And, for a dish that’s just a pile of meat and potatoes, surprisingly light, though that could be my super delicious Marin Sun Farms lamb talking.
Recipe by Martha Stewart
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling
5 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Cook a third of the lamb, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in cup stock, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Pour liquid over browned lamb. Repeat with oil, lamb, and stock. After the last batch, do not pour out stock.
Add onions, garlic, and rosemary to pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Return browned lamb and juices from bowl to pot. Add remaining stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes as thin as possible. If you have a mandoline, even better. I don’t, but managed to get about 1/8 inch slices with a good knife and some patience. Rinse, then pat dry. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Cover bottom of a 12-inch dish with half the potato slices. The recipe recommends a gratin dish, I found a good wide pie plate worked fine. With the potatoes, start at outer edge, overlap each potato by half, working in concentric circles toward center. Spoon lamb and broth over top, then repeat arrangement with remaining potato slices on top of lamb. Sprinkle with rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until top is gold, edges are crisp, and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly before serving.
The resulting dish was delicious. The potatoes on top get crispy and brown and the ones on that bottom soak up all the juices from the lamb and the rosemary infused broth.
Because this is a French dish, I thought French wine would be fitting. But, with all my jaunts to Napa and Sonoma, there’s just no French wine anywhere in my house. Fortunately, we had on hand some lovely French style pinot noir from Freeman Winery in Sonoma. Ken Freeman and his wife Akiko have built this beautiful little winery in Sebastopol, complete with a spectacular wine cave. They make lovely French style wines, and some of the best Chardonnay I’ve ever had. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. And, if you are not in the area, I recommend seeking out some of this Sonoma Coast pinot to drink with your champvallon. It was a perfect combo.