In spring, the Frenchman's fancy, which is turned to thoughts of love year-round, also turns to lamb.
Adapted from "La Methode" by Jacques Pepin (Pocket Books).
Baumaniere's lamb charlotte with red pepper
RED PEPPER SAUCE:
red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
5 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb, fat and tendons removed (ask butcher to do this for you)
2 tablespoons olive oil
handfuls of mixed fresh herbs, preferably basil, thyme, chervil, oregano and flat-head parsley, minced
1/4 clove garlic
2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds)
3 to 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Red pepper sauce: Cut peppers in half, remove stems and seeds, and cut them into very thin strips.
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 30 minutes.
Place peppers with pan juices in food processor or blender and )) puree. Add creme fraiche and puree again. Season with salt.
Tomato sauce: Combine 1 tablespoon oil, tomatoes, onion and garlic in pan. Cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat until reduced to thick sauce, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Lamb: Cut lamb into 1-inch cubes. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stir in herbs, garlic and tomato sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until ingredients are heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Prepare eggplant: Peel and cut eggplant lengthwise into slices 1/8 inch thick. Using pastry brush, coat both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil and place them on oiled baking sheet.
Bake eggplant until bottoms are light brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and bake until light brown on other side, about 5 minutes longer. Check eggplant frequently and remove slices as they brown.
Line 5-cup charlotte mold or souffle dish with eggplant slices: Arrange them in fanlike fashion, allowing slices to overlap and placing narrowest ends in center of mold and wide ends over edge. If there is any leftover eggplant, chop it coarsely and add it to lamb mixture.
Fill mold with lamb mixture and cover lamb with overhanging eggplant. Cover dish securely with aluminum foil. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes.
If serving at room temperature, this can be prepared several hours in advance.
If serving dish warm, gently heat red pepper sauce. Carefully unmold charlotte into center of a large shallow platter. Spoon sauce around charlotte and serve immediately.