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422 of 429 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, wonderful, accessible Keller book
Although I've only had Thomas Keller's ad hoc for a short time, I ready love it and have found many things that make it a must-buy if you're a lover of food or books about food. Keller's quote on the back of the book really sums up the theme of this book: "...a big collection of family meals and everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at...
Published on October 10, 2009 by Ryan Mitchell

versus
171 of 201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Staff meals" do not make a great cookbook
I've worked in restaurants and understand the concept of preparing a "staff meal" in which great ingredients plus last night's leftovers are used imaginatively to make a meal for the employees. Keller explains at one point that is the inspiration for Ad Hoc and for this cookbook, and therein lies the problem.

If you have never baked or fried a chicken or brined...
Published on February 28, 2010 by Otis Maxwell


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422 of 429 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, wonderful, accessible Keller book, October 10, 2009
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
Although I've only had Thomas Keller's ad hoc for a short time, I ready love it and have found many things that make it a must-buy if you're a lover of food or books about food. Keller's quote on the back of the book really sums up the theme of this book: "...a big collection of family meals and everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at home. No immersion circulator required. No complicated garnishes. I promise!"

Keller delivers on this promise in ad hoc. The book assumes far less prerequisite knowledge than his other books, The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Under Pressure. In fact, the first section of the book is called "Becoming a better chef," and Keller outlines the techniques, ingredients, and tools that can help anyone become a better home cook.

I own all 3 of Keller's other books, and regularly cook from them. This is, by far, the most accessible book for the casual home cook. The recipes in here can easily be made as weeknight meals--most don't require any excessive time demands or preparation. Many of the recipes are dishes you're probably familiar with: chicken pot pie, fried chicken, braised short ribs, beef stroganoff, apple fritters, chocolate brownies, etc. But, this being a Thomas Keller book, many of these classic dishes are refined and made more elegant. For example, his beef stroganoff uses fresh cremini mushrooms, creme fraiche, braised short ribs, and pappardelle pasta. All of the recipes I've made have turned out perfectly so far, which has been the case with his previous books.

Consistent with his previous books, the look of ad hoc is beautiful. It's also a nice change to see Keller's fun side featured, and he's displayed in a number of whimsical photographs throughout the book, warning you: "shh... the lamb is resting," and telling you, "That's how I roll," when showing off his lobster roll. In addition to these photos of Keller, there are numerous beauty shots of the food and technique photos.

Overall, I think this book strikes a perfect balance between elegance and approachability. The recipes are refined enough that the most experienced food lover will be satisfied, but simple enough to prepare that the willing novice can easily tackle them. For those who have looked at The French Laundry or Under Pressure and were scared off by rare ingredients, expensive equipment, or advanced technique, this book is a great initiation into the world of Thomas Keller's food.
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323 of 332 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible? Yes. Weeknight dinner? Maybe..., October 15, 2009
By 
C. Fletcher (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
As Ruth Reichl recently said on Fresh Air, if it's four o'clock at work, and you're trying to decide what to have for dinner, you've already half-lost the battle. You can't start out from that position with most of the recipes in this book. What I'm trying to say is that these recipes take something most cookbooks and even television shows that are about food avoid: time and advanced planning. Most of the recipes contain sub-recipes. Most of the chicken and pork dishes require brining, and many dishes require some type of stock. However, most of the time consuming processes in the book don't require much active time, but they do require planning. I'm not putting this up as a negative. In fact, so many wonderful things about cooking simply require time. My first Thomas Keller cookbook was Bouchon, and some of the more time-consuming components used there (soffritto, tomato confit (in Ad Hoc oven roasted tomatoes), garlic confit, duck confit, preserved lemons, peeled shelled fava beans before blanching) make an appearance in this cookbook as well. The first reaction I had to cooking things for more than four hours, which some of these require in total time, was incredulity. Seriously? MORE than four hours? Having eaten at TK's restaurants I put my trust in him, and I learned how wonderful things happen when food is given time.

If you've been cooking for many years some of the tips you may have known: put a towel under your cutting board, you only really need four knives, some salts weigh differently; however, others will most likely be new if you haven't cooked out of TK's other cookbooks. Thinking back on the difficulties I had when I first started cooking, how I wish all of these things had been spelled out to me as clearly and as simply as they are in this book. TK's cookbooks improved my cooking so quickly that I can't recommend them enough. Not only will you make amazing food, but you will learn skills and techniques that will help you even when you aren't cooking one of his recipes. The chalkboard drawing in a way emphasizes the daily changing meal, and the quite gracious TK as teacher and reader as student looking at the teacher in front of the chalkboard. Some of the photos don't quite work for me, but hey, this review is mainly about food, not graphic design.

With that note of caution, if you're afraid these recipes are as complex as Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection recipes, you'll be relieved. Most of the ingredients in the book are relatively standard, and sources are provided for the few esoteric ingredients. The types of dishes are very familiar, and the product description gives a good idea about what to expect. Part of me was hoping this book might feature a lot of chervil, and this would lead to other people requesting it so that it would be stocked in stores just as TK mentions about people requesting cilantro from grocers in this book. Another disappointment for me is the lack of what he calls in his cookbook Under Pressure, "variety meats". I understand that this book is based on a restaurant's food that serves a daily changing set menu, and tongue may not be something everyone wants to eat, but I was hoping for at least one or two involving the aforementioned tongue or tripe, liver, kidneys, sweetbreads or cheeks. Even though he promises no immersion circulators on the back, I'm curious about what is cooked sous vide at Ad Hoc as he has mentioned that they use circulators at the restaurant, and if these dishes are, then what are those alternate preparations?

Something that surprised me and delighted me was the "Lifesavers" portion of the book. This section is full prepared foods that you can make and store like (to name a few) compotes, chutneys, jams, marmalades, spiced nuts, pickles and mustards.

This is a quick note meant to be helpful: if you live in an area that is a culinary wasteland, you might think about ordering Piment D'esplette and Vanilla Paste along with the book as they are used somewhat frequently. TK also highly suggests a Vita-Mix (don't I wish I had one!).

To sum up, I can't recommend this book highly enough if you are serious about food or a home cook wanting to improve.
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166 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Recipes and Tips by a Master, October 15, 2009
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
This book is humbling. That's the best way I can put it. I adore the premise of the book. A celebrated chef sharing home cooked recipes that inspired him to create his world class restaurant in Yountville.

Lets take the famous fried chicken recipe. It doesn't start with a simple set of ingredients and steps on how to do it. It first will train you on how to use the basic tools in your repertoire. Then it will take you through the process of choosing the right ingredients and how to manage them (think spice dating). Then comes the crucial part of choosing the right bird. Then cutting the bird so it will walk you through the various ways of cutting the chicken and how it will impact various meals you will prepare on your own and through this book.

The best thing about this book is that it will teach you to be a better chef with the recipes you are already familiar with and cooking on a daily basis as well as introduce you to a wealth of recipes that will truly expand your horizons. Truly a masterpiece.
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171 of 201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Staff meals" do not make a great cookbook, February 28, 2010
By 
Otis Maxwell (Saratoga Springs, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
I've worked in restaurants and understand the concept of preparing a "staff meal" in which great ingredients plus last night's leftovers are used imaginatively to make a meal for the employees. Keller explains at one point that is the inspiration for Ad Hoc and for this cookbook, and therein lies the problem.

If you have never baked or fried a chicken or brined a cut of pork, you'll find directions here. But you can find equally good and less fussy recipes in the Joy of Cooking or another more encyclopedic/basic source. Some of what's here is solid home-cooking advice, but other dishes are astonishingly high in fats. If I'm going to clog my arteries I'd rather find a more creative way to do it.

Also, hidden in the recipes are a number of specialty ingredients that make it difficult to reproduce Keller's methods without a lot of advance mail-order shopping. And while some dishes can be made "ad hoc" or on the spur of the moment, others depend on advance preparation of enhancements such as pickled vegetables or spice mixes. Actually I love Keller's pickling section and that, plus the pictures, comes close to justifying the purchase of the book. But understand what you are getting, and not.
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170 of 201 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make sure you use the right salt., October 23, 2009
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
[I've updated this review after getting comments on the original review from one of the authors.]

Having cooked (and learned a tremendous amount) out of "Under Pressure" and "Bouchon" (having spent 5 hours caramelizing onions for TK's onion soup I now claim that I engage in "extreme cooking"), I was very happy when "Ad Hoc at Home" arrived. On the surface, it looks great.

Last night I made the caramelized scallop recipe which is simply brined scallops sauted in clarified butter over high heat. This recipe ruined $20 work of scallops because its brine is 10 cups of water (5 lbs) and 2 cups of salts (1 lb) for a 17% brine. This brine way oversalted the scallops even though they were only in it for the recommended 10 minutes (actually a little less since the scallops were smaller than the U7s called for in the recipe). I thought something was amiss when making the brine but was only sure after the fact.

The problem was that I used Morton's Kosher Salt instead of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which is way less dense. Page 52 of this book talks about the different salts, but who reads page 52 before trying an interesting looking recipe? So be warned, use Diamond Crystal for recipes in this book.

I love the book's recommendation to temper poultry before roasting it. I've been doing this for years to avoid uneven roasting, and am very happy a cookbook is willing to discuss this technique in these days of overblown microbe fears.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not necessarily weeknight meals but worthwhile nonetheless, September 14, 2010
This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
***I made 11 recipes from this book and wrote about them on my cookbook review blog, katecooksthebooks dot com. This is from my overall review of the book:***

When you get over your initial disappointment over the fact that Thomas Keller's idea of what constitutes "everyday staples," or "approachable food, recipes that are doable at home" is very different than yours, you can begin to appreciate the book for what it really is. And that is: a book with excellent albeit challenging recipes from one of the best chefs in the country and a man who clearly has his finger on the pulse of what people want to eat. He is also a man, however, who does not hesitate to source obscure ingredients that can only be procured via mail-order (from unique web sites), and he would probably not apologize for creating one recipe that references five others. He has not written these recipes that is in any way mindful of, or sympathetic to, how many bowls and pans you're gong to dirty, or the fact that you have not gotten around to hiring a chef de partie. That's not his job. His job is to tell you that he has developed a fried chicken that is a religious experience and don't demean us all by asking if you really need to brine it in a lemon-honey bath for 12 hours. If that's how you feel just go to Popeye's and get it over with.

It's ironic that part of Keller's mission with this book is to help us create food that is meant to celebrate "the ritual of eating together...sharing stories of the day" when in reality the time investment required for most of these dishes means that you will NOT be sharing stories with anyone unless you talk to your chicken parts. But it's forgivable in the end; just get over that. Pick one recipe for a special dinner party and submit to the ingredient-treasure-hunt and the kitchen lock-down. Decide you're finally going to try brioche and today's the day (well, today AND tomorrow). Pick a complicated main dish and just serve frozen peas with it so you don't make yourself crazy. And, for the love of God, find a good source for canola oil because the man LOVES to fry things and you're gonna wish you had a pipeline for the stuff.

I made 11 recipes from this book which was more than I originally intended and it was hard to stop. I think what appeals to me most about this book is that I agree with the fundamental premise that even if you make something as "basic" as hamburgers, give the meal and the people eating it the proper respect by making them as good as they can be. Eating is important and, as much as possible, should be a very thoughtful act. Almost every recipe in this book called out to me to be made, and that is why I will buy the book and why I'm recommending it. A cookbook that leaves you wanting more is a keeper.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Resource for All Cooks, November 28, 2009
By 
CMoli7 (California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
I knew I had to have this book after dining at the Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville. My husband and I loved our meal there, and after reading reviews, we decided to take the plunge and buy this book. What a fabulous decision!

I am not a skilled cook, and there are few things that I have made well. My parents are both amazing cooks, so I was hesitant to cook them dinner one night. I decided to jump right into the cookbook and make 3 Keller recipes: Broccolini salad, Roast Poussin, and Smashed Marble Potatoes. My husband told me I was crazy to attempt 3 recipes in one evening when we were having guests. I followed all three recipes to the letter and I think it was one of the best meals I have ever made. My dad was so impressed he immediately put this book on his amazon wish list. After growing up eating meals from Julia Child and the Joy of Cooking, I was blown away that this cookbook helped me make such a delectable meal.

No matter what your skill level, Keller aids you in cooking a successful meal. BUY THIS BOOK!
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for food fans of all culinary levels, October 15, 2009
By 
R. Bennett (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
Thomas Keller's reputation might make his cookbooks seem intimidating to the average home chef, but this book is so accessible and straight forward that no one should be afraid to try out the wonderful recipes. I own very few cookbooks, preferring to browse food blogs and cooking websites for inspiration but the simplicity, beautiful presentation, and expert advice on selecting ingredients and cooking from a true master will make this book one I treasure for years to come. The photos alone make it worth owning! But I challenge anyone to thumb through this and not find themselves wanting to try out Keller's recipes. From every day dinners and side dishes to salads, soups, breads, desserts to more complex fare to impress your foodie dinner party guests - this book is a great "go to". I imagine several years from now it will be covered in flour, grease splattered with favorite items ear marked but for now it's a beautiful sight on my kitchen table making me want to spend an afternoon in the kitchen trying Mr. Keller's recipes.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Cookbook for Home Cook, October 19, 2009
By 
rodboomboom (St. Louis, Missouri United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
To my tastes, what makes a great cookbook? First, that it meets the needs of the target user; Second, that it inspires the user to greater competency and enjoyment of preparing its dishes; third, that the style aids in number one and two.

Keller certainly meets these conditions, if by #1 one realizes his target in this one has shifted as the other reviews have noted by noticeably addressing "food I love to sit down to with my family and friends" recipes, says the author. By starting what Keller thought was to be a short-term venture that would present the staff dinner approach at this restaurants, it took off to become a fixture. This fixture inspired this cookbook offering and one its specific goals is to make us better cooks. Keller writes five large pages on it. They are excellent, although many of us have learned these valuable and pertinent topics from other chefs and their TV shows and cookbooks, but his writing is superb and right on. The style is large and lays flat and of course, from the paper stock to the prose to the color photography, it is inspirational in drawing the chef at home to try its cuisine for oneself. Am especially into the well-done help additions, e.g. Parchment lid construction.

I look forward to cooking many of this collection. Made one whole offering which started with a delightful Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup, followed by Tomato and Handmade Mozzarela Salad, Main Course was Pan Roasted Duck Breast which served on Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi and Brussel Sprouts; ended with Blackberry Cobbler (substituted these for called for Blueberries.)

This is wonderful home chef resource, while not advancing the exoticness of his previous offerings, is totally geared more to our usefulness when we don't want to tackle the complicated ingredient-technique recipes.

Will be a classic!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best cookbook on my shelf, December 23, 2009
By 
MattSF (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ad Hoc at Home (Hardcover)
With online recipes and great newspaper food sections, I had considered cookbooks obsolete and had vowed never to buy another one. I needed to spend an extra five dollars to get free shipping; somehow I ended up spending $30 on ad hoc at home. I had recently read an article about Thomas Keller's relationship to his father in the NYTimes, and was curious about the cookbook. Once purchased, I vowed to make a commitment to the book and actually read it and use it several times a week.
The results? Incredible. My wife and kids cannot believe the level of cuisine coming out of our kitchen. I love the cookbook. The recipes are stunning, the cooking tips the best I've read in a cookbook, and the pictures are lovely and actually very helpful. Still more, there seems to be an undercurrent regarding the centrality of cooking and food in our communal lives. It starts with the first, lovely "lightbulb moment" and recipe in the book and extends to the recipes that require sub-recipes that come from traditional cuisines. Who would have thought that cooking tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil together for five hours could make such a deep, rich ingredient for meat and other dishes? Mr. Keller seems to be a teacher, not just of the nuts and bolts of creating a great dish, but of why we bother to do it at all.
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Ad Hoc at Home
Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller (Hardcover - November 6, 2009)
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