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DinerGirl

"The French Laundry Cookbook"

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This year, I started replicating every recipe in the French Laundry Cookbook. Ruhlman pimped my efforts on his blog, which was beyond cool... and I'd love for you guys to follow along and offer your sage advice on how I might do some of these recipes better or more efficiently. And, since we're all local, I also welcome recommendations on food purveyors and other local resources I might be overlooking. All the boards here have been a great resource for me in other projects I've worked on, so I'm hoping the same will prove to be true this time around.

The whole FrenchLaundryAtHome experiment actually has been pretty easy, so far. Granted, I've only done 12 out of the 100 dishes in the book, but the only major snag I've hit is starting a small fire inside my microwave when I tried to make the tomato powder. Now I know that I'm going to have to roast tomato slices overnight in my oven instead of using the microwave. Ditto for the pepper confetti. I will confess that I have some apprehension about cutting apart a pig's head and deveining a foie gras, but I was looking for some kind of project to push my boundaries and this is doing it, that's for sure. (Oh, and if any of you are secretly expert at butchering a pig's head, then please accept my invitation to be the star chef in my kitchen when I decide to tackle that recipe. I mean it. I'll babysit your kids every Saturday night for a month, I'm so not kidding. I think I can figure out the foie gras. But a pig's head? Okay, I'll babysit every Saturday night for TWO months, twist my arm why dontcha.)

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(Oh, and if any of you are secretly expert at butchering a pig's head, then please accept my invitation to be the star chef in my kitchen when I decide to tackle that recipe. I mean it. I'll babysit your kids every Saturday night for a month, I'm so not kidding. I think I can figure out the foie gras. But a pig's head? Okay, I'll babysit every Saturday night for TWO months, twist my arm why dontcha.)
You could do it the Waitman way with a crowbar, saw and self-mutilation, or the sshorter way.

Sounds like an interesting project. Good luck!

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You could do it the Waitman way with a crowbar, saw and self-mutilation, or the sshorter way.

Sounds like an interesting project. Good luck!

I'm all about powertools, so thanks for the heads up on that option. I think I'm gonna sell tickets to the actual event because none of my friends or family members think I'm brave enough to a) actually purchase a pig's head without vomitting; or 2) hack it up as the book suggests.

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I'm all about powertools, so thanks for the heads up on that option. I think I'm gonna sell tickets to the actual event because none of my friends or family members think I'm brave enough to a) actually purchase a pig's head without vomitting; or 2) hack it up as the book suggests.

Yeah-- the downsideof getting the good old artisanal pig-raising experience and market buying experience is lack of a bandsaw. Get yourself some factory pigs and power tools.

Don't do the pea soup until the real peas come in (you have about a two week window with the markets around here, where they prefer to sell those asinine pea shoots to the real thing.) Don't get the peas from Whole Foods and don't get the pre-shelled from the market as the peas deteriorate rapidly and the astoundingness that is this soup is lost. A tamis makes all the difference on this one, but chinoise will work (but is a pain). It's also best if you have a rocking chair and a front porch to sit on while shelling and friends or neighbors to gossip with and a decent whit wine -- maybe a pinot blanc --while doing so. Get many, many more peas than you think you need. Don't buy that cheap-ass truffle oil for the topping, springfor the $15/oz stuff at D&D or whole foods. Rye bread (cut into weensie pieces if you're serving in a coffee cup or demi-tasse) makes great croutons. Invite your vegetarian friends to this dinner; they will love you. (Can you tell I really like this recipe?)

Do anything with truffles now (the risotto -- another one to makeyour vegetarian friends love you -- or the egg custard, which I munched at TFL the other week) or wait untill next winter, because the real truffle season is ending like at noon Friday something (if it's not already over) and the summer/Oregon/Chinese/black Italian/canned/frozen truffle crap they sell all summer suck.

MAke the lemon tart now when Meyer Lemons are in season and do the juice half mayer-half regular lemon.

I'll bet Billruss has some tips.

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Waitman, thanks for the great advice. I know all about the relatively short fresh pea season and the importance of buying them whole. I grew up in the Amish country and spent many a summer morning shelling peas and shucking corn, so I'm ready to invite the neighbors over to help (and drinking during that process is always helpful). I love my tamis and use it much more than my chinois -- it yields much better results on almost everything. Good thinking on the truffles, as well. I might be able to bang out one recipe this week that callls for truffles, but the rest will have to wait. I'm doing the caesar salad parm custard this week as well as the pecorino toscano with arugula coulis.

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Several years ago, Chef Todd Gray of Equinox gave me Keller's French Laundry cookbook as a gift. While I treasure the book and the lovely thoughts behind it, it was rather akin to Tiger Woods giving me his golf clubs: Gorgeous to look at, but almost useless in my own hands :lol:

If you should happen to dine at Equinox, try hitting Todd up for some advice. I know that he has cooked with Keller personally, and I once eavesdropped on a conversation that Todd was having with Brendan Cox and Tony Chittum (his two sous-chefs at the time) where he described how Keller prepared fois-gras. I couldn't really follow the conversation, but it wouldn't have made any difference. I'd have benefited about the same as if I'd listened to a rocket scientist describe ballistic missile theory with two other rocket scientists. :o The one thing that I COULD tell, though, was that Todd was VERY jazzed about telling them this information, and Brendan and Tony were listening very intently to what Todd was telling them. I wish that I'd had a camera at that moment because it was one of those wonderful little moments in life.

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I feel your pain. I actually fried my microwave a few years back trying to make a beet powder for my attempt to do a five course meal from the French Laundry Cookbook over on eGullet.

My main advice is something that Waitman asked on that thread - WWTD (What Would Thomas Do)? In other words - don't go for shortcuts. If he says to strain something five times, don't strain it three and figure it is good enough. If he makes something from scratch, don't buy a substitute at the grocery store.

If your goals are anything like mine were, you're in this to eat some good food, but it is also a bit of monastic penance. An antonement for all the culinary sins you've committed in the past. But instead of using a switch or cat o' nine tails for your flagellation you'll be using a tamis and a chinois.

That thread linked above might have some tips for you on the individual dishes.

I'll be following along. And to think that I thought I was ambitious back then. Good luck.

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Thanks, Joe and Bill. Good advice all around. I banged out a cheese dish last night and am doing another one for cocktails this afternoon (oh, how I love working from home). I am going to do the white truffle risotto tomorrow and then plan to spend some time in the next few weeks figuring out the powders. I also am running out of stock, so I know I'm going to need to spend some time getting some of those done. My work schedule is going to go crazy in April and May, so I'm happy to have the month of March to really take the time to get a lot of this prep work done. Glad you're following the blog -- and I will check out your eGullet thread for pointers. I'm a big fan of not taking shortcuts, because I love the science behind how food makes its way to our table... so by gum, I will figure out these powders and a pig's head if it's the death of me.

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... so by gum, I will figure out these powders and a pig's head if it's the death of me.

Powdered pig's head on sale at Trader Joe's for $2.99/lb!

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DinerGirl,

I love the concept and have been by regularly to see your progress. I agree with BillRus the no short cuts when it comes to the recipes there. But maybe its just me, but that book has more great techniques hiddben between the lines then any other book I own. Though I don't have many cook books that don't focus on technques.

Also, I've played a little with the powders. I've had success and one of the things I found is that he might be wrong about the timing. I know this is sacreligious to some, but I think there is support for my thoughts. If you read the part in front of the powder recipes, the microwave method is an adaptive technique. It's not actually the one he uses.

One of the things I tried and had some success was actually working and pausing for period. The goal is to remove moisture while keeping structural integrity of the substance. So the way the microwave works is that it aggitates the water molecules and causes steam which breaks down the cells and effectively cooks from within. I actually tried and had success by breaking the cooking times into segments. For example, cook for 15 min and then let rest to come to room temperature before microwaving again. I usually had to add an extra segment on, but my thought was to preserve as much of the inter cell structure and slow the removal of the water.

Another thought is just trying a warm oven on a lazy sunday and see what happens. Anyway, good luck. I really love the project.

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I am hosting a dinner party this weekend and plan to serve a shot of carrot soup as an amuse. Google searches revealed that there is a carrot soup recipe in TFLC (at least that's what this page indicates). It seems relatively low-maintenance by Keller standards. I don't have the cookbook. Is the linked recipe accurate, and has anyone tried making it before?

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I am hosting a dinner party this weekend and plan to serve a shot of carrot soup as an amuse. Google searches revealed that there is a carrot soup recipe in TFLC (at least that's what this page indicates). It seems relatively low-maintenance by Keller standards. I don't have the cookbook. Is the linked recipe accurate, and has anyone tried making it before?
I'm just seeing this now, so it's not much use for you last month, but that linked recipe is an "inspired by" creation. It's not in the book, but there is description about how one would prepare carrots for an amuse soup.

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I'm just seeing this now, so it's not much use for you last month, but that linked recipe is an "inspired by" creation. It's not in the book, but there is description about how one would prepare carrots for an amuse soup.

Just saw this post now. That's good to know, because the recipe that I linked didn't turn out so well. Way too much texture, although the flavor wasn't bad.

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Just saw this post now. That's good to know, because the recipe that I linked didn't turn out so well. Way too much texture, although the flavor wasn't bad.

Solution=strain

I have a very powerful blender, capable of pureeing plywood, but I still strain pureed soups to get them silky smooth.

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I'm making Keller's tomato consomme and grilled cheese tonight. After cutting up all the tomatoes and putting them in cloth to drain overnight, he recommends discarding the initial liquid in the bowl. Is this just an aesthetics thing (clear vs red tomato water), or is the flavor affected? If it's just to get a clear liquid, I'd just as soon not throw away a good two cups of tomato water.

Also, anything to be done with the tomatoes themselves once they've drained? Tomato confit?

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I'm making Keller's tomato consomme and grilled cheese tonight. After cutting up all the tomatoes and putting them in cloth to drain overnight, he recommends discarding the initial liquid in the bowl. Is this just an aesthetics thing (clear vs red tomato water), or is the flavor affected? If it's just to get a clear liquid, I'd just as soon not throw away a good two cups of tomato water.
You are discarding the initial liquid given off, not the liquid you collect from hanging over night.
Also, anything to be done with the tomatoes themselves once they've drained? Tomato confit?
You've drained most of the flavor at this point, but try throwing the paste in a little olive oil with salt and see what happens. Might be decent mixed with mayo for sandwiches.

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How did your brioche turn out, Dan? That is a great recipe; the cake flour gives it a beautiful texture.

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You are discarding the initial liquid given off, not the liquid you collect from hanging over night.
Right. My point was that it seemed like a LOT of liquid! Almost two cups sloshed right out as soon as I picked up the dishtowel.

The texture in the brioche is great (in the nibbles I've had so far - haven't done the grilled cheese yet), but I might use all AP flower next time. It's not CRUMBLY, I just prefer a chewier loaf and that's hard to get with all the cake flour.

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