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The French Laundry Cookbook Hardcover – November 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan; 2 edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579651267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579651268
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is a book to read, not just cook from.
With its beautiful photography and great recipes, it is very inspiring.
C. Smith
I highly recommend this book for Chefs and Aspiring Home Cooks alike.
Vincent N. Coleman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

190 of 199 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A beautiful book that is nice to browse through for the non-culinary inclined and inspirational to those who love to cook. Keller is a genius, that is evident in the recipes. However, to successfully recreate a French Laundry meal from this book will be a daunting task for the more experienced home cook and virtually impossible for a beginner. The small portion sizes require at least 4 or 5 dishes to comprise an entire meal (although the recipes may be scaled up to more typical serving sizes without much problem). The book can be pretentious (witness the blurb entitled 'the importance of offal'), includes recipes that 99.9% of readers will not bother to attempt (stuffed pigs heads, for example) and more than a few recipes require a very well equipped kitchen to pull off (juicers, mandolines, silipat baking sheets, variety of strainers, etc...), but all seem accessible if you take your time and have mastered some basic cooking skills. A very fun and informative book for those who love to cook and enjoy a challenge in the kitchen. If you are serious, you will have a blast, learn a lot, and eat some spectacular food. If the food tastes this good when I make it, I can only imagine how good it is at the restaurant.
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128 of 137 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've eaten at the French Laundry three times now-most recently the first week of September 2002. This makes it spring, summer, and fall. My next trip to Napa will be to see how he (Chef Thomas Keller) manages with winter vegetables.
Chef Keller offers three menus: a five-course dinner menu; a nine-course tasting of vegetables menu; and his 10-course prix fixe menu (which is currently $135). He follows the typical French format:
Amuse Bousche (His signature salmon tartar with sweet red onion crème fraîche)
1. Cold Hors d'ouevre
2. Vegetable or Foie Gras
3. Fish
4. Seafood (or second fish course)
5. Rabbit or Veal
6. Pork or Lamb
7. Cheese
8. Sorbet
9. Dessert
10. Mignardise (petit fours and candies)
Sometime in your life, you must experience this restaurant. It will be the best four-hour dinner of your life!
Now for the book review. The book is presented in a way that shows a lot of planning went into it. While the recipes have many ingredients and details, the instructions are written in a manner that everyone can follow. If you're an experienced cook, this may slow you down a bit.
There is plenty of background to the recipes that you won't find elsewhere; such as big pot blanching and how to handle your homemade stocks.
I've made about 10-15 recipes out of this book. All work... eventually. They require three or four read-throughs, full preparation of equipment and ingredients (mise en place) before starting, an understanding of what happens to food when heat is applied, and better-than-average knife skills.
Keep in mind there are a few bugs here and there.
Read more ›
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234 of 263 people found the following review helpful By Jack Dempsey on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To put it simply, this book is amazing. I'll try to sum it up in a few main points...
Design--the design on this book makes it a work of art. The photographs and layout are literally awe-inspiring. A word of caution...the size is very cumbersome and doesn't exactly make for ease in the kitchen.
Text--Very enjoyable text and it is pleasurable reading. Most helpful are pointers on technique and procedure.
Recipes--Most are difficult, a few are pretty easy. Herein lies the caveat/point of caution. To understand this point, one must understand the philosophy of this restaurant/Keller. Food is a work of art and presentation is everything in Keller's mind. With that in mind, be ready to break out the tweezers and forcepts to get this food to appear as it does in the restaurant/book. It can be painstaking and frustratingly over-done.
On the restaurant--It is a very good restaurant and worthy of most of the commendations about it. It is perhaps one of the best dining experiences I've experienced. However, it is becoming, in my humble opinion, slightly over-rated. The wait on reservations has now hit the 3 months+ mark. (From those slightly less demanding, I've heard stories of a 6 month wait.) In other words, if you would like to dine there in April, better make reservations in January at the latest. To be honest, the experience is not THAT fabulous and such a wait is more of a product of hype than of quality. You would be better off going to Terra or Tra Vigne in the same area. It would likely be more enjoyable as well.
Don't get me wrong. This is a fantastic book and it is a fantastic restaurant. It is just not THAT fantastic if you follow me.
But as for the book, purchase it if you understand what you're in for--it will be a valuable addition.
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131 of 152 people found the following review helpful By James R Collins on November 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Keller is, as you have probably surmised from the other reviews, the consumate chef's chef. Food at the French Market is spectacular and the book is worth having if you are interested in cooking at all. However, do not expect to rush home after a busy day and prepare one of these dishes. I would call the ingredient list "Gourmet" and many of the preparations "advanced." Your average main course prep time will be two to three hours (not including shopping). That said, the menus I have tried are accurate and clear in instruction. Guests at your upcoming dinner parties will rave about your culinary prowess.
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