Bouchon Hardcover – Nov 15 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
I was instantly captured by Bouchon's comfortable and practical approach to French cooking and by Keller's emphasis on manifesting the ingredients' potential sensibly over needlessly manipulating and torturing food. This chimes in well with my cultural and personal philosophy towards food. He really breaks his techniques and knowledge of ingredients down to the basics. Although some of his recipes can be time consuming, they're definitely achievable by the home cook.
Please check out my blog to see for yourself! [..]
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First, the book is a superior reference work of bistro dishes and how to prepare them. It is certainly not complete, but then I think no cookbook in the world will ever be a complete reference to any subject, as every culinary subject changes daily due to changes in provisions, historical research, and the enormous variety in how even one dish is made from place to place. For example, both `Bouchon' and Tony Bourdain's recent book on bistro recipes from Les Halle has five (5) dishes containing mussels, yet no two are the same dish. For all of the virtues of Bourdain's book, Keller's book is superior as a reference to the overall style of cooking if only because he and his editors rigorously give both French and English names to all dishes.
Second, as amazing as it is to say this, lots of dishes in `Bouchon' are actually easy to make. The initial roast chicken recipe is literally not much more complicated than carefully prepping the carcass and sticking it into the oven. Keller does not even baste the beast and it is done within an hour (for a 3-pound bird). And, all this with the cachet of making a Thomas Keller recipe. Almost all the salads and `openers' dishes are equally as simple, as long as you have high quality ingredients.
Third, the pantry chapter of recipes is a more complete reference for making stocks and other sauce bases than I have seen anywhere else. My former gold standard for stockmaking recipes was in `The Zuni Café Cookbook' by Judy Rodgers. This is better by giving recipes that are just as good, better written, and a more complete collection of stocks than I have seen anywhere else. The only thing I would possibly add to this chapter would be a recipe for a court bouillon. But, the recipe does appear in the book as a part of the recipe for a shellfish platter. Other sauces such as a mignonette sauce and a cocktail sauce also appear `in situ' along with appropriate dishes with which they are used.
Fourth, the book is simply packed with important culinary techniques. Most of these are not the sort of thing which will find their way to the quick tips pages of `Cooks Illustrated' or `Gourmet' as they are not shortcuts, but more painstaking ways to improve what is probably already an excellent dish. One dramatic example is Keller's twist on braising where he segregates his flavoring vegetables at the bottom of the Dutch oven under a layer of cheesecloth before adding the meat and the broth. In this way, it becomes very easy to remove the finished meat from the veg and retrieve the broth with little or no odd floating bits of celery leaf or thyme branch. A more simple technique is the recommendation to transfer finished stock to the filtering device with a ladle rather than simply pouring the stuff into the chinois. The force of the uncontrolled flow will force some unwanted particles into the filtered stock. It is all about little details piled up upon one another, which separates good from great cooking.
Fifth, Keller's interpretation of bistro cooking is uncompromising. One dramatic example of this is his claim that America has forgotten how to make a proper quiche, if it ever did know in the first place. The cardinal sin is to make a quiche in a pie pan. This is no surprise, as Julia Child in `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' gives the same warning. What is more surprising is that while most Americans probably use a tart pan with sides of no more than an inch and Child recommends a flan or cake pan with sides up to 11/2 inches, Keller states that you need a 2 inch tall pan to make a proper quiche. A more subtle difference is in his technique for preparing his pate brisee. Virtually every pie crust recipes I have ever seen calls for cutting in butter to leave lentil-sized bits of butter in the mix. Keller insists this is a mistake for a quiche with a wet custard filling, as the pockets of butter create weaknesses in the dough that may break through before the custard filling has firmed up.
Although the book contains many simple recipes, there are also many classic recipes such as boeuf bourguignon, which are literally essays in classic French cooking. Tony Bourdain's recipe for boeuf bourguignon requires 10 ingredients and two concise paragraphs to describe the method. Keller's recipe calls for 43 ingredients in 5 different component preparations, not including the veal stock preparation. This recipe is the poster boy for Keller's take on bistro cooking, which is technique and constant refinement by filtering, skimming, and straining. While the authors have been painstaking in translating the professional's practiced eye and nose into English, this cooking is still about constant attention to the state of the dish as it cooks, and of recognizing the right time to move from one stage to the other. It is this dish where if Bourdain did it at the French Laundry his way, he would be fired on the spot.
This book is so large that it will probably be unwieldy to cook from in the kitchen. Open, it is large than two of my cutting boards together. Still, I cannot overstate how valuable this book is to someone who loves to cook and to read about cooking.
Very highly recommended.
"I used to joke that I opened Bouchon, styled after the bistros of Paris, so that I'd have a place to eat after cooking all night at the French Laundry." (his elegant white-tablecloth restaurant next door in the Napa Valley). In this book he emphasizes technique above all, and interspersed in each chapter (organized by course) are brief essays on "The importance of" the pig, brown butter, slow cooking, glazing and more. He also gives brand and tool recommendations and includes a list of sources.
This may be "homey" fare, but most home cooks aren't going to caramelize the onions for their onion soup for five hours and frogs legs and stuffed duck neck aren't likely to appear at many New England tables. There is a tantalizing little section on potted foods, including a Foie Gras Terrine and Rabbit Pâté and recipes for Duck Confit and Rabbit Confit are simple, time-consuming dishes to warm up a gloomy weekend.
Most of the fare is classic, traditional and inspiring. Like Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Beef with Red Wine), or several versions of Roast Chicken, and Crepes with Chicken and Morels to use up the leftovers. Salads include Lentils Vinaigrette and Roasted Beet; among the side dishes are Macaroni Gratin and Gnocchi with Mushroom and Butternut Squash, and Desserts include Profiteroles and French Toast with Apricots. The final chapter, Basic Preparations and Techniques, is the most important, including the "building blocks" of confits, sauces, and stocks and the all-important, patient, techniques.
This is a book for the home cook who enjoys spending weekends building the blocks for sumptuous weeknight fare. It also would look great on the coffee table.
Here he shifts from the French Laundry approach to one his favorite ways of dining, French bistro style. For him bistro is about technique, so he refines and refines the refinement to a high standard which is provided here in this large format recipe collection.
Keller teamed up with Jeff Corciello to form Bouchon, dedicated to the best in bistro. Their outpouring here is enhanced by the same high standards of publishing which gave us the French Laundry Cookbook, huge format with rich photographay and grand wordsmithing by Michael Ruhlman. This collaborative team produces a huge resource that is magnificent in its style and layout, easy to keep spread open and cook with.
The recipes exude the bistro style of few, usually plain ingredients prepared in tried and true technique, here enhanced by Keller and associates to the ultimate level of richness and taste explosion.
An example of this care of prep can be exhibited by one of my favorites here taken to heights: Roasted Beet Salad. His tips of selection and prep are key, and for best results should be adhered to: buy beets with tops attached, utilizing fresh squeezed OJ. This is sensuous salad, which I can vouch even non-beet lovers will!
Second, if you're a afficianado of Onion Soup, here is the recipe, carefully crafted and layered for unbelievable result! How about two pages of intro about the vessel, carmelization, size of onion slices, broth vs. salt, etc. before even beginning? This is the care and extent to which this collection goes, so the naive cookbook owner who doesn't share this passion to truly turn out a work of love in an Onion Soup will be repelled by such. For those who love providing such, this recipe is typical of this collection. Rewarding will be the effort.
There are truly some true gems of recipes here! Try the likes of Duck Confit with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce. Or Cod with a Stew of Sweet Peppers. Braised Beef with Red Wine has been tried by this reviewer from many different sources in many different creations, but this one is special, due to the details here suggested in the Bouchon refinements of the classic.
For finisher, try the succulent Apple Ice Cream with Calvados, made with a creme fraiche base which gives it a richness level to delight! Also, the Profiteroles for the Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce will satisfy and excite the Chocolate Lover in your dining group!
There is a Basic Building Block Section for prep and technique as well as brief one page listing of sources.
This will remain untouched by many who buy or recieve this who are not yet to the point of taking time and patience of lavish food preparation with the best in ingredients. This book does have the distinct advantage though of not the exotic ingredients of the French Laundry fame, although it will be intimiating for many. For those however, this will be a beautiful coffeetable work.
During the cooking I've asked myself several times - how does he know?
He new exactly what texture the quiche will have, the change in the fluids level, though I used different cooking tools.
Thomas Keller's directions are exact, like instructions to a successful physics experiment.
It is great that a chef is so confident in his craft, that he can share all the secrets and the little details of his dishes.
While I'm "shocked and awed" by Keller's endless use of technique, it does border on the obsessive. If you are a career chef and want to make the best possible Bistro food, then this is the way to go. If you just want to up the ante on your family's dinner repertoire or impress the friends with boeuf bourginon but not spend countless hours in the kitchen and prodigious amounts of mental energy worrying about the clarity of your sauce, then eschew this book (or banish it to the coffee table) and pick up Bourdain's book instead.