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Friday, January 29, 2010
I promise I promise, on my next trip to New York or better still, California, I have to, I have to eat at Thomas Keller's restaurant! I first learnt about Thomas Keller when I read Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour almost 8 years ago. I was intrigued when Anthony Bourdain and 3 other guests went for a 20 course tasting menu at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in Napa Valley. I hang on to every word in that chapter, gasping in amazement as I read about how every one of the 4 guests got a different dish for their tasting menu with only 2-3 common dishes. I smiled at the ingenuity when he had chosen to serve a Marlboro Infused Coffee Custard half way through the long drawn 6 hour meal, to Anthony Bourdain- who is quite the degenerate smoker. Subsequently, when I saw A Cook's Tour's screening on TV, I became even more fascinated.
I have been coveting at the The French Laundry Cookbook forever. A huge and beautiful book, it is also quite expensive(in Singapore). I had been browsing through it at the bookshop so many times, but have always been intimidated by it - Thomas Keller is highly refined, irrevocably impeccable and solemnly precise. It is beyond me....
I still have not bought the book... yet. But I am lucky to be living in Singapore where the public library is easily accessible to everyone. The National Library of Singapore is another facility I would be proud to be associated with Singapore. When I first started revisiting the public library a few years back, I couldn't believe the amazing cook book collection they have. I went to the library 2 weeks ago because I had wanted to check out Michel Roux's Eggs - for his poach egg recipe. It was then that I saw not one but 3 copies of The French Laundry sitting on the shelf. I borrowed it and have been poring over it, determined to find something to try.
I picked the seemingly simple 'White Truffle Oil- Infused Custard with Black Truffle Ragout' for a couple of reasons :
1. I like eggs.
2. I have all the ingredients : (yes, I have the white truffle oil and the black truffles and veal stock in my freezer! At times I am really shocked at what I have accumulated.)
It looks deceptively simple... until I started working on it. Never have I felt so tired cooking eggs!
Thomas Keller has paired the steamed custard with chive chips. You will need to shave thin slices of potato...(peel the potato and use a paring knife to trim it into a Band-Aid shape approximately 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Brush 2 silpats with Clarified butter and sprinkle each lightly with kosher salt. Place one silpat on a baking sheet. Using a mandoline, cut the potato lengthwise into paper-thin slices.....) Goodness, I am already feeling tired typing out his instructions... Anyway, one has to stack 2 slices of potato together, sandwiching a sliver of chive in between it. Then this has to be topped with a silpat mat and baked with another baking sheet pressing down on the potato chips... Yes, I went through that, but I couldn't get my chips to be paper thin and by the time I was ready to garnish, the chips had lost its crisp.
Then, one needs to prepare the custard by mixing boiled milk&cream with egg. Easy enough - until I tried to blend the hot milk/cream with the egg in the blender and the pressure from the hot milk catapulted the lid and the milk mixture all over my kitchen.!!! Now I smell like a baby has burped milk all over me!
Anyway, I managed to clean things up and start over again. By the time I have got the custard in the oven, I was already bushed but the dish was not done yet. There is still the Truffle Ragout which involves simmering the truffle oil, minced truffle and butter in Veal stock. At this point, I was too weary to be precise - I just threw everything into the saucepan without weighing. End result was a cottony custard but I think my Truffle Ragout was a tad too strong in flavour. Neverthelss it was still reasonably delicious but I am sure it is way off from the great master's creation... I am so exhausted.
I do still have all the ingredients, perhaps I should try again. Sigh... my realisation - whatever Thomas Keller charges for his meal (US$100 up) I will gladly pay for it - it will be worth it! I know now!
P.S. : Pardon me but the recipe and instructions are too long to type out. I am exhausted....