Thomas Keller is a Genius

I might not be stating anything new here, but Thomas Keller writes one fine cookbook. I’ve never eaten at any of his restaurants. So, instead, I faithfully wait for each of his books to come to me. Ad Hoc the restaurant as a temporary restaurant, sort of an experiment in family-style dining while they were designing their next big project. Everybody loved it, so they never closed. And now they have a fantastic cookbook. When my friends and I got a look at Ad Hoc at Home, there was no disagreement: This was the choice for our next cookbook-themed potluck.

Keller is known for his respect for food, and his attention to precision and detail. And he does describe things very, very carefully in these books. Some people tell me that his books fall into the “coffee table cookbook” category: They look pretty, but nobody actually cooks from them. Now, that may be true of “Under Pressure” — after all, few home cooks have all that sous vide equipment handy — but his other books are totally usable. I love my Bouchon book, for example, and there are definitely several favorite recipes in there we make all the time at home. Based on last night’s meal, I think Ad Hoc will be similar.

The first recipe I saw when I opened the book was for Buttermilk Fried Chicken. I’ve never made fried chicken. Oh, I’ve eaten a lot of it, growing up in Alabama. Up here in Boston, I go to Highland Kitchen, which has incredible chicken, although only on Monday nights. And I’ve heard good things about the offerings at Trina’s Starlite Lounge. But could I do it at home and make it as good as Highland’s?

The rest of the meal came together rapidly: One guest contributed banana bread pudding, and I made the caramel ice cream to accompany it. Other guests brought spare ribs, cole slaw, and delicious whipped garlic potatoes. Things turned out perfectly. Even the novice cooks produced seriously excellent food, and the preparations we wound up with even looked almost as good as the ones in the cookbook – something that’s hard under normal circumstances, but is extra difficult when you’re making a recipe for the first time.

24 hours, a bottle and a half of vegetable oil, a quart of buttermilk, and several thousand calories later, our house still smells like fried chicken. And it’s kind of awesome.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Unfortunately, this is the only photo we have. We even fried some rosemary for a garnish and put it all on a nice platter. But we all scarfed it too fast to get anymore photos.
We might not make the fried chicken all that often – it is a huge production after all – but this cookbook is definitely going into heavy rotation in the Bookdwarf kitchen playlist.

More photos of the making of the chicken and ice cream can be seen here.

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