My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

LAMB, In Cubism (Part 2)

LAMB, In Cubism – Alinea Restaurant cookbook recipe, pages 188-191. Continued from

A cubist feast of Mediterranean flavors, lamb, mint, eggplant, yogurt, lemon and exotic spices. Continued from the Alinea Restaurant recipe for

Final plating of Lamb, In Cubism

Day Two — Pudding Paranoia

So we spent a total of twelve hours in the kitchen prepping these components. There are eight gels, purées and puddings to contend with in this recipe.

At one point, we found it necessary to leave stickies on everything to keep track of “what was what” in all their various stages of completion.

Take notes to keep rack of the mise-en-place.


1. Eggplant Purée
Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for eggplant puree

I cut some eggplants in half, lengthwise, removing the ends. Then scored the cut surfaces, and set them on a bed of salt and sugar.

Scoring the eggplant

You’ve probably seen this requirement before in recipes: sprinkle the eggplant with salt first. This draws out some of their moisture, and helps prepare them for cooking, so they don’t turn to mush later.

Eggplants on salt

Rinsed them off, cut them up, and placed the eggplant in sous vide bags with oil. Sealed them up with my FoodSaver vacuum sealer.

Sealing the eggplant in vacuum bags

Cooked en sous vide for 1.5 hours at 185°F.

Cooking eggplant sous vide

After that, I removed the bags and plunged in an ice water bath to cool. Then removed the eggplant. It was soft, but did not fall apart. Excellent…

Cooked eggplant

Then I separated small clumps of seeds and reserved them as “eggplant caviar” for garnish later.

Separated eggplant seeds and flesh

The flesh AND skin will be ground up for the purée. Using the skin will give the purée some color.

Eggplant flesh and skin

I blended the eggplant with some of its cooking liquid, until smooth. The longer you blend it, the easier it will be to strain.

Blending the eggplant

I strained it into a bowl, added some sherry vinegar and gelatin.

Then I was ready to squeegee the purée into a flat sheet.

The Squeegee Setup

Spreading the eggplant puree into sheets

It’s kinda like pulling prints in silkscreening. From top left: I set up a squeegee area using Scotch foam tape. Cut acetate sheets to fit half-sheet pans. Used a little water on the countertop to anchor the acetate sheet. Then sprayed the sheet with PAM non-stick coating. Poured the purée out on one end, and used a squeegee to draw it out into a smooth, flat sheet. Used a small spatula to pry it up off the counter and put the acetate sheet (with purée) onto a prepared tray. And popped it in the freezer…

Fresh eggplant
Morton’s kosher salt
C&H cane sugar
Star Brand extra virgin olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Fresh thyme
Rousselot silver gelatin

Thank You Ettore Steccone!

All this squeegeeing made me think about the thing. Where did it come from? Who invented it? Although I did not really use the official product, I used the technology to help draw the various puddings and purées into sheets. In 1936, window washer Ettore Steccone patented his version of the modern window wiper. He called it the “New Deal” Ettore Squeegee. And to this day, it’s manufactured by his company. I’m sure he never would have thought his invention would have gone on to see such a wildly varying application — pulling puddings for dinner!


Eggplant Seeds
Taking the reserved eggplant seeds and cores from above, I removed the seeds from any remaining eggplant flesh. I tried to get just the seeds in strips, so they resembled eggplant “caviar.” Then reserved in a plastic container.

Reserved eggplant seeds, from above


My Post-modern Pantry

My post-modern pantry


2. Date Purée
I made a peppercorn sachet using a teabag. You can use cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine, like a bouquet garni. I used a tea pouch that’s made for loose teas, and folds closed like a plastic sandwich bag. (They’re quick and easy!) Then I pitted the Medjool dates. Mise en place:

mise en place

I combined the pitted dates, lamb stock (reserved from the previous day), water, sherry vinegar and pepper in a medium saucepan and heated them to a boil. I simmered until the dates absorbed the liquid and fell apart to the touch of a fork. The liquid boiled down to less than half its original height in the pan…

I removed the peppercorn sachet, transferred the mix to my Oster blender, added the olive oil, and blended until smooth. The Alinea cookbook says it should form stiff peaks. Mine was a little runnier than that, but I pressed on.

Boiling down the dates

I squeegeed the date purée into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Then quickly moved it to the freezer.

Pulling date puree

Dried Medjool dates, pitted
Lamb stock, reserved from day one
Sherry vinegar
Star Brand extra-virgin olive oil
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


3. Saffron and Goat’s Milk Pudding
Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for saffron-goat-milk pudding

I love using saffron. This recipe will be used in something again, to be sure…

Saffron stigmas

I combined the goat milk, sugar, saffron threads and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and brought to a boil, simmered a bit, then removed from the heat to steep for an hour or so while we frantically juggled the other pudding recipes. After awhile I strained the saffron-infused goat milk into my Oster blender.

Straining the saffron-infused goat milk

I blended while slowly adding the Ultra-Tex 3. I had to add more that was specified in the recipe to get ‘small peaks’.

Thickening the saffron-infused goat milk with Ultra-Tex 3

I squeegee-ed the saffron-goat-milk pudding into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Then quickly moved it to the freezer.

Meyenberg whole goat milk, from Whole Foods
Saffron threads
C&H cane sugar
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste
Ultra-Tex 3, from LeSanctuaire


4. Lemon Purée
Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for lemon pudding

I added the quartered lemons to the blender with some simple syrup, grape seed oil, a touch of salt, and blended until it was smooth. Needed a bit more oil (my blender isn’t as strong as a Vita-Prep, so I always end up adding a little more liquid to get the desired shear). Then strained out the solids…

lemon pudding recipe

I squeegee-ed the lemon purée into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Then quickly moved it to the freezer.

Meyer lemon
Simple syrup
Grape seed oil
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


5. Yogurt Pudding
Another relatively easy one, this recipe needed a slight adjustment for the quantity of thickener. Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for yogurt pudding

I combined some plain Greek yogurt, sugar and just a touch of salt in my Oster blender, then let ‘er rip. I slowly added Ultra-Tex 3 to thicken. I needed more than specified in the recipe to get it to form stiff peaks. Then strained it onto an acetate sheet in my ‘pudding prep area’.

Spreading the yogurt pudding

I squeegee-ed the yogurt pudding into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Then quickly moved it to the freezer.

Plain yogurt
C&H cane sugar
Ultra-Tex 3, from LeSanctuaire
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


6. Mint Pudding
I must say, having bunches and bunches of fresh mint in the kitchen smells wonderful. We took several bunches and separated the stems from the leaves. And reserved some small leaves in ice water for garnish.

Prepping the mint

I brought a large pot of water to a boil and blanched the mint leaves — just soft enough so they would blend really easily. Then plunged them into an ice water bath.

Blanching the mint

Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for mint pudding

Then I added the blanched mint leaves, some ice water, simple syrup and a touch of salt to my blender and puréed the hell out of them. After several minutes, I reduced the speed and slowly added some Ultra-Tex 3 to thicken. Then strained onto an acetate sheet.

Thickening the mint pudding with Ultra-Tex 3

I squeegee-ed the mint pudding into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Then quickly moved it to the freezer.

Spreading the mint pudding

Fresh mint leaves, stems removed
Ice water
Simple syrup
Ultra-Tex 3, from LeSanctuaire
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


7. Pomegranate Pudding
Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for pomegranate pudding

This was an easy one! I poured some pomegranate juice into my Oster blender, turned it on, and slowly added in some Utra-Tex 3.

Pomegranate juice thickening

The liquid started to thicken up, but I had to add more Utra-Tex than specified for it to reach an acceptably thick state. (Thick enough to stop spinning in the blender. It never formed stiff peaks.)

Adding Ultra-Tex 3 to pomegranate juice

I squeegee-ed the pomegranate pudding into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. I used up my small half-sheet trays, and run out of cardboard to support the sheets. Quick thinking required! What did I have to support the pudding sheets? Let’s get out some old LPs — they’d do in a pinch!

Making sheets of pomegranate pudding

So I grabbed an old Elvis record, plopped on the acetate sheet, and quickly moved it to the freezer.

Pomegranate pudding ready to freeze

Pomegranate juice
Ultra-Tex 3, from LeSanctuaire


8. Pine Nut Pudding – Continued
After the pine nut milk had steeped overnight, I removed the infusion from the fridge. I strained out the pine nuts and reserved for later use. (I made a really good pesto with the leftover mint from the mint purée component recipe.) Then I brought the pine nut-infused milk to a boil with some agar agar, strained it into a shallow container and let set up to harden.

pine nut pudding

After it had set up into a firm gel (in about two hours, refrigerated), I cut it up and blended. I had to add just a little milk to get the right consistency.

pine nut pudding recipe

I squeegee-ed the pine nut pudding into a flat layer on a sheet of acetate, as above. Got another LP for a backing board, and quickly moved it to the freezer.

Pine nuts, toasted
Alta-Dena whole milk
C&H cane sugar
Pine nut oil
Agar agar
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


Damn, we need more room in the freezer!

We need more freezer space

To Be Continued…

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