Several happy coincidences -- baby new potatoes from the garden, the closing episodes of A Year in Provence on A&E, and a nice red Rhone clone in the tasting queue -- prompted me last night to turn to one of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration.

Mireille Johnston's The Cuisine of the Sun (Classical French Cooking from Nice and Provence) provided the outline for the following, with a few tweaks of my own ...

    3 lamb shoulder steaks, about 1.5 pounds
    6 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
    salt and pepper
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup leftover dry white wine (in this case, a California Sauv Blanc)
    2 medium onions (I used Vidalias), sliced thin
    4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
    12 tiny new potatoes in their skins (or you could use larger taters cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
    Zest of 1/2 navel orange, minced
    1 bay leaf
    6 black Nicoise olives, seeded and chopped
    2 tablespoons Italian flatleaf parsley, chopped

Debone and trim off as much fat and gristle as possible from the lamb steaks, cutting the lean meat into 1/2-inch cubes.

Sautee the lamb cubes in about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy iron skillet, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste and the chopped fresh thyme. Sautee until well browned, then place in a bowl while deglazing the skillet with the white wine, scraping up all the crunchies. Pour the pan juices and wine over the meat.

Wipe the skillet, and in the remaining olive oil sautée the thin-sliced onions and garlic until they start to brown. Add the minced orange rind, bay leaf and potatoes, stir once or twice, and then add the reserved lamb and liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the lamb is tender and the potatoes are done. Add the olives for the last five minutes, and garnish with parsley in the serving bowl.

This served two generously (with tidbits of lamb for the cats) and took about one hour to make. It went very well with the Preston 1992 "Faux" red table wine, and it also made an excellent accompaniment for "Year in Provence."

(Cookbook note: I don't know if they're still available, but as I said, Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun is a delightful cookbook, which I've had and enjoyed since it was new in 1976. She also produced the equally good Cuisine of the Rose (Classic French Cooking from Burgundy and Lyonnais), and I've been forever disappointed that what apparently started as a series never went on -- to my knowledge -- beyond these two excellent books.)