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Monday, December 28, 2009

A Thomas Keller Three Way

A Thomas Keller Three Way:
Thomas Keller is one of the most renowned Chefs  in America, if not the world.  His restaurants are lauded, awarded, and reservations are coveted.  The French Laundrey, Bouchon, and ad hoc at home  cookbooks represent these restaurants wonderfully.  Yet, thay also represent Thomas Keller's progression as a cookbook author and his well meaning intent to teach the common folk how to cook his food.
I have all three cookbooks.  I love these cookbooks.  Can I cook from them?  Let me count the ways; yes and,
Let's start with the French Laundrey.  Beautiful cookbook.  Beautifully photographed.  I tried really really hard to cook from it and to want to love to cook from it.  But, good God, was that really his intent?  For "us" to follow the recipes and duplicate &; master them.  Some of the titles seem very harmless and approachable, like Peas &; Carrots ( will get back to that).  Others, like Bellwether Farm Baby Lamb-Five Cuts With Provencal Vegetables &; Braised Cipollini Onions And Thyme Oil.  Wow!  I mean, wow!  He is a  VERY meticulous chef.....VERY.  So, every recipe is meticulously mapped out.....say Peas  Carrots.  I happen to love peas and carrots, so I took a closer look at this recipe. You have to buy, kill, and steam a whole lobster for about 3 ounces of meat per serving.  You have to make paper thin crepes in which to capture the lobster filling, then braise, puree, and strain fresh ginger and carrots to create a jus.  The "peas" are pea shoots lightly dressed in a perfect vinaigrette.  Ok, now,  to assemble:  Lightly wrap the delicate crepe around the lobster meat and place artistically on carrot/ginger jus.  Top with lightly dressed pea shoots.  It is the size of a match box.  After all of that trouble, I would have to go through a Sonic drive-in to eat.  I have never been able to cook from this cookbook.

Bouchon is a much more approachable way to take his cooking to the masses.  Very French bistro style, casual, rustic (for Thomas Keller), and somewhat do-able.  I have actually made several recipes from this cookbook.  The Croque Madame, a devine french twist on ham & cheese, with Spanish ham, gruyere cheese grilled, topped with an impecably poached egg & Mornay sauce, then broiled until brown.  Delicious and fabulous.  AND do-able.  I have also made the Frisee salad with bacon lardoons dressed in a warm bacon vinaigrette topped with a poached egg.  I see a theme here.  I came across the classic French bistro fare:  French Onion Soup.  I thought, yes, a soup from this book I can manage.  Reading the text was devine...mouthwatering .  I wanted it, I wanted to make it, until I got the part where I needed to simmer the onions a day ahead for 5 hours for the perfect consistency.  5 HOURS.  Even on a cold winter Sunday afternoon when I would want the house to smell amazing, I would never simmer anything that long, tending to it like a ward nurse trying to keep her patient alive.  That's as far as I got with that one.  Still, a beautiful cookbook, beautifully photoraphed and lovingly put together, except for the10 missing pages in the back before the index.

  Then along comes ad hoc at home.  I recieved it last fall from my partner.  Now, here's a cookbook with teeth.  For the average Joe with a yearning to cook well.  Thomas Keller finally got it.  A cookbook that is approachable.  I have made many recipes out of this book   His chicken dishes are sublime.  A little work, yes.  Most require an overnite brining period, a long rest in the refrigerater to dry the skin, and an hour or two on the counter to come to room temperture.  His Buttermilk Fried Chicken &; Roasted Whole Chicken on a bed of Root Vegetables are examples.  Perfectly succulant and deep with flavor and love.  I have done his Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin, cooked to perfection through his recipe.  The Carmalized Sea Sacllops, sweet and crispy on the outside.  My favorite recipe thus far from this cookbook is Nante Carrot Stew, a simple side dish.  Simply fresh carrots braised in carrot juice with a hint of cumin and curry.  The color alone, amazing.  He is a brilliant chef.  His cookbooks are beautiful.  Everyone should have all of them. Just know what you're getting into. Buy them, read them, read them again,  plunge in, forge through, and reap the rewards.  You will be glad you did.

My Nante Carrot Stew

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