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Last weekend, Sarah took the 3-day weekend to travel to visit her brother. Knowing I had a long weekend to myself, I started sifting through the cookbook to figure out what I wanted to make. I figured I’d pick a longer, more-involved recipe, since I had more time to work with.  I was vacillating between these two; they’re both a bit involved, and both very striking. Sarah asked me about it a few days before her trip and I told her I couldn’t decide between them; I joked that I might just do them both. She said “You should!”

This sounded like kind of a fun challenge. Reading through the recipes, there wasn’t a ton of new-technique stuff. Just a lot of stuff. Trying to do both would be less an exercise in exploring new things and more an exercise in planning and timing. I liked it. So I decided to try it.

The Beef dish is a deconstruction of a pretty traditional meat pairing: A1 sauce. While exact proportions are a matter of corporate secrecy, the sauce contains garlic, vinegar, raisin paste, tomato, onion, orange puree, and a bevy of spices that likely include allspice, ginger, and anchovy. Alinea presents these paired with swankified potato in the form of a buttery, creamy potato puree and a crazy-awesome ribbon of potato that’s been deep-fried at one end to form an impossibly-crispy potato chip.

The Lamb dish is even more visually-arresting: traditional flavor pairings for lamb are presented as overlapping squares of sauce that – together – resemble a Cubist painting. These flavors include mint, pomegranate, yogurt, saffron, mustard, lemon, eggplant, and pine nuts. The lamb itself is presented as both a slice of lamb loin wrapped in fat (called a noisette) and as lamb rillettes battered and fried in a crispy shell.

I found the beef dish to be tasty but not really more than the sum of its parts. The disparate elements are interesting but it was hard for me to get enough of them together in one bite to hearken a picture of A1 sauce in my head. The exception was the potato sheet, which was kinda magic: the non-fried section was delicate like a spring roll’s rice paper wrapper, while the fried section was thinner and lighter and crispier than a Lay’s potato chip. The Lamb dish was really good; especially the rillettes. This component might be the best meat-based thing I’ve made from the book so far.

I worried that just elaborating on the making of each component would be terribly boring to read and would result in a stupidly-long post here. To try to curb my verbosity and try something different, I made a timeline of my entire weekend. I kept a notebook near me for the full weekend, noting every 15 minutes or half hour or so what I was doing and taking photos when I could. I thought a map of the process might be cool.

To that end, if you’d like to see what that looks like…please step this way.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Andy Matuschak says:

    What a delightful way to present the story of these dishes! I loved this, Allen; thank you.

  • Joey Scott says:

    I was thinking to myself a few weeks ago “my, he’s making his way very quickly through the book,” and then you go and knock out two biggies in one weekend. Amazing.

    • Allen says:

      Hey thanks Joey! And, may I say it’s nice to hear from you! I’ve been checking out your own work with this stuff…it’s nice! And always nice to meet an empathetic soul.

      As for ‘quick’, I dunno if going-on-nearly-4-years doing this is fast. Or, at least, it doesn’t feel like it. Most of the time I feel like I’m going slow as hell. 🙂 But, thank you!

  • Katie says:

    Allen, this was a super-cool post! I really liked getting a look into what a weekend of Alinea cooking is like. And while I’m impressed with your organization and mise en place, I’m especially impressed that you had the energy to clean up after yourself at the end of the night!

    The rillettes sound really good. Hopefully I’ll get to the MSF ones soon.