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Happy in the Kitchen

The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating
by Michel Richard

Happy in the Kitchen

Few chefs can cook like Michel Richard, a veteran chef who is guided as much by his never-ending playfulness as he is by his years of experience. Originally trained in the art of pastry, Richard is one of the very few who successfully crossed over into the savory world, combining his precision and technique as a pastry chef with the freethinking creativity of a savory chef.

With more than 150 recipes, Happy in the Kitchen offers a peek into the mind of this ingenious chef.  Fans of Richard’s restaurants—Citrus at Social in Los Angeles and Citronelle and Central Michel Richard in Washington D.C.—will recognize many of the whimsical concoctions in his cookbook, including his Chicken “Faux Gras” made with chicken livers and Lobster “Begula” Pasta made with squid-ink-dyed pasta pearls, along with desserts such as Le Kit Cat, a tongue-in-cheek take on the popular candy bar. In addition to the detailed recipes and cooking tips, Richard also reveals a number of his own personal shortcuts—some of which include using the normally-tabooed microwave. Vibrant photos by Deborah Jones accompany many of the recipes.

More than anything else, Richard’s eternally optimistic attitude is what is most inspiring about Happy in the Kitchen. He approaches food like a young boy in a playground—eager to imagine and play. It’s a fitting title for an inspiring cookbook.


Blooming Carrots

(as adapted from Happy in the Kitchen)

Canola oil or peanut oil for deep-frying
1 large peeled carrot (about 5 ounces)
1 T cornstarch
Fleur de sel

Heat the oil to 300°F in a deep fryer or large deep pot.

Meanwhile, set up a Benriner [mandolin] with the straight blade: you want to cut the slices as thin as possible while still making full round slices. Cut off the top of the carrot. Holding the thinner end of the carrot like a handle, with the large end flush against the Benriner, move the carrot across the blade to slice it as thin as possible.  Adjust the angle of the carrot or the opening of the blade as necessary. There should be about 1 packed cup of carrot rounds.

Place the rounds in a bowl and toss them with cornstarch, coating them evenly. Add half the rounds to the hot oil, preferably in a fryer basket. Use a skewer or chopstick to separate any slices that stick together. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes, moving them around from time to time, until the bubbles subside.  The bubbles come from the moisture of the carrots; when the bubbling has stopped, the carrots will be crisp. The rounds will curl into flowers as they cook. Transfer the carrots to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with fleur de sel to taste. Cook the remaining rounds.

The flowers are best eaten immediately, but they can be held at room temperature for a few hours and reheated in a 250°F oven before serving.

Makes 1½ cups.

Reviewed by Nancy Huang

(Updated: 11/25/08 SB

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