We've been living back and forth between France and the United States for the past 4 years. When back in the US, even though I’m theoretically a great fan of local products, I just can’t help myself. I keep buying French wine, much as it pains me to cough up $15 for a vin de pays. But my palate is so tuned to the restraint and structure of French wine now that everything else tastes over the top. So I had a nice bottle of French wine, and I wanted to make a dish to complement it. I tasted a small sip, hastily decanted it and came back again in an hour, tasted again, mmm, coffee, pepper, chocolate. Et voilà, Dark Mocha Lamb was born. —Abra Bennett
Test Kitchen Notes
I halved the recipe and used two nice lamb sirloins that I had the butcher cut. First I made the herbed salt and Abra Bennett is right, it’s wonderful! Super easy to make and will become a staple in our kitchen. I was a bit worried about the sauce because when tasted on its own it was a VERY strong coffee flavor, which I thought might overpower the dish. However, when the sauce combined with the lamb and mustard in the oven, the whole thing came together nicely. The tang from the mustard and the herbs balanced the bitterness from the coffee and the unsweetened dark chocolate. I found that resting the lamb also made the sauce mellow so I think her recommendation to prepare the dish to the oven-ready state in advance would actually be a good required step. This is a very warming and rich dish, and we were tasting it on a hot spring afternoon, and I am afraid that I may have done it a disservice in doing so … I want to try it again on a cold winter day (NOT that I want there to be one of THOSE any time soon) and I think it will fit its surroundings a bit better. - aargersi —The Editors
4 large or 8 small
lamb sirloin steaks
herb blend: thyme and bay leaf, ground together roughly and mixed with coarse salt**
coarsely ground black pepper
coarsely ground pink pepper
strong brewed coffee (I recommend a good decaf)
squares very dark chocolate (like Lindt 90% Supreme Dark)
**Make the herb blend. Make lots, you’ll be wanting to use this on everything. Start with a ratio of 2 T dried thyme to one small bay leaf, and adjust to your taste. Grind together in a mortar and pestle if you have one, if not, use a mini-processor and be careful not to grind too finely. Mix the ground herbs with an equal amount of coarse salt.
Sprinkle the lamb on both sides with the herb blend and plenty of both peppers. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and brown the steaks on both sides over high heat, a minute or two per side, until nicely browned. Remove the meat from the pan and place in a heavy, oiled roasting pan. Spread the mustard over the top surfaces of the lamb steaks.
Add the coffee to the hot skillet, stirring and scraping vigorously to deglaze. Lower the heat, add the rum, the cream, and the chocolate, stirring constantly to obtain a smooth sauce. Let the sauce reduce for several minutes until it’s as thick as heavy cream. Taste for salt. Spoon the sauce over the lamb. You can prepare the recipe to this point an hour or so ahead, and just let it rest at room temperature, which makes it really nice for a dinner party.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Roast the lamb for 8-10 minutes, until it reaches 120° on a meat thermometer for a beautifully rare steak. Spoon the pan juices over the meat and serve with new potatoes and spring vegetables.