Tag: Thomas Keller

Weekend Finds 11:20:17: Thanksgiving 2017

Weekend Finds 11:20:17 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Weekend Finds 11:20:17 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Weekend Finds 11:20:17 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It is not the weekend, but it’s about to be a long weekend (Thanksgiving yesssssss) and maybe you need some help. Large groups of people trying to make decisions together stress me out, so let me try to help you avoid that situation with a few finds that will hopefully make your life easier this week.

  1. Marion Cunningham’s Yeasted Waffles: You have mouths to feed, and this recipe makes roughly 13-15 waffles, depending on your waffle iron. Yes, you have to start them the night before. But it’s worth it for the airiest, crispiest waffles in existence.
  2. Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving Issue: I am often excited to read my monthly issue of the magazine, but they killed it with this year’s Thanksgiving issue. The recipes are simple and clean, classic but new. The articles are great. If you get a chance to pick it up, I’d highly recommend it.
  3. Speaking of Bon Appetit, these potatoes. I like mashed potatoes as much as the next guy, and we all know that the more butter and cream and garlic you add, the better. I made these yesterday (it was probably the first time I’ve followed a recipe for mashed potatoes in a while) and they were the Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Period.
  4. I have always wanted to make Thomas Keller’s Leek Bread Pudding, and Thanksgiving seems like the perfect time. It’s basically stuffing. Maybe I’ll be able to convince my family to add it to the menu.
  5. If you are feeling the crunch of Thanksgiving and you are still looking for a few last minute dishes to add to your menu, or you need a side to bring over to a potluck dinner, try Food52’s Automatic Thanksgiving Menu Maker.
  6. This is the season when I think there are a few things you always need to have in your house, what with all the entertaining and parties and such: cookie dough in your freezer (this is my favorite recipe because the butter doesn’t have to be room temperature), mulling spices, and fixings for at least one simple cocktail. My go to cocktails are ones that are low on ingredients and easy to remember the ratios. A Negroni is 3 ingredients, all in equal parts, and a Last Word is 4, also in equal parts. Easy and delicious and guaranteed to keep you cozy by the fire or soothe any tensions between extended family members…
Weekend Finds 11:20:17 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Weekend Finds 11:20:17 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler



Books about food: What could be better?

Lately, the only books I have been reading are food memoirs. And by lately, I mean the past… year or so. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you as it is the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. Also, it’s that time when sometimes you buy holiday gifts for people, and I think any one of these would make a lovely present.

Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton: This is the book that started me on this food/chef memoir kick. Recommended to me by my dad’s girlfriend, Darla, this is a very well written story about Hamilton’s journey as a chef, the opening of her restaurant Prune in NY, and her marriage. Because this was the first chef memoir I read, I was totally enthralled and unable to put it down, which worked because at the time I read it I was without internet, without TV, and without a job. Hamilton also went to school for writing (a theme among cooks, I’m finding), so the story is very well written, engaging, and beautiful. No one can write about Italian tomatoes the way this woman can.
J: This book reminded me of the power that food has to bring people together and help us celebrate life.  The chapters about the author’s childhood reminded me of the parties our “yard” of three families used to host in the summer where we would line up tables in the yard and people would bring food, we would grill, and have a good time.

Heat by Bill Buford: This book is all about Mario Batali. Well, kind of. It’s about Bill Buford, a writer at the New Yorker, leaving his job to follow in Batali’s footsteps. First by procuring a job at Batali’s NY hotspot Babbo, and eventually by traveling to Italy to study under the same little old ladies in rural villages as Batali did. This book is a little more academic in some sense, as Buford delves in to the history of Italian cuisine and the methods of certain dishes. He also teaches us how to properly make pasta and how to butcher a pig (brought up to his NY apartment via vespa and elevator).

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg: I went on a trip with my dad this past summer, and he brought this book, which I promptly stole and started reading. Wizenburg is a beautiful writer, which is one reason I love reading her blog. This book is a series of short stories from her life, all of which mention or are centered around food. What I love about this book is that she shows us her connection to food from a young age, and you see her passion develop from her childhood to adulthood. I also love that she provides recipes for the foods she talks about, making it even easier to connect to her and her stories because it’s so easy to go into the kitchen and make her wedding cake, or make her father’s potato salad. The story isn’t necessarily linear, which I actually liked because it was easy to read a chapter before bed without getting totally wrapped up in the story. (P.S. I made her wedding cake, also called “Winning Hearts and Minds” cake for a friend’s birthday. It was kind of like a very cakey chocolate souffle, or just chocolate butter. It was really lovely, and I totally recommend it.)

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl: If you don’t know who Ruth Reichl is, shame on you. She is a very (very) famous food critic for the New York Times, food writer, and editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine. In fact, she has another book about being a food critic that I can’t wait to read. This book, however, is similar to A Homemade Life. Reichl tells us about her relationship to food from a very young age: her mother was a self-taught cook, not following recipes, pairing odd ingredients, and often encouraging her family to eat dishes long after they had gone bad in the refrigerator. Reichl, perhaps because of this, learned to cook, and was known amongst her friends as the one to be fed by. Accompanied by recipes, Reichl tells us stories of dishes from her childhood through her adulthood. I haven’t yet made any of these recipes, but I’m sure that when I do, they’ll be good.

Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas: This is probably my favorite chef memoir that I have read so far. Buying this book was hard for me. I was at Powell’s, looking at their little table of highly recommended or newly released or whatever it was, and I didn’t even pick this book up. Why? Because if you click on the link above, you’ll see the cover, where Achatz looks, in my opinion, more than a little full of himself. But Jonah picked it up (yay for him for literally not judging a book by its cover), read the back, and handed it to me. I was then convinced to buy it. A book about two things I have a relationship with: food and cancer? I’ll bite. What I liked about this book is that Achatz and Kokonas aren’t necessarily the best writers ever, but this story is so cool that this book is impossible to put down. Achatz makes a completely different kind of food (big into molecular gastronomy, which some people hate, I know, but it’s extremely interesting), one that is still pushing culinary boundaries. So to read about the development of these dishes and the method behind the food is really amazing. Also, to read about the business side of opening a very risky restaurant was very interesting. Achatz’s cancer, which I thought would play a much larger part in the story, really came closer to the end, almost as a epilogue or afterthought, but made you root for him even more. Bottom line, this is a cool story about cool food.

Hopefully that can add a few things to your “to read” list! If you have any other questions about these books, ask away!

Thomas Keller’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know how everyone is always on the hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie? When I was younger, our family friend Anita was known for making the best chocolate chip cookies around. Whenever we went over to her house we (my sisters and I) were excited because we knew we would get those delicious cookies. Despite staying close to her family, I do not have her cookie recipe… Odd.

Anyway, the other day I felt like baking (strange, huh?) and Jonah requested classic chocolate chip. I wanted to do a variation, like those thyme and sea salt chocolate chunk cookies I made a while back. But after having no luck finding anything before heading to the store, I remembered Thomas Keller having a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in the Ad Hoc cookbook. I figured, “Hey, that guy kind of knows what he’s doing,” so I pulled out the recipe and went to the store.

I will tell you now that these are possibly the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had (besides Anita’s). You know the great debate: Crunchy or chewy? These are perfectly both. They are crispy on the edges (thanks to our old friend, butter) and chewy and soft in the middle. Oh my goodness. And they spread out when they bake, so they’re pretty big, which makes you feel like you’re really getting a good portion of cookie when you eat one. And if one seems large enough to be satisfying, you would think it’d be easier to not eat like 10 of them. But it’s not. You just get more full.

Side note: Jonah bought me these wonderful baking sheets for Christmas. The brand is Chicago Metallic; they came in a package with two pans and a cooling rack. These pans need no liner or greasing. Nothing EVER sticks to them (knock on wood). They are heavy duty with a wire around the edge so they don’t warp, and industrial-kitchen sized. I love them. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for new pans.

Thomas Keller’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 1/3 cups plus 1 Tbl all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (think 55%), cut into chip sized pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 oz. dark chocolate (think 70-72%), cut into chip sized pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar (preferably dark)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or just grease them a little bit).

Ok, sorry. Now, sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl, and stir in the salt. Usually if a recipe says to sift flour, I ignore it, but I had a lot of time on my hands, and hey, I’m not gonna ignore Thomas Keller. I would say that it made a difference. Put the chips of chocolate you’ve cut in a fine mesh basket strainer to get out all the “chocolate dust.”

Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat half of the butter (1 stick that has been cut up into small pieces) until it’s smooth and creamy. Now add the sugars and the rest of the butter (also cut into small pieces) and beat until well combined and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between them. Be sure during all of this to be scraping down the sides of the bowl to get everything well-incorporated. Now add the dry ingredients and mix them in.

Thoroughly fold in the chocolate chips. It’s a little tricky because the dough is really thick, but stick with it, it’s worth it. You wouldn’t want those cookies from the bottom of the bowl to not have any chocolate in them, would you? No. No you would not. At this point you can wrap the dough up and refrigerate it for up to 5 days or freeze it for 2 weeks. But I just don’t understand, you’ve gotten this far, why would you not just make the damn cookies at this point?

If you’re continuing on, take about 2 tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball, and place it on the cookie sheet. You only want to put about 8 on a sheet because these suckers need their space. They spread out for real. Leave 2 inches between each ball of dough. Bake for 12 minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the pan for a couple minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way (if you can wait that long). Enjoy with a glass of cold milk.

A new cookbook and some jams

Ad Hoc & Jam

Ad Hoc & Jam
Ad Hoc & Jam

Ad Hoc & Jam

For my birthday, I received the most beautiful cookbook: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. If you don’t know who Thomas Keller is, well then it’s time to get educated. He is the chef at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, perhaps one of the most famous restaurants in the world: it has won many (that’s right, many) James Beard Awards. He has another restaurant, Per Se, in New York, and both of these restaurants have been awarded 3 Michelin Stars. He is the ONLY AMERICAN CHEF to have had two restaurants both get 3 stars.

But this cookbook is from another restaurant he recently opened. He intended to open a burger joint in an old diner, but when he purchased the space his team was too busy. He decided instead to open a temporary homestyle cooking restaurant called Ad Hoc: no menu, 4 courses, 4 days a week, simple food. Well of course, being Thomas Keller and all, it worked incredibly well and is no longer temporary.

So I bring the cookbook home and I’m looking through it and there’s a section called “Lifesavers.” This section is full of what he calls staples, though not like flour and eggs. There are tapenades, jams, pickled things, candied nuts, anything you might need to make an ordinary dish or meal into an extraordinary one.

I decide, with Thanksgiving coming up and my mom having asked for some appetizer help, that I’d whip up a couple of jams. The two that seemed most appealing to me were the Fig and Balsamic Jam and the Red Onion-Cranberry Marmalade. Now, keep in mind while reading this that I have never made a jam before in my life and I have never canned (in fact, I was quite scared of it before). These recipes don’t require actual “canning” or one of those crazy sets with tongs and crazy jar contraptions. Thank goodness.

Fig and Balsamic Jam

Note: So you see this recipe and maybe you say, “Excuse me, what is a sachet? I thought this blog was about stuff everyone can do!” And to you I say, “It is, my friend! I will tell you what a sachet is!” Mr. Keller is all about sachets. In this case, you’ll want about a 5 or 6 inch square of cheesecloth. Place the peppercorns towards the bottom of the square, roll the cheesecloth over them once, fold in the ends, and keep rolling. Now tie it at both ends with cooking twine. See how you have a nice little package of peppercorns? Now you won’t have to try to fish them out of the jam later. Keller also uses this technique with lots of herbs like bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, etc. (you know that feeling when the recipe says “remove the bay leaf” and you cannot find it for the life of you? no more!).

Another note from Mr. Keller: “Note on Plate Testing: To check that compotes, jams, and jellies are at the right consistency, put a tablespoon of what you’re cooking on a plate and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. If it is too thin, return to the heat, cook a few more minutes, and retest.”


2 lbs figs, preferably Black Mission or Kadota, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet
Fresh lemon juice


Put everything but the lemon juice into a pan and attach a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, do not worry! You can still just follow the instructions and eyeball things, which is what I ended up doing anyway. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring to break up the larger pieces of fig. Cook until the jam reaches 215-220 degrees. My candy thermometer did not want to get up that high. I cooked this stuff for hours and it would still only get to 205 or so. Keller has a nice little tip in his book that says:

So I did my own version of the plate test which was to turn off the heat, let the whole pot cool on the stove while I did something else (hulu, anyone?) and then came back and checked it. It needed a bit more cooking, so I brought it to a simmer again for another little while. Now remove the sachet and stir in the lemon juice to taste. Spoon the jam into a canning jar or two, cover, and let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate up to 1 month.

Red Onion-Cranberry Marmalade


1/4 cup canola oil
3 cups diced red onions
1 cup chopped dried cranberries
3 cups apple juice
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbl apple pectin (This is Keller’s fancy pectin he gets from lord-knows-where. I just used plain pectin, found at my local New Seasons near the canning jars.)
1 Tbl plus 1 tsp orange zest


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the red onions and cook very slowly for about 20 minutes, until the onions have softened but not colored. Add the cranberries and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the apple juice and cider vinegar. In a separate bowl, combine the sugars and pectin, mixing well so that the pectin will dissolve smoothly, and add this mixture to the pot along with the orange zest. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, bring to a simmer, and cook until it registers 215-220 degrees. I did the same thing as last time where, because my thermometer didn’t want to get that high, I just let the whole pot cool and then cooked it more if it needed it.

Transfer the marmalade to a canning jar, cover, and let cool, then refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Not so hard, right? These made wonderful Thanksgiving appetizers when paired with some good crackers and cheese (we used mostly Rain Coast crackers, goat cheese, and brie). I bet they’d work great for Christmas appetizers too…