Cooking with "Think Like a Chef"
After a lovely lunch at Gramercy Tavern last weekend, a friend bought me one of the chef's cookbooks - "Think Like a Chef".
I used it on an extended Easter long weekend while borrowing a friend's cottage on Long Island. The results were truly delicious and I recommend the book highly. Only criticism is that some of the instructions are a bit vague - "use a medium sized baking pan", for example. For the boulangerie potatoes, he says to slice them into thin slices, but only by looking at the photos did I figure out that I should slice the potato lengthwise first, and then do the thin slices, so that I would end up with "half moons". Also, after I put the potatoes in the oven, I saw that the little blurb to the side (in other recipes these blurbs talking about using heirloom potatoes, etc. - informative but not outcome determinative) which said not to rinse the potatoes b/c the starch was key - I had put the peeled potatoes in water so they wouldn't discolor. The emphasis is on using seasonal ingredients - which I broke with a bit to try out various recipes. Plus, couldn't find ramps or morels!
Roasted tomatoes and garlic (creating roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and roasted tomato juice, each used in different recipes)
Wild mushroom tartlets (used the onion confit)served with a mesclun salad
Roasted tomato tartlets
Pan Roasted Wild Striped Bass, with fennel salad, tomato vinaigrette served on a bed of roasted tomatoes.
Pan roasted Sirloin
Boulangerie Roasted Potatoes with sauteed leeks and bacon
Cold pea soup
Prosciutto with a fava bean salad and pecorino cheese.
Roasted Duck Breast with assorted roasted root vegetables and apples.
Doctored up the leftover fennel salad with sliced cucumbers one day, then added grapefruit segments another day.
Made a pureed soup out of the leftover roasted vegetables and potatoes for a lunch meal.
Served onion confit and roasted tomatoes on grilled bread with goat cheese.
I have that cookbook; I swear I got it because the photo of the duck, root vegetable and apple terrine is one of the loveliest things I've ever seen. I plan to make that in the Fall.
The asparagus soup with morel custard is looking good for tonight or tomorrow, though.
This is one of my favorite cookbooks. Last year I went crazy with the ramps - they were delicious roasted with potatoes and bacon! But I had to cheat - the ramps are gone by the time asparagus shows up in NYC greenmarkets. Hey, Tom Colicchio ought to know that! I also pickled the ramps and plan to do it again this year but reduce the sugar in the recipe by about half. The softshell crabs with pickled ramps and creme fraiche is a fun dish. Now I always saute wild mushrooms according to the method in this book. Ditto for the pan-roasted asparagus, which is excellent.
I just want to state the obvious here: Colicchio wants you to think like a chef. So let go of the specifics and make the decisions for yourself. It sounds like you have the chops to be an excellent cook, so if there isn't specific guidance just wing it. You'll be much prouder of your accomplishments in the end (and you'll be thinking like a chef).
As for the ramps and morels, I'll often times make the poor-mans version with thick scallions and some other type of wild mushrooms. Obviously not the same, but still excellent together (with the asparagus).