December 8, 2009

TK Comes to Dinner

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From time to time, our modest local temples of gastronomy are graced with a visit by one or another of the nation's culinary gods, who descend from Paris, New York or California, their latest cookbooks in hand. Most recent sighting in Seattle: no less than TK himself, Thomas Keller, the country's most celebrated chef (French Laundry, Bouchon, per se, etc.). Elegant, self-assured, gracious, clad in white shirt, blazer and designer jeans, swathed in a long red scarf, TK affixes his autograph on ad hoc at home, his latest tome, for a crowd of local chefs and foodies who've gathered at Bastille to pay proper homage to the master's six Michelin stars.

"It delights me to offer here a big collection of family meals and everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at home," TK writes in the introduction. The book is beautifully produced, weighs a ton, costs $50 and is sold out until February. (Plenty of free tips and how-to videos online, though.)

There's obviously a hunger for accessible (rather than fancified) food, and much is made of ad hoc's fried chicken. But get this: the "lemon brine" alone requires 8 ingredients, another dozen for the coating, dredging and frying. If you're lazy, you might appreciate Williams Sonoma's "ad hoc fried chicken kit" (a $14.95 bag of flour & spices) though you still have to do the work yourself. Cookbooks like this aren't for the lazy, or for people who don't start thinking about what to make for dinner until 3 o'clock rolls around. Sheesh, show a little respect! Just because there are no printed menus at ad hoc ("Mom didn't have a menu, either"), just because this is comfort food served family style doesn't mean you don't have to think ahead, that you shouldn't plan.

The dinner at Bastille ($190 a plate) is produced not by TK but by a disciple, Shannon Galusha, who did a three-year apprenticeship at French Laundry before setting out on his own. Galusha and crew replicate half a dozen recipes from ad hoc at home: braised oxtail tartines, crab cakes and Maine lobster rolls to start, then scallops with root vegetables, followed by a confit of pork belly and braised beef short ribs, and finally apple fritters with an ice cream sandwich.

The cookbook, it should be said, grew out of a "temporary" restaurant in Yountville, ad hoc, that served four-course, family-style dinners. It caught on, became too successful to close, and may end up being TK's most important contribution to the way we (should) eat now: not rarefied and elitist but humble and generous.

Keller signs copies for the general public at noon today (Dec. 8th), at the University Bookstore.

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Aspinal of London Ltd.
Posted by Ronald Holden at December 8, 2009 10:30 AM | TrackBack

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