Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cookbook Series: Happy Birthday, D.!

For D.'s birthday, we had a small dinner at home using recipes from Thomas Keller's Bouchon. It is a beautifully photographed book focusing on French bistro-style cooking. Since we dined at the restaurant, I've been interested in recreating some of the recipes. For D., I thought I'd make his favorites: the steak frites, French onion soup (which he nearly ordered at Bouchon), Provencal vegetables, cauliflower gratin (not pictured), and yellow cake with chocolate frosting. First, the French onion soup, which required an ungodly amount of onions. They cooked for 6 hours and still weren't done. Keller advocates really slow cooking to maximize caramelization. It's probably best to do the onions one day before, then reheat them and add the broth.

For a vegetarian version, I separated a batch of onions post-caramelization, then continued with the recipe using vegetable broth. Both veggie and beef broth were store-bought. The veggie version is much sweeter, but very good.

The cookbook called for Emmentaler or Comte cheese. Costco carries 1 lb. wedges of Comte for about $11 each. Trader Joe's carries Emmentaler. The croutons are baguette slices placed under the broiler, then put into the soup. Grated and sliced cheese is placed over the baguette to ensure maximum coverage, then the bowl is placed under the broiler again. The long cooking time was well worth it, as the soup was amazingly sweet with a nice salty kick. I'm especially proud of the Provencal vegetables (
confit byaldi), which require thinly sliced veggies layered on top of sauteed red, yellow, and green peppers and onions. I sliced by hand, which wasn't so bad, thanks to improving knife skills. Once I assembled the dish, I realized that it resembled the ratatouille from the Disney movie of the same name. In the recipe, Keller mentions that this is a refined version of ratatouille and the Wikipedia articles claim that this dish was designed for the film (there's a supporting citation to that claim).

It's an incredibly gorgeous dish and tastes the way it looks. Olive oil, garlic, and panko crumbs are spread on top to give it a slight crust. Baking time is 2 1/2 hours at 275 degrees F, so the veggies are very sweet and soft without turning into slop.

Where's Anton Ego? Hehe. The steak frites turned out beautifully, but the damned frites really threw a wrench into the schedule. D. was in charge of the frites, but both of us underestimated Keller's frite recipe. It says a first fry is about 3 minutes and the second fry is about 5 minutes. What we didn't take into account was the oil cooling significantly during the frying. Bringing the oil back up to temperature took a while. Our pot wasn't too big, either, so we had to do them in batches. It took nearly 2 hours to complete the frites. Shit.

However, they were really, really good. Worth the wait? Maybe not. The flatiron steaks were from Iowa Meat Farms and they were delicious. Seared on each side and roasted until rare, they were juicy and butter-soft. They were topped with shallots cooked in the searing pan and roasted with the steaks. Also, I made maitre d'hotel butter, a compound butter that includes parsley and lemon juice. In the photo, the butter had melted, but added so much to an already-delicious steak.

The cake will be in a separate post, since there was some birthday cakeage that week for D. and R.

Happy Birthday, D.!

4 bites:

Carol said...

Looks delicious!

Big Boys Oven said...

such an indulgence . . .

Kim in the Kitchen said...

You are a pro! Everything looks amazing! Tell D. Happy Birthday from us:)

kellypea said...

I love this kind of food...and you're so right on the frites...the darn oil cools way down, so the first time I made them, they were soggy. That ratatouille sounds really yummy.

4 bites