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Apr 20, 2010 10:44 AM

Cookbook gift - Ad Hoc or Momo?


I am trying to think of a slightly more personalized bridal shower gift and thought I'd give my friend a cookbook (and maybe throw in a kitchen item from her registry) since she and her fiance are cooking at home more. My friend is always saying she likes my restaurant recommendations and we first bonded over food so a food gift seems appropriate. They are probably average skill home cooks so I was wondering which cookbooks you might recommend in that light, as I heard ad hoc at home is still a bit difficult in technique.

The two I thought of are restaurants I know they like, but if you have other suggestions I would appreciate them. I thought Mark Bittman's book would be good but I don't know if she reads his blog.

1. Ad Hoc at Home - I recommended ad hoc to them and they both loved it. She said it was their favorite restaurant on their CA trip

2. Momofuku - we both really like the infamous pork buns and she and her fiance loved dining at Ko. (Bonus-If I get this I could stop at Momofuku Milk Bar before the bridal shower and pick up some cookies/pie too.)


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  1. I've check Ad Hoc out at the library, but I recently purchased Momofuku. It's an interested read, as he details stories of how each of his restaurants came to be. Aside from that, the recipes don't seem to be that intensive. I've only had lunch at the Ssam Bar (and cookies to go from Milk Bar), but I was really looking forward to cooking up his dishes. There are recipes from Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, and Ko, along with a couple desserts (shaved fois gras, fried apple pie, cereal milk pudding).

    I recently spend a Saturday (about 6 hours) going through the cookbook and ended up with: bo ssam (incl. ssam sauce, ginger scallion sauce, and quick pickles), pork belly (no buns, but still tasty!), cured hamachi & edamame/wasabi puree, roasted rice cakes in dragon sauce, and fried apple pies with miso butterscotch and sour cream ice cream. Aside from curing the pork shoulder the night before, I started at noon when I put the pork in the oven and we sat down to eat at 6:30pm.

    Some of the dishes had multiple components, but all the sauces were easy to make ahead of time and we're still enjoying them a few days later (leftover pork in an omelette with scallion sauce is heavenly). I don't think it's too complicated to realistically make at home. Now, the ramen broth might be pushing it, but I'm happy to buy the soup and make all the garnishes from scratch.

    My pork belly wasn't tender after 1 hour at high heat and 30 minutes at 250, so I threw it into the 300 oven with the pork shoulder for another hour. It was a little dry, so I think it needs some tweaking.

    I also couldn't get the apple pie filling to gel like it's supposed to, but the miso butterscotch that went with it was surprisingly delicious. And the sour cream ice cream was so easy, I was surprised.

    Now, I feel like I should add the caveat that I typically have a lot of the asian ingredients in my kitchen regularly (ssamjang, gochujang, furikake, miso, etc) so it didn't take a lot of shopping excursions to get ready. And, considering the impressive spread we set out (seriously, I impressed myself with that dinner) and the fact that I didn't even start until noon, I will probably be cooking those dishes again soon. Once we finish off the pork shoulder. A 7-lb shoulder is way more than 5 people can eat.

    Having said that, I have Ad Hoc on my wish list so that I can tackle those recipes one at a time.

    I'd say, if your friend is a fan of Momofuku dishes and doesn't get to visit them often, she'd enjoy the cookbook. Otherwise, she might appreciate Ad Hoc more.

    5 Replies
    1. re: leanneabe

      A very nice post, leanneabe, and some impressive cooking!

      1. re: leanneabe

        Thank you leanneabe, your cooking sounds very impressive! Reminds me of the blog

        Just wondering - did you think the ad hoc cookbook recipes were more or less difficult?

        Btw if you don't want to handmake the buns, you can pick up a frozen pack from a chinese market and steam them :)

        1. re: silverlainy

          I can't comment on the actual difficulty of Ad Hoc dishes, since I never made any from the cookbook. They just looked like they would be time-intensive.

          Now, if you were just reading through Momofuku, you might think his recipes are very time/labor intensive, but I felt the long cooking times didn't require too much of me (just a lot of sitting and waiting). The main reason I was busy for 6 hours straight is because I was putting together so many dishes all at once. If you were only going to tackle one dish at a time, I think it would be a lot easier.

          I did look at our Korean market for frozen steamed buns but didn't see any. The next time I'm at the "general" Asian market I think I'll take a peek!

          1. re: leanneabe

            Like your comments for Momofuku, the dishes I've made from from Ad Hoc are not time/labor intensive, but some recipes do require some pre-planning. The carmelized sea scallops are an easy after work meal -it only requires brining (10 minutes) and searing. The pan-roasted duck breasts are quick to make, but do require an hour to 12 hours of rest after seasoning. Butter-braised radishes, kohlrabi and brussels sprouts are easy to pull together once the prep is done, as is the Mushroom soup if you have the broth made.

            I've only made a few dishes so far from Momofuku and I agree that it is not labor intensive, but there is a lot of idle time to complete the meals (marinating, proofing, simmering, fermenting, etc).

            I quite like both of the books for different reasons. And if you are interested in some of the pickles or kimchee dishes from Momofuku, heed Chang's warning that he does make it sweet - a little too sweet for me, but one can reduce the sugar .

        2. re: leanneabe

          Wowie zowie, leanneabe! What a great post and what an amazing coup to get all that ready for dinner in such a short time....whether or not you had many ingredients on hand.

          All the posts about Momofuku have almost convinced me to buy yet another cookbook.

          I saw him on Charlie Rose a while ago and was totally fascinated!

        3. "Average" skills? The Momofuku book will take more dedication than Ad Hoc. For example, the ramen recipe takes about 10 hours to make. Many of the recipes have multiple parts.

          The Ad Hoc book is simpler, but not simple. Probably a better book if you're wondering how much time they might actually want to spend in the kitchen. Both good books, neither are really for beginners, but an average home cook who was motivated could easily cook from either.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Indirect Heat

            Actually, I don't feel like a lot of Momofuku's recipes require a lot of cooking skills. But maybe that's because I'm pretty familiar with cooking techniques? Unless you're making the pig's head torchon or shaved foie gras, it feels pretty straight forward. The bo ssam involves mixing a salt/sugar cure, rubbing it on the pork shoulder, then roasting it for 6 hours.

            I do agree the ramen recipe looks daunting, both in the time it takes to make the broth and the fact that it calls for both shredded pork and pork belly. And there's a recipe to make your own ramen. Not all the recipes are worth (in my opinion) tackling at home, but I do think you can make very satisfying meals with the book. There are multiple steps to a lot of the recipes, but they're also easily made ahead of time.

            Now I feel like I should cook something out of Ad Hoc so I can make a balanced argument!

          2. I may be the only one but:

            I really don't like the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. I love (and frequently cook from) Bouchon though.

            The recipes don't do anything for me and they are no more or less complicated than those found in "Bouchon". Except Bouchon has a better variety, more interesting recipes, and a better explanation of technique. There are some complex recipes that are strictly weekend only cooking but a lot of quick gems can be found. Bouchon shows food that I aspire to make, and then takes my hand and guides me there.

            Not sure about momofuku --glanced through it, but haven't picked it up yet.

            1. I checked out from library the Ad Hoc at Home and like it so much I'm going to order one for a friend, one for myself from Amazon. There, it's almost $20 cheaper than the list price.

              (Like I really need another cookbook!!)

              1. Thanks everyone for the input. I bought the Momofuku cookbook for her since I thought it would be fun to pick up some treats from Milk Bar too. Depending on what I get her for the wedding, I might also get the ad hoc book so she gets both :)

                Leanneabe, try a Chinese or "general" Asian market or bakery for the buns. The buns are just peking duck buns. If you dont see them you could buy regular man tao and slice them, it is the same thing but roll shaped

                1 Reply
                1. re: silverlainy

                  From above...

                  having picked up the momofuku book this week all I can say is "AWESOME".

                  I haven't been this excited about food in awhile. I much prefer it to Ad Hoc because I find Ad Hoc to be very familiar territory recipe wise. Momofuku is all out there and interesting.