My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

LAMB, In Cubism (Part 3)

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 Three — The Bolero Climax

By the time all was said and done and the slow dance was over, the food turned out deliciously amazing. It had all the flavors of a Greek or Moroccan meal on one plate! Each way you took a bite — mixing the many flavors — was different. We ended up having enough for several meals, and our dining experience was different each time!

Assembling the Garnishes

They day before, we spent making the eight puddings to be used on the base of this dish. Today was much easier, assembling the various garnishes. There are ten or so.

Braised Mustard Seeds
Mise en place:
Mise-en-place for braised mustard seed

I combined the ingredients in a medium saucepan and brought to a boil.

Braised mustard seeds

I simmered for 5 minutes, but the mix went dry. I ended up adding about 50g more water than was specified in the recipe. Then removed the pan from the heat and covered, to let the seeds plump up.

Braised mustard seeds

Brown and yellow mustard seed
White wine vinegar
C&H cane sugar
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste


Eggplant Seeds
The day before, I had reserved some eggplant seeds in small clumps resembling caviar, so I got them out of the fridge and reserved to our prep area. We’ll need just a small amount for garnish.

Eggplant, seeds reserved


Chili Rings
I had a few red chilis left in the freezer, and although they were a bit shrivelly, I used one anyway. One jalapeño will provide plenty of garnish for us tonight. I sliced it into thin rings and reserved to our prep area.

Jalapeno chili

Red jalapeño chili


Preserved Meyer Lemon
The very first recipe I made for this project — way back when — was for preserved Meyer lemon. I checked in my freezer, and they were still there, and doing just fine! So I took a quarter-lemon out and cut a good-sized piece of zest. I sliced it into thin slivers, or batons, about 0.75 inches long, and reserved to our prep area.

Preserved Meyer lemon


Pomegranate Seeds
I opened up a pomegranate and reserved some of the seeds to our prep area.

Pomegranate, seeds reserved


Chive Tips
I cut off the pointy tips on some fresh chives, in 0.75-inch lengths, and reserved in cold water in our prep area.

Bunch fresh chives


I reserved a bunch of saffron threads to our prep area.

Saffron threads


Mint Tips
I had previously reserved the small leaves from our mint the day before, so I fetched them from the fridge to our prep area.

Sprigs of small mint leaves


Fennel Fronds
The recipe calls for micro bronze fennel sprouts, but I could not find any, so I used fennel frond tips instead.

Tips of small fennel fronds

Garnish mania
Braised mustard seeds, Dijon mustard, chili rings, preserved Meyer lemon batons, chive tips, saffron threads, fenugreek sprouts, mint leaves, eggplant caviar, fennel tips, and pomegranate seeds.


Prepping the Lamb

I took out one rillette roll from the fridge and quickly sliced it into medallions. I did not want the heat from my fingers or the room temp to melt them. One rolI will make 6-8 pieces, depending on how thick you slice it. I dredged the rillettes in flour, egg and panko, and set them near the cast-iron skillet — ready for frying.

Panko-breaded lamb rillettes

Then I fetched the lamb loin noisette from the fridge. Here’s the setup on the line:

On the line


To Assemble and Serve

We assembled all of our mise in the prep area, and at the last minute brought out the eight frozen sheets of pudding. Some hold up better over time, others melt very quickly. You’ll notice that the date purée is the lumpiest on the final plating. That’s because it was the quickest to thaw…

the prep area

Champagne in-hand, I’m ready to do this!

assembling the lamb rillette and loin dish

I started by using a palette knife to spread out a square of Dijon mustard, then applied squares of the eight puddings randomly on our flat CB2 serving platters.

Plating the pudding sheets

Assembly continues

I had trouble with the date purée, as it melted the fastest! Rather than waiting for it to re-freeze, we conferred, said something along the lines of “frack it,” and smoothed the son-of-a-bitch out to a reasonably square shape. Maybe I can hide it with some garnish?

Smoothing out the date purée

Then I fired up the skillet and seared the whole rolled lamb noisette until brown, took it off the heat to rest before removing the string and slicing it up.

Searing the lamb loin noisette

Added more canola oil to the skillet and fried the breaded lamb rillettes. I drained them on paper towels. Now I was ready to plate…

Fried lamb rillettes

Now I was ready to plate the meat and add the final garnishes. I placed two medallions of lamb on top of the ugly-ass date purée. Then with a quarter-teaspoon, I added a small pile of braised mustard seed. And with tweezers some eggplant seed caviar, a chili ring with preserved Meyer lemon baton, some pomegranate seeds and a chive tip. Topped with some saffron threads, fenugreek sprouts, fennel fronds, and a mint tip on the corner of the plate. The added a lamb rillette. Voila!

Adding garnishes to the Lamb

The frozen puddings had started to thaw as soon as we retrieved them from the freezer. By the time plating was done, they had melted considerably, but retained their square shapes. A touch with a creme brulée torch was all that was needed to melt the last of them. Then it was time to eat!

Alinea recipe for Lamb, in Cubism

Canola oil
Dijon mustard

Pretty much everything I have in the kitchen

Flat serving platters, from CB2

Lamb for dinner!

Yields: About eight servings per lamb loin, with lots of date purée and frozen puddings left over. If you do the whole saddle of lamb (with two loins and two rillette rolls) and full pudding recipes, you’ll easily have enough for 16 servings.

Cubism vs Abstract Expressionism
Above, cubsim vs. abstract expressionism.

Alternate Servings
The second time I plated this, I added some roasted garlic and a spicy cucumber salad to the garnishes. I thought they would complement the other Mediterranean flavors…

Alternate garnish for Lamb, In Cubism

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