December 2, 2009
Alinea and the whole molecular gastronomy movement trained under Thomas Keller, and people are lined up around the block to work at French Laundry for free. Keller's books are literally coffee table books--the kind where you photocopy the recipe you want to use and put the real book back on your shelf so that it never sees a splatter of anything from your kitchen! Meeting him yesterday was in one of my top experiences of all time (he's very debonair, a sharp dresser, and amazingly fit and lithe--how these guys who cook with butter 24/7 look like this is beyond me!). But going to French Laundry is one of my Top Ten Things in Life to Do Before I Die. My husband and I are hoping to go this summer, when I run a half marathon in Napa and to celebrate our birthdays. I figure the only way to justify a $500 meal and $90 bottle of wine is after running 13.2 miles through the wine country!
Anyway, if you get a chance to look at/pick up a copy of Ad Hoc at Home, it'll be worth it, because I do think it's his best yet. It's the more personal side of Keller, as he wrote it when his father passed away and included a lot of the recipes he and his friends and family have enjoyed over the years. It's also like one big textbook for the kitchen, with lots of tidbits of info about how to salt things; when to use oil and how much; and the differences between roasting, pan-roasting, and braising. There are fun chalkboard sections showing step-by-step processes such as deboning whole chickens. I, for one, am frightened by that task and regular cheat by buying mixed pieces already cut, trimmed, and packaged to go at the supermarket.