A Great Chef Fires Up The Heat, 'Ad Hoc' Style

Thomas Keller i i

hide captionThomas Keller grew up with four older brothers who often cooked for him.

Deborah Jones
Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller grew up with four older brothers who often cooked for him.

Deborah Jones
Ad Hoc At Home
By Thomas Keller
Hardcover, 368 pages
Artisan
List price: $50

Thomas Keller is one of those chefs people speak of with awe. His restaurant, the French Laundry, in the little town of Yountville in California's Napa Valley, is a place where people spend hundreds of dollars to dine. But down the street, the chef's homier eatery, Ad Hoc, serves meals family style, with no menu choices whatsoever.

Depending on the night, Ad Hoc diners might feast upon Keller's caramelized sea scallops, accompanied by iceberg lettuce slices, rainbow chard and brownies for dessert.

Keller's new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, features recipes from his restaurant. He describes himself as a man who is drawn to the kitchen.

"I can't go to somebody's house and not help in the kitchen. I don't care if it's chopping parsley or peeling onions or whatever. It's just part of my nature," he tells Renee Montagne.

Though he's famous for food that often resembles high art, Keller appreciates the power of the humblest of tastes, like Skippy peanut butter and Heinz ketchup. Keller, who was raised by a single mother, says the restaurant and the cookbook celebrate the foods he would have loved as a kid.

"I remember years ago chefs wanting to make their own ketchups in their restaurants," he says. "[But] nobody really liked it. Everybody wanted to get a bottle of Heinz. It's because we grew up on those flavors."

Keller says that for him, cooking is an exercise in nurturing: "It's about nurturing our guests, your loved ones. That's what it's really about. About giving somebody something that not only nourishes their body, of course, but also nourishes their spirit."

Recipe: Caramelized Sea Scallops

Caramelized Sea Scallops i i
Artisan
Caramelized Sea Scallops
Artisan
The following recipes were excerpted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller. Copyright 2009 by Artisan.

Caramelized Sea Scallops
Serves 6

I always buy big scallops, graded U7, meaning there are 7 of this size in a pound, and for this dish, we brine them to season them all the way through.

Ingredients:
2 cups kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 U7 sea scallops (about 1 3/4 pounds; see headnote), preferably dry-packed, tough side muscle removed from each one
About 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Clarified Butter
1/2 lemon (optional)

Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the 2 cups salt with the hot water in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water.

Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes (no longer, or the scallops may become too salty). Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels.

Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.) Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook the scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.) Cook, without moving the scallops, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side.

Transfer the scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.

Recipe: Iceberg Lettuce Slices

Iceberg Lettuce Slices
With blue cheese dressing, oven-roasted tomatoes, bacon and brioche croutons, Serves 6

Iceberg Lettuce Slices i i
Artisan
Iceberg Lettuce Slices
Artisan

We've added the intense flavors of oven-dried tomatoes, bacon, and blue cheese to this classic American salad and introduced additional crunch with elegant brioche croutons. Try to find baby heads of iceberg, which are tender and sweet.

Ingredients:
8 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
4 heads baby iceberg lettuce (about 9 ounces each)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 pieces Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Brioche Croutons
Flat-leaf parsley leaves
Blue Cheese Dressing

Cut the bacon into lardons about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch thick. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Remove the outer couple of leaves from each head of lettuce (reserve for another use if desired). Cut out the core end and discard. Cut each head crosswise into 3 rounds. Place the slices on a tray, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the lettuce on a platter. Tuck the tomatoes in and around the lettuce. Sprinkle with the croutons, lardons, and parsley. Spoon some of the dressing over the salad and serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Oven-roasted Tomatoes
Makes 24 tomato halves

Roasting tomatoes slowly cooks out the moisture and intensifies their flavor. The tomatoes bring a sweet, tangy flavor to meat, fish, and vegetables. Put them in sandwiches, or finely chop them and use them to flavor vinaigrettes. Pencil asparagus are great with a roasted tomato vinaigrette, and so is fresh mozzarella. They're so versatile you can use them as garnish for a rich meat, such as lamb, or in a salad.

Ingredients:
12 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. To peel the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. With a paring knife, cut out the core of each tomato. Score an X on the bottom of each tomato, extending the cuts about two-thirds of the way up the tomato.

Drop the tomatoes into the water and simmer just until the skins are starting to pull away from the tomato. This may take only a few seconds, depending on the ripeness of the tomato. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, immediately transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath. Remove them as soon as they are cold and peel them.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise in half and place cut side up on the lined baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over each one, letting it run into any crevices. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the top and season with salt and pepper.

Put in the oven and cook for 5 to 6 hours, until the tomatoes have shrunk but are still moist. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Transfer the tomatoes to a storage container and pour any oil from the pan over them. The tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Brioche croutons
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

These brioche croutons are best served warm, but they can be made ahead and rewarmed before serving.

Ingredients:
2 cups 1/4- to 1/2-inch crustless cubes brioche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the brioche cubes in a single layer on the parchment-lined pan. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the croutons and toast for another 5 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. The croutons can be cooled and then stored in an airtight container for up to a week; rewarm them in a low oven before serving.

Buttermilk Dressing
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:
1 cup Aioli
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced chives
1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt

Put the aioli in a large bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup buttermilk and all the remaining ingredients. The dressing can be used now or refrigerated. Before serving, lift up a spoonful of dressing and pour it back into the bowl — it should run freely. If it is too thick, add additional buttermilk as necessary. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week (the herbs may darken after 1 day).

Blue Cheese Dressing

Stir about 1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese (about 8 ounces), preferably Pt. Reyes, into the buttermilk dressing. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

Recipe: Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard i i
Artisan
Rainbow Chard
Artisan

Rainbow Chard
With raisins, pine nuts, and serrano ham, Serves 6

The addition of raisins, pine nuts, and dry-cured serrano ham speaks of our fondness for Spanish dishes as well as chard. We use two cooking methods for the chard after separating the stems from the leaves: we blanch the stems and saute the leaves with garlic. The chard can be cooked up to a day ahead and refrigerated, and finishing the dish is just a matter of a quick saute.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Kosher salt
4 to 5 pounds rainbow chard (Note: If the chard you find has very large stems, buy 5 pounds to get enough greens.)
About 1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 ounce thinly sliced serrano ham, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread the nuts on one of the lined pans and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned. Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Cut out the thick stems from the leaves of chard and set aside. Stack the greens in batches and cut crosswise into thirds; set aside. Trim the stems and cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. You need 2 cups stems for this recipe (reserve any remaining chard for another use).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chard stems and blanch until tender but still slightly resistant to the tooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and spread on the second parchment-lined baking sheet.

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil into each of two large saute pans and heat over medium heat (if you have only one large pan, cook the greens in 2 batches). Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic to each pan, reduce the heat, and cook over medium-low heat until softened but not colored, about 1 minute. Add one-quarter of the chard greens to each pan, season with salt (salt lightly if your ham is very salty), and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium to medium-low heat, until the chard wilts to about half its original volume. Add the remaining chard and cook until wilted and tender, 15 to 20 minutes total. Spread the greens, with their liquid, on the third lined sheet.

To serve, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.

Add the ham and saute for about 45 seconds to crisp. Add the pine nuts and raisins and toss. Add the chard stems and greens, toss to combine, and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Wine-steeped Golden Raisins
Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:
3/4 cup golden raisin
1/4 star anise
1 whole clove
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

Combine the raisins, star anise, and clove in a jar. Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the raisins and let cool to room temperature. Let stand for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Remove the star anise and clove before serving

Recipe: Brownies

Brownies i i
Artisan
Brownies
Artisan

Brownies
Makes 12 Brownies

Brownies embody so much of what I love about dessert generally — they remind me of family, comfort, childhood. They draw you to them. You can turn these into a special dessert by serving them alongside caramel ice cream or with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, but they're great with just a little whipped cream or powdered sugar — or all by themselves.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound (or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
6 ounces 61- to 64- percent chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. We use a 9-inch square silicone mold, because it keeps the edges from overcooking; if you use a metal or glass baking pan, butter and our it. Set aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining butter in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir to melt the butter. The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer tted with the paddle, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining our and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. (The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. If the pick comes out wet, test a second time, because you may have hit a piece of chocolate chip; then bake for a few minutes longer if necessary. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature. Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 rectangles. Dust the tops with powdered sugar just before serving. (The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Excerpted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller. Copyright 2009 by Artisan.

Books Featured In This Story

Ad Hoc at Home
Ad Hoc at Home

by Thomas Keller, Dave Cruz, Susie Heller, Michael Ruhlman and Amy Vogler

Hardcover, 359 pages | purchase

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  • Thomas Keller, Dave Cruz, et al

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