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
One hundred and fifty recipes are presented in this cookbook, many of them unique to the author's restaurant, such as lobster-filled crepes with a carrot-emulsion sauce, topped with a pea-shoot salad dressed lightly with lemon-infused oil, to name one of the simpler ones!