By Thomas Keller
Artisan - 2009
Baked Beets : page 194
Keller's method is, as usual, superb, but also as is frequently the case, there is way too much added fat. I find a mere drizzle of oil and NO butter to be sufficient for excellent results. Like the other reviewers, I think the paper towel tip is brilliant.
Blue Cheese Dressing : page 182
This is a truly superior dressing. It is simple to make but requires time--time to make the garlic oil (p. 266) which you need, cooled, to make the garlic aioli (p. 333) which you need to make the dressing. But like other Keller recipes I've made, once you have all the parts, you assemble them to make a greater whole. The garlic mayo/buttermilk combo is excellent and the herb combo is just right. We used Maytag Blue and it was fine---a wonderful dressing for the Iceberg Lettuce Salad (p. 150) and for lots of other salads as well.
Braised Beef Short Ribs : page 41
The sauce is fabulous; the meat is fabulous. All my criticisms seem like nitpicking in light of the great flavor achieved. But here goes anyway: my experience is that it's very hard to find the short ribs all in one piece--certainly not at most markets (not even Whole Foods) and even the independent butcher is unlikely to have it on hand. Second, the whole deal with the cheesecloth seems absurd to me--I have no problem with bits of herbs sticking to my meat. Similarly, the parchment lid is a bit much for a recipe designed for home cooks. But the bottom line is terrific---really tender meat, succulent sauce, well worth the effort. I would add that in the heat of summer, this can be done in part in a slow cooker instead of the oven. And it makes sense to make a fairly large batch as it freezes beautifully and the meat is lovely as is or on the Catalan stew.
Buttermilk Biscuits : page 276
These really are excellent biscuits. The combo of cake and ap flour makes me think of real Southern recipes which use that nice soft southern flour. The directions are straightforward, clear. One tip from me: resist the tendency to turn your cutter while it is in the dough--this mashes the layers together and retards rising while baking. I tried some with the addition of some chopped fresh rosemary--very nice!
Caramelized Sea Scallops : page 88
I halved this recipe, but otherwise followed it to a tee. I used lovely huge divers scallops. I was careful to make sure the clarified butter was hot enough (shimmering). Mine were done at about three minutes for the first side, and less for the second. We had these with some spinach from the farm and a salsa of mango, pineapple and onion. I don't know that I would have ever thought of brining the scallops, but it's a brilliant touch. I would note, though, that like many of Keller's recipes, it assumes the home cook has a restaurant style larder. Not everyone has clarified butter on hand...
Catalan Beef Stew : page 46
Again, a wonderful result but using techniques usually found in restaurants. Having made the braised short ribs, I had only to prep the veg and then put the dish together. But this is a somewhat fussy prep for the home cook. The result, however, is quite wonderful, very bright and complex flavors which do not overwhelm the very good, winey ribs. I would also note that the excess sauce can easily be frozen in an ice cube tray and, once frozen, tucked into a ziplock bag and saved for future use.
Garlic Confit and Oil : page 266
I too used the off-and-on method in lieu of a diffuser (have one somewhere--couldn't find it) I first made the oil for aioli (for the iceberg lettuce salad) but have become addicted. The oil is delicious; the garlic is heaven and has so many uses. It can be spread on bread; rubbed on meat or fish . One of my favorite uses is to spread it on pizza dough before adding cheese, etc.
Horseradish Cream : page 57
So good and so rich -- happily, a little goes a long way. There's some magic to the way the sherry vinegar combines with the cream to make a sauce that is so much better than one made with sour cream or creme fraiche. We use this with roast beef sandwiches and with smoked trout.
Iceberg Lettuce Slices : page 150
Let's get one comment out of the way first: this is not a salad you can make tonight--not unless you have oven roasted tomatoes (5 -6 hours prep) on hand and garlic aioli with which to make the blue cheese dressing and brioche for croutons. That being said, once you assemble the components, this is a knockout salad. It can singlehandedly make iceberg lettuce popular again. Making the lardons as directed is a revelation. They were delicious and just the right texture for the salad. The roasted tomatoes are great in this and the lightness of the croutons is just right as well. The dressing was a huge hit, described as "the best blue cheese dressing ever."
Mayonnaise/Aioli : page 333
I made this in the blender once and with the Bamix once--both times it was super. I really am not sure that I can see(or taste) a difference in the two methods. It's really wonderful in the bleu cheese dressing. It's a decadent delight spread on a brioche roll for a hamburger.
Oven-Roasted Tomatoes : page 262
These are very good, but not better than oven roasted cherry tomatoes which take less than half the time, do not require peeling, and are sweeter. Perhaps if I made these in the middle of winter, when plum tomatoes are the best to be had, I would have had a different reaction, but for all that time roasting, the plum tomatoes were just very good--not magnificent and not really living up to all that effort.
Having made the Peperonata Rustica (208), this was a snap to make -- though I did not brine the chicken, which would have added 12 hours of prep time to an otherwise simple dish. I used a lovely locally raised organic chicken and followed the instructions until the end, deciding to finish the dish on top of the stove instead of heating the oven on a very hot day. The chicken was moist and tender and the flavors of the sausage and peperonata blended beautifully. We'll have this again.
Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts : page 35
This is a perfect recipe. The duck is delicious, juicy, tender. And it's actually an easy recipe. I let mine sit in the fridge about 8 hours. After resting, the breasts sliced beautifully. We went with 125 degrees for the "rosy medium-rare" and it was greatly enjoyed by all.
Peperonata Rustica : page 208
I almost followed the instructions---I roasted my peppers on the outdoor grill and had a green pepper or two in the mix. Otherwise, I was faithful to the text and with very happy results. These made a marvelous side at a dinner of grilled lamb and were used as a component of the delicious Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Sausage and Peppers (p. 20).
Red Potato and Green Bean Salad : page 228
This is a wonderful salad/side. I loved the dressing, tho I did strain the gastrique to get rid of the pepper grinds (and make one diner happy). I also used a very good sherry vinegar in place of the Banyuls (none on hand). The green bean/potato combination is excellent and the dressing is terrific. We have also used the dressing on roasted beets with happy results.
Romano Beans with Mint : page 203
I halved the recipe, but used less than a quarter of the butter -- the full amount would have been way over the top. I used vegetable stock (homemade), beans from the farm market and mint from the garden -- heaven! Leftovers were great added to salad.
Salt-Crusted Striped Bass : page 98
I first made this in school, and have since made it several times at home--always with wonderful results. It's a lot of salt and it leaves a lot of egg yolks behind (hollandaise? shortbread?), but the fish is so tender and moist and really easy to remove from the crust. I have omitted the orange and varied the herbs -- it's always good.
Shortbread Cookies : page 327
I am giving this a four star rating because I think it is a little more complicated than necessary and because I think the addition of an egg yolk makes an incredible difference in the end result. I rolled this out and baked it on a silpat and then cut it with fluted square cookie cutters while still warm. I had almost no waste (just some nice bits for a cook's treat) and this obviated the extra tray and the extra cooling period. This is also wonderful with the addition of some citrus rind and/or almond extract.
Soffritto : page 263
Like so many of the recipes in this book, this one takes a long time, which can be frustrating when one wants to make the pepperonata and see that this several hour process is a preliminary to that recipe. That being said, the technique here yields a lovely result. Finely dicing the onion and grating the tomatoes really makes for an incredible texture; the long, slow cooking renders a mixture of a few ingredients into a marvelously complex dish/condiment.
Summer Vegetable Gratin : page 202
We just finished our second of these gratins and every last bit got eaten. I think the bed of softened onions is such a brilliant idea. So far, I have made this without eggplant, using our own plum-tomato sized heirlooms, thyme from our garden, and zucchini and onions and garlic from local farms. The first time, I made it exactly as directed; the second time I sliced the veg thinner and cooked it for less time with really the same delicious result. It's a good sized gratin, yet we had only a small amount of leftovers which were actually even tastier the second day, so Chef Keller is right on that score as well.
I have been using Keller's method for roasting chicken (Bouchon) for a long time and so it was a natural to try it with the root vegetables. I did, however, omit some of the oil and most of the butter and trim excess fat from the chicken. I think that had I not done this, I would, like reviewer Andrew, have been unhappy with the fat which would have soaked into the vegetables.
Wild Cod en Persillade : page 95
Thomas Keller does it again! This very simple preparation of cod results in the best tasting cod dish I've had. I did exactly as told, but for using some garlic-infusted oil I had on hand. The final result: perfectly done fish with a lovely crust and a delicate flavor. And, unlike most Keller dishes: one pan, two little custard cups for the coating, a pastry brush--simple prep, simple clean up. Super dish!!