I think a lot of people don't know what they're getting into when they buy this book. The first recipe in the book is "dinner for dad"- barbecued chicken with mashed potatoes and collar greens, followed by strawberry shortcake. According to a lot of reviewers the recipes in the book are "daunting" and only meant for feasts... well yeah, if you'd read the jacket of the book, that's precisely what the author is describing. The intro says, "food meant to be served from big bowls and platters passed hand to hand at the table". Between the pages however, you'll see those people are missing the entire point of the book.
Thomas Keller is among the greatest American chefs, in the pantheon alongside names like James Beard or Julia Child. Keller also has a bone to pick with the idea that cooking has to be "fancy" or that it's out of reach for the average person. "Ad Hoc At Home" is therefore designed to help any layperson to cook a delicious meal that's worth bringing the family together. Not only will you learn some personal skills for your own health and wellbeing, but you'll also connect with your loved ones by sharing the results. It's a wonderful sentiment, meant to fight the "celebrity chef" image of cooking that's pervasive in America.
Are the dishes daunting? You betcha, but no moreso than the namesake at the start of this review. Cooking a whole chicken well (and not turning it into the dry mess most people do), serving it with sides and dessert, that's not for the faint of heart nor is it for one person living alone in an apartment. You're going to have to roll up your sleeves and call over some friends. But again, that's the idea.
And then again, that's still missing the point. In between the pages, Keller tells you every single thing a beginning cook needs to know to make these dishes easy. When Keller talks about salting a dish, he refers to a "two finger pinch" or a "three finger pinch", which he explains in detail is a skill you should develop to be able to reach into a bag of salt and grab the amount by feeling rather than using a measuring spoon. Once you have that feel, you can better manage your kitchen- you won't accidentally let something burn in the pan while reaching for a spoon to measure salt, you'll just pinch the salt you need and move on. There's a method to everything.
Step-by-step, Keller shows you how to really cook, how to build the muscle memory and habits that move you from merely following recipes and toward intuitive cooking. If you read this book well and if you're prepared to practice, most of the dishes in this book should become common sense to you. You won't need a recipe to braise a piece of meat- that should be a skill that comes as naturally to you as brushing your teeth. Keller will show you how. Dishes that look daunting should become less so- sure a whole rack of ribs takes some effort to get right, but a good cook doesn't need to read a single line of a recipe to prepare delicious ribs. Keller teaches you the secrets of making the whole process intuitive. You need a little mustard to add some vinegar to the sauce, some brown sugar for the molasses and sweet, maybe you like some clove and some pepper, and on and on. All the secrets are in this book.
And once you've read "Ad Hoc At Home", you'll benefit from it even if you don't make a single dish from the book. Knowing how to portion ingredients by muscle memory, how to judge flavors and smells and doneness without consulting measures and charts, these skills apply to cooking universally.
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Artisan (21 July 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1579653774
- ISBN-13: 978-1579653774
- Product Dimensions: 28.7 x 3.3 x 28.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 2.5 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 48,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)