Category Archives: Bouchon

Another year over

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash;

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the big birthday blowout but the calendar doesn’t lie. Since this was not a round number birthday the event was a good bit more modest but of course I cooked and shared the event with good friends. After some cheeses on my baguettes we had a first course of Delicata stuffed pasta in a brown butter sauce with dates and almonds. This is from the SPQR cookbook (local restaurant in San Francisco). I would have never put these ingredients together but wow what an amazing combo.

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash;
Next up another SPQR recipe this time braised short ribs which were braised for 22 hours in the sous vide before being finished in the oven. Served these with roasted rapini and polenta.

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash; For dessert I created a ricotta donut and served it fresh market plums and a marscarpone cream. Not bad for something I made up but somehow not perfect. Probably should have piped them out long.

Ricotta Donuts (using Bouchon Bakery Pâte á choux)

250 grams H20
125 grams butter
2.5 grams salt
138 grams flour
250 grams eggs
225 grams ricotta
25 grams sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

Make standard Pâte á choux with first five ingredients. When cooled a bit add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Pipe into small rounds and freeze until ready. Fry for several minutes, until golden brown in 350 degree oil.

I got a number of awesome gifts (cooking related, go figure?) but this one is special:

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash; I have been coveting this knife from a distance for a while but had so far managed to abstain. I made the mistake of picking on up at the cooking store and simply couldn’t put it down. I have never felt a knife better balanced and a handle better. I got some other interesting gifts as well but you will have to come back to the blog to hear about them ;)…

 

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Holding Court

Dungeness crab season began this week. I didn’t realize until I saw them at the farmers’ market stand. Suddenly I knew what we were having dinner. Dungeness is a crab not many have had off the Northwest coast of the United States. My understanding is that it doesn’t ship well which just means we get more ;). It is delightful if you ever get a chance to try. My favorite way to enjoy them is to cook them in a court bouillon, roll up your sleeves, and just be okay with the mess. We shared with some friends who chided me for “making stew” as I assembled the cooking liquid. I got the last laugh after we started eating…

Dungeness in Court Bouillon (adapted from Bouchon Cookbook)

1 Crab per two people works pretty well (I cooked four with below)
around 1 gallon water
one bottle dry white wine
two lemons cut in half and squeezed
two leaks cleaned well
bouquet garni (parsley, garlic, peppercorn, thyme)
handful of shallots cut in half
two fennel bulbs cleaned well and cut into quarters
some salt and pepper
some vinegar (maybe a cup or so)

I didn’t really measure much of the above so use as guidelines. Bring to boil and toss in the crabs. Boil for four minutes and then move pot of heat and steep for 30 minutes. Remove to platter. You can chill if you’d like but we just ate them when they were cool enough to touch. It was some of the sweetest, most delightful crab I have ever had and fortunately the children didn’t really eat their halves :).

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The French Eat Gnocchi?!?

In the Bouchon cookbook there is something called Parisian Gnocchi.  It didn’t shout “give me a try” as they had mustard and no potato in them so I moved along.  They were clearly not normal gnocchi.  But during my short stint at the restaurant I saw them making them, prepped the ingredients for somebody to make them the next day, and even got to try them so they are now forever added to my repertoire.  They are not your normal gnocchi in that they are actually påte á choux based with herbs, mustard, and cheese mixed in.  They get quickly poached and then finished with seasonal ingredients.  They are a bit of work but worth it!  Above are my not-so-even versions after their dunk in the simmering water.  Here’s a video of St Thomas doing it himself!

Tip: Make ahead and freeze after poaching!
Tip: You can measure ingredients out (even water and flour) ahead to save time later.  They do this in the real kitchens!

Herb Gnocchi (Bouchon Cookbook)

1 1/2 c water
12 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt
2 c flour
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tblsp herbs (I used fresh tarragon, prasley, and chives)
1 c grated Comté
5 – 6 large eggs

Combine 1 tsp salt with butter and water in a pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the flour at once and stir rapidly until glossy and the smell of cooked flour comes out.  In other words standard choux dough.  I put it in a mixer and started adding the eggs one at a time allowing each to fully incorporate.  You can interchange with the other ingredients and only add the 6th egg if the dough is stiff.

Put the lot into a pastry bag and let it sit for 30 minutes while you bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer.  Push the dough out through a large nozzle lopping off equal lengths with a knife or kitchen scissors.  Try not to splash yourself.  They only need to cook for a few minutes until they float.  I dry them on towels and then arrange them on a tray that I can cover.  Alternatively you can move them to a freezer.

When it’s show time take half the recipe and divide into two hot large skillets with 1 Tbsp butter.  After they start to brown add your veggies, in this case two-three sliced and seeded squash that had been cooked already with some tomatoes and more fresh herbs.  Save the other half for another time!

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Napa Day

The next day we rose early and headed back to the bakery, of course.  The best time to hit the Bouchon bakery is before 9:00 when normal people are finally up and about.  We walked around and waved at Chef J who beckoned us inside.  She was working on a wedding cake for a friend but stopped to say hi.  We ordered up a haul of treats including the above pictured toffee donut which was pretty darn awesome.

After that we wandered up the The French Laundry garden and saw my friend.  We talked about growing tomatoes and about how they were doing it (quite a bit different than my way of course!) but we learned a lot and also about how they irrigated so I will be detailing some more changes in the garden soon!

Then we were off up the valley to see the Old Faithful geyser of Napa.  It turns out that it is pretty cool and there are goats and sheep (kid magnets) as well so the family had a good time.  Before long we were headed back for our lunch date at Bouchon.  I’m embarrassed to say the photos of that meal did not turn out that well but it was delicious and we were treated quite well despite the place being slammed and the staff preparing for multiple events.  Annabelle and I snuck in back to say thanks to Chef S after all.  So nice to step into the kitchen!

The rest of the day was consumed with swimming and bocce and a late run to Napa for pizza for calling it a day.

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Inspired by…

Tonight I took the Bouchon chicken in a new direction.  I made a sunchoke puree (inspired by a soup in Under Pressure), topped it with sauteed kale, the chicken and then a few (maybe too many) tsoi-sim flowers from the farmer’s market.  It was the combo I hoped it would be.  My wife even licked the plate!

Paired it with a Trousseau Gris from Wind Gap, one of my favorite small wineries.  It has a nice nose of lemon zest and a very nice body on the palate with lots of acid and minerals.  My kind of wine.

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Bringing it all home…

It was a busy Saturday where I used a variety of skills I had learned during my trip.  I made my first official attempt at Bouchon Baguettes.  I didn’t actually mix the dough while I was at the bakery by I handled quite a bit so I kind of knew what I was looking for.  Above is what the dough looked like heading into a rest after dividing it.

I made two regular baguettes and two epis.  The first two baguettes vanished quickly as the kids kept running back for more.  I think I need to let it rise a bit more next time but the results were pretty good for the first attempt.

Here is the caramel and passion fruit parfait I mentioned in my previous post.  When I tried this at the bakery I pretty much begged for the recipe because it was so good.  I had all kinds of trouble keeping the sides of the glasses clean but in the end the taste is pretty darn incredible.  Turns out it goes really, really well with scotch too.  Can’t wait to make it again!

Last but not least I spent time working in the garden and planting my fancy new seeds.  The front tray has a variety of different things and the back tray is partially planted with micro greens.  I haven’t really had a ton of success starting things from seed before so I am excited.  I also planted some carrots directly into the raised beds.  Now I just need to sit back and cross my fingers.

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So much to learn…

Here are a few books next to the bed.  I think I may be a sucker for anything that even mentions Thomas Keller in it because I am loving all of them.  Ma Gastonomie is particularly interesting to me.  It was a pivotal book in Chef’s Keller’s life and you can see the roots of The French Laundry in some of the descriptions of the famous Fernand Point an his iconic restaurant La Pyramide.  Under Pressure is just fascinating and Life on the Line is the story of the head chef of Alinea and is exciting if you are a food nerd.

I took my first crack at a parfait recipe I got on my trip.  Really two puddings that get layered on top of each other but I have to say it kinda kicked my butt.  I thought it was going to be easy and learned some good lessons.  Making the puddings was fine since my whisking skills are now beyond reproach ;).  But I didn’t know/think that I needed to give the bottom pudding time to set before making the second.  More importantly, though, I learned how hard it is to move the pudding into serving dishes while keeping them clean and making the layers look good.  They make it look easy in the bakery but I assure you it far from easy to get a polished look.  Makes you appreciate the drive for perfection that Chef Keller insists on all the more.

This weekend is pudding, my first attempt at Bouchon Baguettes, seed planting and garden maintenance, and Bouchon chicken.  Hope to have some notes on all that throughout the weekend.  Oh, I have now had more than 300 hits on the blog.  This is a healthy bit over the number of times I have looked at it too proofread 😉 so wow.  Not sure yet who all is reading since not many people are leaving comments (hint, hint) but welcome all the same.

Here are some of the seeds getting ready for a start today.  Stay tuned!

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A Grand Adventure

So right off the bat I will admit that I am a bit unusual when it comes to food.  Not long after I moved to California 16 years ago, I started a dinner club with some coworkers and embarked on a culinary journey that continues to this day.  Back in those days the members of the club pushed each other to improve through increasingly elaborate meals that reached fruition with a garden party for 50 friends that was talked about, literally, for years.  It was during this period that I started reading cookbooks cover to cover like normal people read novels.  Since I was living in the bay area The French Laundry was always a mythical restaurant, and when the cookbook came out I devoured it and dreamed of one day getting to dine there.  In September 2000 Emily and I first dined at The French Laundry with some or our cooking cohorts.  It was an beautiful September afternoon in Yountville and we got to eat out on the patio.  The meal was spectacular and we had the good fortune of being able to go into the kitchen and meet Thomas Keller in person.

(Photo Credit: Peter Graffagnino)

It was a very special day for us and the signed and framed menu of that meal is still proudly displayed on the wall of our kitchen.  Over the years my cooking has improved a great deal and I have added even more Thomas Keller cookbooks to my shelf and more of his recipes to my repertoire.  It would be fair to say I find Chef Keller inspiring.  Emily and I have dined at all of his (local) restaurants multiple times and this past December were able to return to the French Laundry with some good friends for an even more spectacular evening in white truffle season!  It was quite simply, a perfect evening in all respects.

White Truffle Float  (More Photos…)

One of our group has a rather special relationship with The French Laundry.  It was through her that I learned that they allow a few people to work in the kitchen in special culinary experiences.  Suffice it so say, I was extremely jealous.  So imagine my surprise when I got a text asking me if I wanted to take her place in the Bouchon kitchen this coming week.  A last minute illness of her babysitter was going to prevent her from going and she was wondering if I could take her place.  By some incredible stroke of luck (and because of my wonderful wife!) it turned out I could!  I figured this was finally the thing to get me to start writing online so that people could follow my adventure…

 

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Equipment

I received a list of equipment to bring on my adventure.  I had a lot of what I needed but I will admit it was an excuse to get a few things I have often wished I had.  Most notably is a pair of clogs that I never felt I could warrant but that will come in handy on my weekly expeditions to the farmer’s market (especially in the wet months) and my longer weekend cooking binges.  Also, I actually didn’t own black pants so I ordered real chef works pants which will also come in handy in the same situations.

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Day One: Morning

Woke up bright and early on the first day.  I was nervous (had been for days) and really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I got ready and took the short walk to meet “my handler” at the Bouchon Bakery at 8:00.  Just as I crossed the street my phone rang.  Perfect timing!  We grabbed something to eat and some coffee and then sat down at the famous zinc bar in the restaurant to talk about things.  I have to say he immediately put me at ease as we discussed the schedule though now I wasn’t going to meet the chef until the end of the day so that was still hanging over my head.

He took me on a quick tour of the Bouchon kitchen explaining things as we went.  I picked up my first cooking tip as I saw a cook using a nice squirt bottle to hit some mushrooms with some oil.  Much better than what I usually do with my olive oil bottle!  We stopped in cold storage which was a revelation.  Everything arranged perfectly!  I’d never seen chickens trussed like that before.  All kinds of prep plus house made charcuteries aging in the back.  Amazing!  Then we had a quick tour through the bakery.  The bakery had a much quieter vibe than in the Bouchon kitchen and that kitchen wasn’t even in full swing yet.  We then wound our way up the street and went through the kitchen of TFL.  We only buzzed through but it was clear that there was a very different system of garde management and then I saw a guy painstakingly trimming an oyster with a small pair of scissors.  Wow!  We spent a few minutes chatting with some of the chefs as they were tying up the foie torchons and I have to say everybody was extremely welcoming.  Cool start to my kitchen experience.

Then we went out the side door and across the street to the garden.  Now we do have a garden in our backyard and I do enjoy getting out there but I will admit I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of the garden experience.  Boy was I wrong!  We took a quick tour of the gardens and was happy I knew most of the plants (he seemed to be quizzing me 😉 ).  I had seen the garden from the road before but seeing them up close was more than a bit interesting.  Everything is perfect and incredibly regular.  We went into the greenhouse and it was more of the same.  Every flat that they had going was excessively consistent and thriving in a way I could only dream of.  He then had me plant some trays for micro greens.  I can’t believe how much I learned about how to prep the soil and plant the seeds.  Next was some more detailed planting of lettuce and again I was amazed at how precise it all was.  In the case of the lettuce pelleted seeds are used to ensure that only one seed is in each starter.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing!  Here’s some of my trays:

I got a ton of tips about soil management and where to get the best seeds.  He even promised to give me a cutting of an edible succulent I was drooling over.  We took a trip over to a local orchard that supplies some of the fruit they use, tasted some edible flowers including arugula(!) and then had a TFL staff lunch together outside with some of the gardeners.  I couldn’t believe how welcoming and open he was with all he knew.  He honestly wanted me to learn how to be a better gardener.  I had a fantastic time and I hadn’t really even started in the kitchen yet!

 

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