on May 13, 2010
As a novice cook, I appreciated that this oversize book has lots of full-colour illustrations that detail tasks I've never been quite sure about, like how to properly truss a chicken or cut it into eight pieces. It has detailed instructions for beginners but plenty of inspiring recipes that are more challenging. It was not nearly as intimidating as I thought a Thomas Keller cookbook would be, and if you like to read cookbooks and spend time a bit of time in the kitchen, I highly recommend it. It's more than pretty enough to keep on your coffee table, too.
Thomas Keller is the greatest chef in America. He's not a reality TV star. He's a businessman, a marketer with few peers, but above all - he's a perfectionist chef who takes cooking as an extremely serious matter. He doesn't expect even good amateur cooks to be able to pull off the recipes in his most difficult cookbooks, which are more art pieces than cookbooks. But Ad Hoc at Home is not intended to be pretty; Keller intends that it be used.
And for that reason, of all of Thomas Keller's cookbooks released to date, Ad Hoc at Home is easily the most accessible and useful to a home cook. It's the one of Keller's five current cookbooks that you should buy first.
Under Pressure is too technical and The French Laundry, while beautiful, is simply neither practical nor accessible as more than a coffee table book. Indeed, the late Julia Child, I expect, might well face a challenge recreating some of the recipes and techniques shown in The French Laundry. Those books from Keller are not really meant to be attempted to any serious degree by mere mortals.
The books in the middle of Keller's difficulty curve, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, are both much more accessible than Under Pressure or The French Laundry, but each still pose a REAL challenge (especially many of the more exacting bistro recipes in Bouchon). The Bouchon books are for varsity level play. Mere mortals can get there, but you need to finish high school and your Freshman year first.
To get to Bouchon, you must first pass Ad Hoc at Home first.
And of his five books, Ad Hoc at Home is by far the easiest. Here, Keller is really trying to teach the reader not only how to cook his recipes, but **how to cook**. He doesn't hold your hand through *all* of this, that's not the kind of man he is -- nor the kind of book this is. However, he *does* show you - he just doesn't show you *twice*. He expects you to re-read it, attempt the simpler recipes and work on them until you "get it". He doesn't tell you this, but he certainly does assume that you are clever enough to sort out those implications on your own. Thomas Keller is not the sort of man who suffers fools gladly in his life -- that much is clear. He expects you to pay attention.
For all that, to be fair to Keller, things are *mostly* well explained in Ad Hoc at Home and important matters are not left a mystery. But he takes all of this quite seriously and expects you to do so as well.
The photographs are wonderful, the descriptions helpful and the end product of a properly executed recipe is something to be enjoyed and proud of. As Ad Hoc at Home ramps up, so do many of the recipes as you have to up your game. Some of them may prove to be difficult for some cooks, but you can pick out most of those at a glance. You cook this cow one recipe at a time.
The great thing about Ad Hoc at Home, however, is that you WANT to be able to work your way up to attempting these more difficult recipes. As many of the recipes build off of and incorporate the finished products of other intermediary difficulty recipes presented elsewhere in the book, Keller presents a clear path to honing your skills and inspiring you to get better without ever feeling like he's pandering or dumbing it all down. He's not humouring us, he's deliberately *challenging* us. It's the intentional pedagogical strategy in the book and for the most part, it works very well on the sort of people at whom the book is directed. Whether you are one of those people or not, is entirely up to you to discover.
All of Keller's books are beautiful and are real works of graphic art & design in their own right. Ad Hoc at Home is no different. It's big, it's thick, chic, and stylish; the paper is VERY heavy and the photography is as gorgeous and exacting as you would expect of a perfectionist like Thomas Keller. It may be displayed on your coffee table alongside or near his other works if you like and it certainly fits in. It is designed to do just that.
But unlike The French Laundry or Under Pressure, leaving Ad Hoc at Home on your coffee table does both you and the book a disservice. Ad Hoc at Home looks good enough to be displayed on your coffee table -- but only an incompetent cook actually leaves it there. Ad Hoc at Home belongs in your kitchen and it is intended to be used. If you leave it on your coffee table, it says a lot more about your wanting skills in the kitchen than it does about your superior tastes in cookbooks.
on November 28, 2014
While some of the recipes in this book require much advance preparation, overall it is a great book with great recipes. I recommend!
Some of there recipes that I tried and would recommend:
buttermilk fried chicken - great crunchy flavour.
Whole roasted chicken on a bed of root vegetables - I recommend brining before roasting, recipe in back of book. I also recommend the herb butter from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook.
Puree of garlic potatoes - amp up your mashed potato flavour with garlic confit, butter and heavy cream!
(you could also try baking the garlic like bobby flay does in the "mesa cookbook")
Scallion potato cakes - tastes great but should be eaten right away. Requires a food processor.
Brownies - save the best for last? Great recipe!
I have tried the chicken stock as well, though I find the method is a little over involved for home, I wouldn't use the large amount of ice that it requires, and I don't worry about skimming it as much as recommended. I just put it on and let it simmer, skimming just a few times.
There are many other recipes here that I would love to try in the future. Many of the soups and stews look amazing.
There is one recipe that I did not enjoy -the peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin. That may have been my fault though, as I may have not simmered the peppercorns long enough in the oil.
on January 23, 2012
Loads of sexy food pictures, insights into kitchen methodology, and a great section on pantry items. This hefty book gets hauled off the shelf so often it might count as exercise. Which is comforting given the amount of butter Thomas Keller suggests.
Every recipe I've made has turned out beautifully. It's a nice change from the Bouchon and French Laundry books that I don't even browse unless I have an entire weekend and an extra few hundred dollars to devote to the kitchen!
on July 16, 2012
This book is absolutely fantastic! Although I do usually want a cook book that has a picture for every dish, Keller demonstrates his love for food with such passion that after the first few recopies I hardly noticed the lack of visuals. This isn't to say the there are no pictures, in fact the photos that are present in the book are hands down some of the nicest food photography I have seen.
Everyone should own this book.
on November 3, 2015
This is my favorite cookbook. These are not quick recipes. They are very involved, and you cannot substitute. These are recipes that require planning ahead, but if you do, the results are AMAAAAZING! If you're having people over for dinner, make some of these recipes to blow your guests minds. The fried chicken and chicken pot pie are to die for.