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Good Eats: The Alton Crown Affair

In his lavish home, surrounded by jeweled finery, Alton mentions that he usually keeps eating simple, but every so often wishes to “sup the light fantastic.” Tonight is such a might, he removes the jeweled lid from a serving platter to reveal a king hat: Crown Roast of Lamb. A daunting dish for most cooks, but Alton aims to tame it with a little science, quality ingredients and a simple gadget or two. Follow his examples, and soon enough any cook can deliver a delicious, pair of lamb racks to the table.


Episode Info


Episode number: 11x17
Production Number: EA1118
Airdate: Monday March 17th, 2008

Writer: Alton Brown


  • Currently 7/10
7/10 (1 Vote cast)
Guest Stars
Deb Duchon
As Nutritional Anthropologist
Recurring

Uncredited
Alton Brown
As "Federal Agent" #1
Recurring
Bart Hansard
As String Salesman
Recurring
Main Cast
Alton Brown
As Himself

Recap

Alton opens in a lavish home, with coins spread across the table. Before him rests a serving platter capped by a jeweled dome, and to one side of it, within easy reach, sits a jeweled goblet. Within the dome rests an entry that “sups the light fantastic.” It is crown roast of lamb, and with a little science, some properly selected ingredients, and a gadget or two, Alton intends to show how to make it... Good Eats!..

Read the full recap
Episode Notes
Cards
  • Unlike beef and pork, no culture or religion bans the consumption of lamb.
  • The world's largest ball of sisal twine (over 50 years old & still growing) weighs almost 9 tons & resides in Cawker, Kansas.
  • If knots aren't your thing, try leaning the racks together, interlocking the rib bones. This is called the “guard of honor.”

Locations: Huber Hampshires Farm (Watkinsville, GA); Wienerz Butcher Shop & Deli (Marietta, GA)

Experts: Richard Sieber (butcher)

As Alton prepares the sauce at the end of cooking, a crawler reminds viewers that “Vinegar & mustard amounts will vary based on your jus.”



Episode Quotes
Alton: We usually keep things pretty plain around here, but now and again we like to sup the light fantastic, as it were, with a little... crown roast of lamb. If it's not the fanciest food on the planet, I don't know what is!

Alton: This is a dish to shock, awe, intimidate and inspire desire. Of course, a costly construct such as this would instill fear in the hearts of most cooks, but not to you and I. No, we know that with some sound science, quality ingredients, and a few cunning contraptions even a highbrow show stopper like this can become... (Good Eats theme plays)

Alton: When men was just getting started on this planet, he didn't have a lot to eat... and he didn't have any friends.

Alton: I did not say “nutritional anthropologist!”
Deb Duchon: Yes, you did!
Alton: No. No, I didn't. I distinctly said “food historian.”

Deb Duchon: (about sheep) They're not real smart. And a lot of that is our fault. It comes from six millennia of domestication. It really changed the animal. They don't have horns any more, their ears are floppy instead of perky, and their brain capacity diminished.
Alton: That doesn't sound so much like domestication as... marriage!

Alton: If you look at an X-Ray of a rack, you'll see these little bones sticking out on the ends. Those are the chine, and if they're not cut off, they can make carving the rack a little complicated.

Alton: (about the fat covering the rack of lamb) Since I like my lamb more “lamb-y” than most, I'm going to leave the rest of that fat. If you don't like that fat, you can always trim it off.

Alton: Now, I am not about to suggest that rack of lamb isn't plenty delicious, but if we can add just a few humble ingredients and turn the ol' flavor knob up to eleven then I say, “why not!”

Alton: Those of you who do everything your government says, go ahead: toast your roast. Me? I'm pulling it at 130° F.

Alton: (viewing a recording of himself from 1999) So much hair. So few chins.

Alton: Before we serve, of course, we need to remove the outer string unless you want everybody to get some floss with their meal. And this is where the benefit of the linen string pays off, because it doesn't cook into the meat as easily as cotton string does.

Alton: See you again soon on Good Eats, and next time... do wear a jacket, won't you?



Cultural References
The title and opening of the episode are takeoffs on the 1999 film The Thomas Crown Affair, itself a remake of a 1968 film. In the film, bored billionaire Thomas Crown devises a clever plan to steal a valuable painting from the New York Museum, and then amuses himself by toying with the people assigned to recover it.

Alton describes crown roast of lamb as “supping the light fantastic.” One might call this a portmanteau phrase forming from “supping” (eating) and “tripping the light fantastic” which originally referred to a deft turn on the dance floor, but has come to mean any sort of elegant operation, well conceived and precisely executed.

The USDA “men in black” appear (one of them a woman). Their mannerisms and style of dress call to mind the films Men in Black and Men in Black II, which are themselves based on a comic book, that is in turn based on a general perception of the faceless government agent who works for an unnamed agency pursuing an unspecified agenda. The same meme gave us the Agents in the various Matrix films.

Alton adds a few ingredients to his rack of lamb to “turn the flavor knob up to eleven.” The phrase “up to eleven” comes from the film This Is Spinal Tap, a rock “mockumentary” about a fictitious band. One member of the band, Nigel Tufnel, proudly showed off his amplifiers whose knobs ranged from zero to eleven, making them “one louder” than amplifiers whose knobs range from zero to ten. Logic could not convince Tufnel that simply renumbering the controls changed nothing.

The string salesman, disparaging fire, exclaims, “Oh, Prometheus, please help me, I can't barbecue my wings!” In Greek legend, the titan Prometheus gave mankind the secret of fire. For this offense, the god Zeus chained him to a rock and set a vulture to peck out his liver each day – at night, his liver grew back so his punishment was eternal.



Episode References
Alton notes that he has disproved his earlier assertion that “stuffing is evil.” This happened in Season 8's “Stuff It!



Analysis
Although this episode focuses on a single dish, Crown Roast of Lamb, it offers a number of extensible techniques that might apply to other dishes, in particular, the quick way Alton Frenchs the ribs, and the advantages and drawbacks of the various types of twine one might use for cooking.



Warning: Good Eats season 11 episode 17 guide may contain spoilers
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