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The French Laundry Cookbook

By Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Cookbook



The French Laundry Cookbook is much more than a cookbook—it's an educational experience.  As the first cookbook from Thomas Keller, chef and proprietor of culinary temple The French Laundry in Napa Valley, it not only provides the recipes for 150 of his elegant creations, but takes you on a journey through essays, profiles and exceptional photography.

The book is separated into six categories: canapés, first course, fish, meat, cheese and dessert.  This cookbook is not for the novice chef, as Keller's recipes can be very involved—they are time-consuming and require commitment.  They are the exact recipes the restaurant uses daily and are not simplified for at-home cooking, although helpful tips are included to make some aspects easier.

Throughout the book, Keller takes brief pauses to elaborate on subjects he feels are significant, such as "The Importance of Hollandaise" and "The Importance of Trussing a Chicken." Stocks, sauces, powders and vegetable cutting techniques are also featured and explained in detail.  Profiles are used to give the ingredients a personality, such as "The Pittsburgh Lamber," "The Mushroom Lady," and "The Accidental Fishmonger." Each story teaches you something about that ingredient and offers a new appreciation for it.

The recipes, as well as the dining experience at The French Laundry, begin with one of Keller's favorite dishes, "cornets," or salmon tartare with sweet red onion crème fraîche. Other featured recipes include soft poached quail eggs with applewood smoked bacon, Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab "sandwich," citrus-marinated salmon, and saddle of rabbit in applewood-smoked bacon with caramelized fennel and fennel oil.

If you have a passion for culinary art, and the time to invest in it, The French Laundry Cookbook is a must-have.  Keller's approach to classical French cuisine encourages chefs to slow down and fully engage themselves in cooking—something that has been replaced by the fast food and frozen dinners mentality of today's society.

SAMPLE RECIPE:

Sally Schmitt's Cranberry and Apple Kuchen
with Hot Cream Sauce

Kuchen

6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus butter for baking pan
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup milk or light cream
3 to 4 Gravenstein or Golden Delicious apples
1 cup cranberries or firm blueberries
Cinnamon sugar: 1 tablespoon sugar mixed with  ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon


Hot Cream Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons (4 oz.) unsalted butter

For the kuchen

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.  Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.
In a mixer bowl or by hand in a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and egg together until the mixture is fluffy and lightened in texture.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately to the butter mixture.  Do not overbeat; mix just until the ingredients are combined.

Peel and core the apples.  Slice them into ¼-inch wedges.

Spoon the batter into the pan.  Press the apple slices, about ¼ inch apart and core side down, into the batter, working in a circular pattern around the outside edge (like the spokes of a wheel).  Arrange most of the cranberries in a ring inside the apples and sprinkle the remainder around the edges of the kuchen.  Sprinkle the kuchen with the cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester or skewer inserted in the center of the kuchen comes out clean.  Set on a rack to cool briefly, or let cool to room temperature.

For the hot cream sauce:  Combine the cream, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat (to reduce the chances of scorching or boiling over) and let the sauce simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, to reduce and thicken slightly.  Serve the hot sauce with the kuchen.
Makes 8 servings.

Reviewed by Cara Trump


PSG092509 (revised 09/29/09 TG)

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