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Tag Archives: french bistro

Famed chef Thomas Keller eats some of the best chicken wings anywhere in Nashville

From The Tennessean:

Chef Thomas Keller braves the heat at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

By Jennifer Justus • THE TENNESSEAN • March 31, 2010

The meticulous French-style chef, one of the most respected in the nation, has intense dark eyes that could sear a sloppy line cook faster than a filet in a hot pan.

But sitting across from him at the lunch table, I watched as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

He dabbed it with a paper napkin.

And then he reached for another bite of hot chicken.

I didn’t mean to make him cry. Really. But I admit that when I heard the famous chef — he of the James Beard accolades, the Michelin stars and the collection of posh restaurants from Napa to New York — was headed to Nashville for a book-signing, I knew Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack was where I wanted to take him.

No question, fried chicken is hot right now. Just last week, movie star Gwyneth Paltrow gushed about eating fried chicken in Nashville on her GOOP.com blog, and glossy national food magazines have devoted photo-laden spreads to the humble bird.

But in Nashville, chicken has always been hot. Spicy hot, that is — the kind of heat that comes with a Scoville rating. So I was keen to hear what Chef Keller thought about our version. I also hoped to hear more about his Buttermilk Fried Chicken, a recipe that has its own cult following, and the emotional significance of chicken, which he talks about in his latest book, Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan, Nov. 2009, $50). Chicken, after all, is the last meal he ever prepared for his father, and the first recipe in the book.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100331/FEATURES02/3310340/Chef-Thomas-Keller-braves-the-heat-at-Prince-s-Hot-Chicken-Shack

This article about the famed chef-owner of The French Laundry and Per Se is really a good read and has a nice ending, so I recommend that everyone read it.

Cookbook of the day – The Paris Cookbook

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The Paris Cookbook

by Patricia Wells

  • Publisher William Morrow Cookbooks (October 24, 2001)
  • ISBN 10: 0060184698
  • ISBN 13: 978-0060184698
  • Famed food author Patricia Wells has written a love letter to Parisian life. Having lived in France since 1980, she’s at home in the glittering night life of Paris or the slow calm of her home in Provence, which she has also written about in her book (to be reviewed by me in a future post), The Provence Cookbook. She wrote about bistros long before it was discovered by a voracious American culinary scene.

    She certainly doesn’t give bistros short shrift in this book, but she also discusses the 25! Michelin starred chef Joël Robuchon, featuring several of his recipes including the famedMacaroni aux Truffles Joël Robuchon, variations of which have become quite fashionable here in the States.  She pulls a recipe from Guy Savoy’s brasserie, Cap Vernet (Salade à la Maraîchère Cap Vernet,a simple mixed green viniagrette-infused salad with thinly shaved ParmegianoReggiano). And she creates dishes inspired by market vendors and old clipped French magazine recipes.

    Many famous and obscure Parisian citizens inside the culinary orbit are name-checked and you’ll catch a measure of the passion that Wells feels for Paris and French cuisine. 

    It’s an interesting read and well worth adding to your cooking library.

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    Cookbook of the day – La Methode

    La Methode

    La Methode

    by Jacques Pépin

    Publisher Pocket (September 15, 1984)  

    ISBN 10: 0671504959

    ISBN 13: 978-0671504953

    Recently, we discussed Pépin’s companion to this volume, La Technique. This is the “continuation” of that first volume. There really isn’t much distinction between the two volumes – it’s not like the first only talks about “techniques” and this one talks about “methods” (as if there’s a huge difference between the two terms).  He basically wanted to cover topics that he hadn’t really covered in the first volume, so he starts with something ignored in the first volume – sharpening a knife.

    He then covers such diverse kitchen skills as butterflying shrimp, straining and skimming sauces, boning a saddle of lamb, making various chocolate constructions such as boxes, leaves and bark, and he also covers such esoteric subjects as peeling and glazing chestnuts, carving  “cucumber turtles” and “mushroom fish”, and preparing marrow.

    Once again, there are copious black and white photos that illustrate each step in the various processes and there are plenty of recipes to keep any recipe hound busy for months.

    You can now buy both volumes bound as one, but the originals can still be found in separate volumes for a reasonable cost.

    Pépin is a treasure who we should celebrate here in the US for being someone who, along with Julia Child and Paul Bocuse, made it fashionable to embrace French cuisine. And this enabled America to look past its shores and also to its immigrant population as culinary inspirations which have enriched our own cuisine.

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    Cookbook of the Day – La Technique

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    La Technique

    by Jacques Pepin

    Publisher Times Books (December 12, 1976)

    ISBN 10: 0812906101

    ISBN 13: 978-0812906103

    This is a companion volume to Pepin’s La Methode, which I will review in a future installment of Cookbook of the Day.  Both volumes can now be purchased in one volume, but I’ll discuss each one separately.

    This was the first of the two volumes and it’s exactly as the title describes – all about technique. It starts with holding the knife and finishes with making Cheveaux d’Ange (angel hair). No, angel hair doesn’t refer to pasta, but rather sugar gossamer “angel’s hair” used to decorate elaborate desserts.

    There are recipes scattered throughout but only recipes that require use of a technique to accomplish. Filled with step-by-step matter-of-fact black and white photographs, Pepin takes you through the basics of breaking down a chicken, shucking clams and oysters, making terrines, poaching eggs and even folding napkins.

    This was one of the first really practical volumes on technique that clearly showed the American chef step-by-step how to replicate the results of the top chefs of the world. It, along with its sister volume, is really a foundation book for any kitchen library. You should pick up the new combined edition if possible, but you can also find the two books in both hardback and paperback in selected used book stores. My copy of La Technique is hardback, while my copy of La Methode is in paperback. I don’t mind at all. 

    angel hair A confetti version of  Cheveaux d’Ange  – imagine that it’s made of sugar and sits atop some elaborately constructed gateaux.

    Cookbook of the day – The New Professional Chef

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    The New Professional Chef

    by The Culinary Institute of America

     

  • Publisher:Van Nostrand Reinhold; 6 Sub edition (November 7, 1995)  
  • ISBN-10: 0471286796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471286790
  •  

    This is the basic textbook of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). It’s big and expensive. I don’t recommend buying it new, but you can sometimes find it at used bookstores for $20 – $30.

    Obviously, it has a lot of basic information about things that a chef needs to know about nutrition, safety concerns, kitchen tools, food prep and food ingredients. However, I think that some of the other books that I’ve recommended that focus on specific things like ingredients, cooking techniques for specific cuisines, etc. is money better spent.

    I’m recommending this book to those who have the occasional need to produce food for large gatherings. if you occasionally throw large dinner parties, patio barbecues for family and friends, or do the occasional catering gig, this book is invaluable because it had many many recipes for basic sauces, stocks and classic dishes that are designed for 10 or more people.

    Most restaurant chefs in quality restaurants keep this volume handy, and it’s a short-sighted professional caterer that doesn’t also use this volume often. It’s also useful for the non-pro as well, but only if you cook for large families and gatherings occasionally.

    Cookbook of the day – Splendid Soups

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    Splendid Soups: Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World’s Best Soups

    by James Peterson

    Publisher: Wiley (September 22, 2000)
    ISBN-10: 0471391360
    ISBN-13: 978-0471391364
     
    Once again, I don’t have the most current edition of this book. I have the 1994 edition, which clocks in at 100 less pages than this new edition. Mine has a different cover as well:

     

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    I’m assuming that Peterson has added some modern variants of classic soups, as he has presumably done with the updated edition of his Sauces book that I reviewed yesterday. This could be considered a companion edition to Sauces, but even this earlier edition has a wider scope than Sauces, with non-Western ingredients such as bonito flakes, Udon noodles, miso, and various soups from the Far East and other places included in this edition. You’ll find soups from India, Japan, Morocco, Thailand and other far-flung corners of the globe.

    This is another of Peterson’s “reference” works. As such, you won’t find a single photograph. It’s all recipes, tips and techniques. Some recipes are for intermediate or advanced cooks, but even the beginning cook can find a lot of practical advice on soup-making that will help them move past the basic into the more advanced levels of cooking.

    If you have Peterson’s Sauces, this should sit next to it on your bookshelf.

    Cookbook of the day – Sauces by James Peterson

    Sauces

    Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

    By James Peterson

  • Publisher: Wiley; 2nd edition (January 27, 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0471292753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471292753
  • Caveat – I have the original 1991 edition, which has a different cover and is about 100 pages shorter. It’s the edition that won the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year.

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    This is the book if you want all of the lowdown on classical sauces. If you ever wondered what the difference between a sauce and a glace is, this is the book for you. The first chapter is a history of sauces, the second, a compendium of equipment that you might need, the third a listing of ingredients. After that, he breaks down the various sauces and expands them to their variants as well. There are more sauces in classical cooking than you ever thought possible, many with French-derived names. And they are all listed in categories according to the basic recipe from which they spring. This book concentrates on classical sauces and there are essential tips scattered throughout, tips that will allow you to create sauces equal to those in the finest restaurants.

    I haven’t paged throught the more current addition pictured above, but I would hope that he’s extended his overview to Asian and other “non-western classical” offerings, as well as some of the new sauces based on more exotic ingredients.

    This is one of those “foundation books” that every serious cook should have in their cooking library. I’ll be reviewing his equally important book “Splendid Soups” in a future post. The books are a little dry, but they are intended to be reference works, not entertainment.

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    Cookbook of the Day – Jeremiah Tower Cooks

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    Jeremiah Tower Cooks

    by Jeremiah Tower

  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584792302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584792307
  • After there was Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin and before Thomas Keller, Paul Prudhomme and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, there was Alice Waters and her chef Jeremiah Tower. Her restaurant Chez Panisse was legendary in the Bay Area and became famous nationwide through the Chez Panisse Cookbookand other writings. The restaurant, which opened in 1971, is credited with creating “California Cuisine” and Tower is considered its Godfather. He is the creator of the “gourmet pizza”, a concept later taken to massive heights by Wolfgang Puck and others. Even though Waters’ and Tower split less than amicably and the two have traded barbs in print and through the press, I suspect that Ms. Waters has more respect (if not affection) for her old head chef than she’s willing to admit (and vice versa).

    Tower became one of the earliest “celebrity chefs” in America (transplants like Child, Graham Kerr, Bocuse, Pepin and Franey notwithstanding). He did it without having a cooking show or a raft of popular cookbooks but did it though is association with Waters and his subsequent restaurants Sana Fe Bar and Grill and his most famous joint, Stars. He was (and is) legend in the culinary world and this cookbook will show you why.

    If you’ve read any of my cookbook reviews, you’ll know that I treasure a cookbook that opens the door to a chef’s inner workings. The best cookbooks written by chefs are more than just the sum of recipes, but almost manifestos of their cooking philosophy and the passing of house secrets that can transform the readers’ own culinary efforts. And this book has it in spades.

    A book that has the outer appearance of an artsy-fartsy coffee-table book, you’ll find the insides almost utilitarian, with sparse illustrations and a matter-of-fact look and feel. It starts with Chapter One, ” Delights and Prejudices”, with the admonition that errors and improvisations are allowed (his individual gourmet pizza was the result of a happy accident). He runs the gamut of a glossary of cooking terms and phrases and a concise list of techniques that are used through the book. And his description of “salt and pepper to taste” is very blunt – that’s exactly what he means.

    His 250 recipes are fresh, healthy and mouthwatering, just what you’d expect from the best California cuisine.

    As we are on the cusp of summer, I can’t recommend this book more highly, nor is any other cookbook more appropriate to this time of year. You’ll learn many quick tips and insights about combining food in palate-pleasing combinations. You’ll discover that great food doesn’t have to involve jumping through hoops.

    But let’s let croc-wearing Mario Batali have the final word:

    Jeremiah Tower became my instant hero the first time I set foot in Stars, three days after it opened. To this day I consder him my ultimate mentor, and his voice, style, and opinions the arbiters of taste and truth in the restaurant world. The recipes and words within this book are timeless classics, as is Jeremiah himself. I love this guy. 

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    Cookbook of the day – Bouchon

    9781579652395

    Bouchon

    by Thomas Keller

  • Publisher: Artisan
  • ISBN-10: 1579652395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579652395
  • This companion piece to Keller’s book The French Laundry Cookbook is even more beautiful than its predecessor. Using luminous silver-halide-esque black and white photos to supplement the nice narrow focal plane color photography of the first volume (this technique leaves only portion of the shot in focus and can leave both the foreground and the background out of focus for artistic effect), the look and feel of the book emphasizes the old world heritage of le bistro. Some of the shots beg to be hung in a tony art gallery.

    Named for a style of French bistro in Lyon,  Bouchon the restaurant creates a paradoxical theme of an upscale bistro. Bouchon the cookbook attempts to convey the mindset behind creating bistro cuisine without reducing it to a French version of a meat-and-three.

    As in The French Laundry Cookbook, Keller demands an attention to detail and outlines a lot of technical skills necessary to produce a quality product. From his observation that you must discard any “irregular” pomme frites before cooking because they won’t cook evenly (and there’s a photo of the fries in the traditional European paper cone nestled in a hammered metal stand), to his avoidance of the cliché (outlining several skate dishes without talking about the traditional bistro dish of skate and mashed potatoes – instead he does skate with Lyonnaise potatoes), you’ll find dishes as simple as glazed pearl onions (oignons grelots glacés) and as complicated as pork trotters (pork feet) with máche and sauce gribiche (pieds de cochon et máche, sauce gribiche).

    The principles that bind two restaurants as diverse as The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon are an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, an attention to detail and a passion for and a knowledge of the style of cuisine that’s being attempted.

    Owning both of these books will move you into a new dimension of cooking, and it’s a great yin to Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook’s yang. You should own both, which you know if you’ve followed my previous cookbook highlights.

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    Cookbook of the day – The French Laundry Cookbook

    9781579651268

    The French Laundry Cookbook

    by Thomas Keller

    Publisher: Artisan

    ISBN-10: 1579651267

    ISBN-13: 978-1579651268

    So, you say you’ve got a $50 bill burning a hole in your pocket? Want to know how The French Laundry is able to get away with charging people $135 each for a prix fixe menu? Wonder why you have to make a reservation two months to the day from your desired dining day? Wonder what the fuss is all about? 

    Well, wonder no more. Currently, you can pick this $50 book for as little as $30 if you look around.

    If you pull the trigger, you’ll find a substantial, well-crafted book that’s just as home on a fancy coffee-table as it is on your kitchen bookshelf.  This is a large format book, so it’s not particularly convenient on your counter-top.

    When you get this book, you’ll find the very recipes for many of the dishes that Chef Keller and his associates put out on a nightly basis. Even more importantly, you’ll uncover his philosophy of cooking sophistication, attention to detail and the use of the freshest products. Even though he’s a serious technician,  he clearly lays out the techniques that you’ll find essential if you want to reproduce his famous dishes. This is as much a “how-to” as it is a recipe book. These techniques are often elaborate and time-consuming but well within the skills of a home chef. An example is his insistence that all sauces and stocks are strained and skimmed as often as necessary to get a pure product. This is what he says about the subject: “When in doubt, strain. Not a single liquid or purée moves from one place to another in the restaurant except through some sort of strainer. And you must always be skimming – skim, skim, skim”. 

    All of the recipes are based on single portions as they would be served from the prix fixe menu in the restaurant. You are advised that you can double them for larger portions.

    I can’t say enough about the look and feel of the book. It’s definitely art gallery quality. This is a cookbook that you will be proud to own, even at the listed retail price.

    In the tradition of Julie and Julia, Carol Blymire has cooked her way through every recipe in this cookbook. You can follow her culinary adventures at her blog:

    http://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/

    Stay tuned for my recommendation of his companion volume, Bouchon.

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