Keller's restaurant Bouchon, in Napa Valley, Calif., is modeled after Parisian bistros and serves simple yet sumptuous fare. This graceful ode to bistro cooking emphasizes that although in America, "bistro" is synonymous with "casual," the food is prepared with "precision of technique brought to bear on ordinary ingredients." Close-up photos of signature dishes are alluring, and several action shots of food preparation may help readers refine their techniques. The book's sections progress from "First Impressions" (hors d'oeuvres and more) to "Anytime" dishes (soups, salads, quiches) to appetizers, entrées and desserts. Thoughtful introductions to each recipe grouping explain Keller's experiences with the featured dishes; sidebars on everything from oil to onions provide insight and useful tidbits. A "Basics" chapter attempts to further demystify the foundations of bistro cooking (it's built on staples like confit, stock and aioli), and a "Sources" section directs readers to bistro-appropriate tools and specialty foods. Of course, as any chef knows, food is as much about experience, memory and emotion as it is about flavor and presentation. Especially bistro food, Keller says, which retains the "spirit of the original bistro, the spirit of embracing you... restoring you and making you happy." This appealing book promises to do the same. Photos.
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Keller holds the chef-of-the-moment title. It's still nearly impossible to book a table in his renowned French Laundry restaurant in rural California even though the chef himself has largely forsaken the scene to open an eagerly awaited luxe Manhattan eatery. This new cookbook takes its title from Keller's less expensive bistro next door to his California location. At Bouchon he and his kitchen staff concentrate on bistro classics: onion soup, roast chicken, tarte tatin. Onion soup relies on sound beef stock and well-caramelized onions. For his roast chicken, Keller looks for a farm-raised bird, properly cleaned and dried with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Unlike other chefs, Keller opts for trussing the chicken for even cooking and easy handling. He extols the French art of potted meats, but offers just a few pates. Pigs' feet put in an appearance and add their rich rustic savor to the menu. Other recipes for salads, vegetables, and desserts follow a similar pattern of exquisite ingredients simply prepared. For regional collections. Mark Knoblauch
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