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.Posted by Ronald Holden at December 8, 2009 10:30 AM | TrackBack
The International Kitchen
Cooking school vacations in Italy, France & Spain.