Category Archives: Ad Hoc

Mission Accomplished

A few years ago my wife and I were wine tasting in Napa Valley on a Monday. As often happens we got to talking with the tasting room staff and they asked us where we were having dinner. Ad Hoc we told them. “Is it fried chicken night?!” they asked. We told them we didn’t know. They looked it up for us. “It is!” Everywhere we went we heard the same thing: “Ad Hoc? Is it fried chicken night? They have the best fried chicken ever!” The excitement built. I was sure that no fried chicken could live up to the hype. It turns out I was wrong and to this day Ad Hoc serves fried chicken every other Monday night.

When the Ad Hoc cookbook came out I was excited to try the fried chicken out. It was good but not as good. The chicken came out a bit dry and somehow the coating wasn’t what I remembered. I was sad but fried chicken isn’t the kind of thing you can keep cooking until you get it right without repercussions so I put it on the back burner. This weekend felt like the right time to try again.

The market did not have the small chickens called for in the recipe which definitely made me nervous. I was worried that thick pieces would require cooking too long and burning the outside. I decided that rather than just cut the breast into two pieces like the recipe called for I would cut it into three or four based on its size and shape to restore balance. I remembered the pieces being fairly small at the restaurant. The chicken is then brined in a highly flavored bring for 12 hours (or 9 in my case) and then brought to room temp before coating with seasoned flour and buttermilk. The recipe has specifics for peanut oil temperatures and times that are different for the different cuts and then finish with a little salt and thyme. This time it was every bit as good as what I remembered. An amazing crunch that you can practically feel in your toes, moist flavorful meat, and a taste that keeps you eating long after you probably should. Mission accomplished. I was practically giddy.

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Ad Hoc Inspired Garden Salad

I wish more cookbooks put together sample menus.  Usually putting a meal together is left as an exercise for the reader.  This makes no sense to me, especially when it is a restaurant themed cookbook.  I recently stumbled across an archive of Ad Hoc menus.  The restaurant publishes their constantly changing menu everyday and inuyaki put a couple years worth in one place!  This is a great place to find seasonal inspiration.  Searching for a salad to go with my recent Paella dinner I found a garden pazanella!  Since I was headed to the Palo Alto farmers’ market I let the produce guide me and put this salad together.  A nice tip I picked up somewhere is to layer the salad.  In other words put some of the dressed greens down then some bread then some tomatoes, etc then repeat.  This ensures the salad is well mixed.  My new other tip is to try harder to not forget the amazing cucumbers being kept cold in the fridge!

Garden Panzanella Guidelines

Butter lettuce (preferably from Fat Cabbage Farms 🙂 )
Loaf of Ciabatta or your favorite bread
Butter
Garlic clove
Radishes
Variety of cucumbers
Variety of small tomatoes
Variety of carrots
Nice handful of chives
Nice handful of tarragon
Parsley, if handy
Few tablespoons chopped shallots
Champagne vinegar (or your favorite)
Extra Olive Oil (decent kind)
Salt and Pepper

I know one of the owner’s of Fat Cabbage Farms.  When I saw her amazing lettuce the salad quickly came together in my head.  Heat a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter and a splash of oil in a skillet and drop the garlic clove in.  Cut the crust off the bread (great for bread crumbs) and tear the bread into bite sized pieces.  Add the bread to the skillet and cook over low heat (just trying to get them brown and crispy without drying them out) stirring every so often.  Sprinkle a little salt to make sure they are seasoned well.  A really great crouton has the ability to elevate a salad out of the mundane!  Mince the shallot and put it in a bowl (or whatever you use to make dressing) with the vinegar and some salt and pepper and let sit for at least ten minutes.  This will soften the shallots and take a bit of bite out of them.  Use your oil of choice (extra virgin for me) and add until you get the balance you like (typically 3 or 4 parts oil to one part acid).  Don’t forget to taste the dressing after adding the oil to check for seasoning.  Prep all the veggies and chop the herbs dropping the sliced radishes into ice water to keep them crunchy and making sure the lettuce is well dried.  When you are ready to serve add the herbs to the dressing and dress the lettuce in a bowl.  Don’t forget to taste again.  I often find that even with a dressing that tasted good when I dress the greens I need a bit more salt and pepper.  It is best to dress each of the components separately so you can get them all just right but in this case I didn’t bother dressing the carrots or radishes and just put a little salt on the tomatoes.  I did splash some dressing on the croutons though.  Lay 1/3 – 1/2 of the lettuce down on your serving plate then 1/3 – 1/2 of each of the remaining items then repeat until everything is done.  I sprinkled a little extra parsley on the top because I had some handy.  I have not made a chive-tarragon dressing before but will definitely do it again.  It tasted great especially on the crunchy but chewy croutons.

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Animated inspiration (aka Ratatouille!)

Ratatouille aka vegetable gratin aka dinner is something we look forward to every year.  There is just something magical about this combo of vegetables and I have to say the scene in the Pixar movie where the critic tastes the Ratatouille is one of my favorite food scenes of any movie.  There is something magical about food that can take us back in time!

This recipe borrows heavily from the vegetable gratin recipe in Ad Hoc cookbook.  In case you didn’t know Saint Thomas and The French Laundry consulted on Ratatouille and there is definitely more than a passing resemblance to what you see in the movie.

Ratatouille

2 C chopped shallots (book calls for onions but shallots rule!)
cloves of garlic chopped (however much you like)
olive oil
1/2 c bread crumbs (remember, this is from that stale bread like I told you to do!)
1/2 c parmigiano grated
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Squash (around three medium sized)
Tomatoes (several)

Sweat the shallots and the garlic in some olive oil.  The point is to get yummy translucent beautiful shallots that don’t really have color.  You know what I’m talking about right?  After it’s done mix it with most of the thyme.  Take the rest of the thyme and mix it with the bread crumbs and parmigiano.  Spread the shallots on the bottom of a gratin dish.  Slice the squash (you can add eggplant too) 1/4 inch thick.  Toss with a little olive oil and salt and place in the dish.  When a row is done (whichever kind of row you want to do) spread some of the breadcrumbs over and move on.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until the squash is completely done.  The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the squash and how tightly you pack it.

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Scream for ice cream

Our good friends had us over for dinner last night.  They asked us to bring a simple dessert.  What could be simpler than make your own ice cream sundaes?  We had a desert at Ad Hoc in wine country that paired a fruit granita with panna cotta.  The creamy flavor with the fruit ice was a fantastic combo.  I decided to do something in that vein so I made a vanilla ice cream, a strawberry sorbet, and caramel sauce.  Add some nuts, chocolate balls, and bananas as well as some whipped cream and everybody is sure to scream for ice cream!  (small note for international readers: in the states we have a saying “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream”)

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 C milk
2 C heavy cream
3/4 C sugar
1 vanilla bean
3/4 tsp vanilla
7 egg yolks
pinch of salt

This is adapted from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop.  Scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean and then add to the dairy in a pot.  Bring to a scald and let steep covered for 30 minutes.  Bring back up to a simmer.  While you are doing that whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.  Temper the eggs with the hot cream (pour in a little at a time while whisking like mad) and then heat the mixture back on the stove until thick.  Pour through a strainer and add the vanilla extract and salt.  Cool and chill before freezing in your ice cream maker.

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Market Dinner

I’ve been going to to the Menlo Park farmers’ market for more years than I can recall.  I typically prepare a dinner that we call “Market Dinner” from the various things I find.  A tradition that is almost as regular is the fact that it takes me longer than I expect to finish :).  This week’s market dinner started with Fava Bruschetta.

Fava Bruschetta

As many favas as you dare peel

Fresh lemon juice

Good bread

Garlic clove peeled

Olive Oil

Pecorino

Lightly cook the (twice) peeled favas in salted boiling water.  Smash them with the back of a fork or in a food processor adding salt, lemon juice, and olive oil to taste.  Slice bread 1/2 inch thick and brush with olive oil.  Toast (I did mine over a grill) well and while still hot rub garlic clove over bread.  When they have cooled a bit spread generous portion of crushed beans on bread, top with a shaving of pecorino (vegetable peeler across edge) and top with a little olive oil.  I just wish favas weren’t so much work or I would eat this all the time!

Asparagus and Rice Soup with Pancetta

This is one of my favorite soups.  Pretty easy if you have some stock tucked away in the freezer but oh so worth it!  This comes from one of my trusted cookbooks Zuni Cafe.  I wish more bloggers talked about cookbooks they really like as I am always on the lookout.  This one is great if only for the roasted chicken with bread salad recipe.  More on that a different time though.

6 Tbs olive oil

2 c diced onion

1/4 c arborio rice

3 1/2 c chicken stock

8 ounces trimmed asparagus

3 ozs minced pancetta

fresh ground pepper

Heat large saucepan and then add 4 Tbs olive oil.  Sweat onion until translucent and then add rice and continue to cook stirring for a minute or so more.  Add stock and bring to simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until rice is done.  Meanwhile slice the asparagus on a diagonal into 1/8 inch slices.  Heat a skillet and add remaining olive oil then pancetta and asparagus and cook stirring a few times but allowing asparagus and pancetta to color.  Add to soup with pepper (to taste) and serve.

Grilled Salmon

Pull salmon from fridge 30 minutes before cooking and top with salt and pepper and, if you like a little espelette pepper.  Heat grill to hot.  I cook my salmon on foil so I don’t lose anything.  I coat the top with some olive oil and place that down first for a few minutes until it has colored then flip and cook until done.  I use a metal cake thermometer to test doneness.  Slide it in, it should have too much resistance and then quickly place between your lip and nose to feel how warm it is.  It should be warm.  If hot it is probably over done.

Spring Fruit Cobbler

This is adapted from the Ad Hoc cookbook.  Another good addition to your shelf.

Fruit

8 C fruit

1/4 c granulated sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp vanilla paste

splash cointreau

pinch salt

Mix the above together and place in 11×11 pan.

Cake

1 3/4 c flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 Tbsp butter room temperature

3/4 c granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 c buttermilk

pinch salt

Sift dry ingredients together.  Cream butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy (you know the drill).  Add eggs one at a time.  Add dry ingredients and buttermilk a bit of each at a time.  Finish by hand and spoon dollops on fruit leaving space in between.  Combine 1 Tbs sugar with 1/4 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle on top.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes until brown and bubbly covering with foil if it gets too brown.  Enjoy with vanilla ice cream!

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Garden update

At the risk of inflaming those who do not live in California here is one of “my girls” as I like to refer to my Early Girl tomatoes.  I have six in all and they turn into sauce later in the year.  I planted them around tax day and they are going like gangbusters!

Tonight’s dinner was my take on the Ad Hoc Sauteed Chicken with Tarragon.  I mostly followed the recipe though I did spike the powder that you rub on the chicken with a little Espelette powder.  The powder also had paprika and curry.  After soaking this up for a while the recipe calls for pounding the breasts to make them uniform a trick I do a bit though not usually to the 1/4 called for here though given the results I might start trying.  It was a good first try of this recipe though I really didn’t give it enough tarragon so that got a little lost.  The curry comes across as a subtle richness that I highly recommend.  Give it a try next time you are looking for something to spice up your chicken.

Oh, the Sauvignon Blanc was a good match!

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Returning to the scene of the crime

Sorry for the lapse in writing.  Life has been busy most recently because of a weekend trip.  Every since my Yountville experience I’d been hoping to get back, especially since the kids were asking to do it.  I guess part of me wanted to return in hopes of finding a way to not be forgotten in the kitchens there but another part wanted to see if I could spot that genie in the bottle again.

I had let some of the chefs I emailed know I was heading up including Chef J, Chef S, and Chef M.  We hit more traffic than I would have though possible heading up early Friday night getting there just in time for a 5:00 dinner at Ad Hoc.  Somehow Open Table said  they were fully booked though they were half empty the entire time we were there.

We literally rolled out of the car and into the restaurant which I was a bit worried about with the kids in tow but they did marvelously.  The kids were very excited to be there and it seemed like the staff could tell and was pleased.  It took a bit more than usual to negotiate the menu but we soon settled back to the four course menu with Em and the kids getting the salmon in place of the main roasted pork offering.

The cheese course is always fun.  They paired it with shaved asparagus (which I’ve done many times!) and lemon confit.  They asked Annabelle if she liked the cheese and she said it was “a bit sour” so they brought out a second plate with a different cheese for her.

Dessert was banana cupcakes with a caramel filling and a coconut frosting.  Pretty darn tasty.  The highlight of the evening however, was hitting the bakery after dinner.  Chef M was in and waved us in through the window.  We chatted for a while and got to see the batch of 300 baguette dough coming out of the mixer and taste his English Muffin efforts (yum!).  We then headed to our hotel and after a little bocce the kids hit the hot tub and pool.

french laundry fold

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