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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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