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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring is the air

After a week of freezing temperatures, highly unusual in Houston, temperatures have returned to balmy and mild conditions more typical of the Gulf Coast, inciting thoughts of spring. And the traditional meat of spring, as many think, is lamb.

Now, in general, I don't like lamb. I find that goat-y, gamey aroma (or fetor, depending on your predilection) offensive, but others treasure it. And to the aficionados of lamb, nothing is quite like the product from Elysian Fields. So called, the "Kobe" of lamb, the product of this Virginia farm is so beloved that Grant Achatz created an entire dish celebrating the entire farm as a course in the tasting menu in Alinea (yes, we've returned there).

The dish itself was molded to represent the landscape of the farm, with a pond of lovely corn soup, and rare lamb served skewered in rosemary (there's a natural affinity of lamb and rosemary). For those who can't get enough, two small knobs of deep fried lamb fat are included, each about the size of a pencil eraser. I could get through only half a lump of lamb fat - as my companion described it, chewing it was like having the goat walking through your nose. Through this meal, this may be my least favorite, but largely because my peculiar distaste.

That's not to say I never like lamb.

Here is a lamb shank tagine prepared with prunes and onions, from the Moroccan restaurant Casablanca here in Houston. So tender it falls apart at the poke of a fork, this was unctuous, sweet, lush, spicy. It didn't so much mask that muskiness of lamb, but complemented it so well with ingredients and preparation, it came across as delicious. So, context can very much overcome distaste, and that is skill.

Previously on this series:

Alinea 7: Architecture
Alinea 6: The Stacked Sphere
Alinea 5: The Ikea Course
Alinea 4: Clarity
Alinea 3: Chinky Chicken
Act 2: Green
A symphony in 21 acts

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