To eat at Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, is to experience a peak culinary experience. In The French Laundry Cookbook
, Keller articulates his passions and offers home cooks a means to duplicate the level of perfection that makes him one of the best chefs in the U.S. and, arguably, the world.
This cookbook provides 150 recipes exactly as they are used at Keller's restaurant. It is also his culinary manifesto, in which he shares the unique creative processes that led him to invent Peas and Carrots--a succulent pillow of a lobster paired with pea shoots and creamy ginger-carrot sauce--and other high-wire culinary acts. It offers unimagined experiences, from extracting chlorophyll to use in coloring sauces to a recipe for chocolate cake accompanied by red beet ice cream and a walnut sauce. You are urged to follow Keller's recipes precisely and also to view them as blueprints. To keep them alive, they must be infused with your own commitment to perfection and pleasure, as you define those terms.
Keller's story, shared through the writing of Michael Ruhlman, shows how this chef was both born and made. After winning rave reviews when he was still in his 20s, it took a more experienced chef throwing a knife at him because he did not know how to truss a chicken to open his eyes to the importance of the discipline and techniques of classical French cooking. To acquire these fundamental skills, he apprenticed at eight of the finest restaurants in France.
Grounded in classic technique, Keller's cooking is characterized by traditional marriages of ingredients, assembled in breathtakingly daring new ways, such as Pearls and Oyster, glistening caviar and oysters served on a bed of creamy pearl tapioca. Continually piquing the palate, his meals are a procession of 5 to 10 dishes, all small portions vibrantly composed. For example, Pan Roasted Breast of Squab with Swiss Chard, Seared Foie Gras, and Oven-Dried Black Figs require just three birds to serve six. The result: you are never sated, always stimulated.
The 200 photographs by Deborah Jones include more than just beauty shots: they show how to prepare various dishes; how Keller, shown stroking a whole salmon, respects his ingredients; and how the perfection of baby fava beans still nestled in the downy lining of their succulent pod, or the seduction of an abundance of fresh caviar, calls out the best from the chef. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
"Cooking is not about convenience, and it's not about shortcuts. Take your time. Move slowly and deliberately, and with great attention," writes Keller, the owner of the French Laundry in Napa Valley who was named 1997's best chef in America by the James Beard Foundation. At a decidedly unhurried pace, Keller delivers 150 recipes that reflect the perfectionism that catapulted him to national acclaim. With few exceptions (e.g., Gazpacho, Eric's Staff Lasagne), recipes are haute, labor-intensive preparations: Lobster Consomm? en Gel?e, Warm Fruitwood-Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze, or Braised Stuffed Pig's Head. Tongue-in-cheek recipe names like "Macaroni and Cheese" (aka Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo) and "Banana Split" (actually, Poached Banana Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Banana Crepes and Chocolate Sauce) belie the complexity of the dishes. Throughout, Keller conveys his vision as a culinary artist in spare, meticulous prose, emphasizing form over expedience: "the great challenge [of cooking] is... to derive deep satisfaction from the mundane." (Nov..- is... to derive deep satisfaction from the mundane." (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.