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Ad Hoc cookbooks reviews steak The French Laundry Thomas Keller

Cook the Book: Ad Hoc at Home – Asparagus and Steak

Ad Hoc at HomeI’ve never been genuinely excited about a new cookbook release, but Ad Hoc at Home marks the first time I’ve had a real personal connection to the recipes in a single cookbook. Inuyaki readers know that I’m a fan and regular diner at Thomas Keller’s casual dining restaurant, and the Ad Hoc Menu Archive is one of the most popular features of this site. My wife and I have been to Ad Hoc 30 times in the last 2½ years (it’s our favorite restaurant) and have always come away wishing we knew how to make some of our favorite dishes, desserts, and condiments at home. I’m very happy to report that Ad Hoc at Home delivers the goods.

The cookbook’s arrival coincided with my birthday, and to celebrate, I invited some friends over for dinner last weekend so that my wife and I could cook for them. From the book, we chose the grilled asparagus and marinated skirt steak and supplemented the meal with polenta topped with a mushroom ragout and SavorySweetLife’s chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

The grilled asparagus, which includes prosciutto, fried bread, poached egg, and aged balsamic vinegar, is pretty easy to put together. After removing the woody bottoms and peeling the asparagus stalks, simply season a couple bunches of asparagus with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and canola oil and then grill them for a couple minutes per side until tender.

AsparagusGratuitous Asparagus Porn

I had some issues poaching the eggs. I know this sounds silly, but they weren’t coming out as pretty as we wanted, so those eggs became snacks. Inspired by our meal at Commis in Oakland a couple nights before, I decided to have some fun and make 63-degree eggs. How is a 63-degree egg different than a regular poached egg or over-easy egg? The answer: texture.

63 Degree EggA 63-degree Egg

At 63-degrees Celsius, egg whites are just barely set and the yolks have a pudding-like consistency. To achieve this goal, eggs are cooked in a 63C waterbath for about an hour. The precision is important because at 65C, according Harold McGee, the egg whites become “tender solid” as opposed just barely set at 63C. It’s possible to maintain a consistent temperature using a pot on the stovetop, but I have an immersion circulator, which makes things a lot easier. :)

63-degree Eggs
The immersion circulator in action.

The eggs went on the plate last, so my friends got to see these beautiful eggs emerge from a freshly cracked shell. My wife gets credit for the plating of this dish, which is loosely based on the picture in the book.

Grilled Asparagus, Prosciutto, 63-degree Egg and Torn CroutonsThe fried bread croutons are awesome, too.

The marinated skirt steak isn’t a difficult preparation either. I substituted the skirt for flap steak, which is similar to skirt steak and a cut of meat I’ve used before in my Bistek Tagalog. It’s marinated for at least four hours in a mixture of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. The meat is seared in a thin layer of oil for about 90 seconds total, adding thyme and butter to the pan and basting the meat after flipping it halfway through. After searing, the meat is placed in a 350 oven on a roasting rack and cooked for 8-10 minutes until the internal temp of the meat is 125F. Rest the meat and slice it vertically against the grain before serving.

Marinated Skirt Steak

That meat looks perfect doesn’t it? There was just one problem. I forgot to season the meat with salt and pepper before I seared it, so it was underseasoned. There was still flavor from the marinade, but the meat was definitely lacking flavor. I was crestfallen. My wife saved the dish by making an impromptu beef/mushroom gravy, but I was so disappointed with myself.

We paired this with some Fra’Mani polenta (sold exclusively at Costco) topped with a trumpet and baby shiitake mushroom ragout. I know polenta is pretty easy to make, but as fans of Paul Bertolli’s Fra’Mani sausages, we had to give his polenta a try and it’s really good. My wife added some strong English cheddar to the polenta for some extra flavor and topped it with the mushrooms.

Fra'Mani Polenta and Mushroom "Ragout"

Aside from the underseasoned steak, which was totally my fault, this meal was a huge success and a testament to Ad Hoc at Home’s accessibility for home cooks. It’s a tribute to Keller and his love for good, homey food, as well as chef de cuisine Dave Cruz, whose influence is present in every meal in the Ad Hoc kitchen. According to Ad Hoc general manager Nick Dedier, Ad Hoc at Home is projected to surpass the 10-year-old French Laundry cookbook’s total sales in just three years. With food like this, it should surprise no one when it actually happens.

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reviews seafood Southern California steak TV

Providence – Los Angeles, CA

My parents’ wedding anniversary is two days after Christmas, and in the last few years, we’ve started taking them to restaurants that normally aren’t on their radar. Last year, we took them to Osteria Mozza, and this year, after reading my French Laundry post, my mom said she wanted to experience something like that. Granted, it’s impossible to find something comparable to The French Laundry in Southern California, but L.A. is no slouch when it comes to great restaurants. I ended up choosing Providence because of its seafood-centric menu and more affordable five-course tasting option, but two Michelin stars didn’t hurt either.

ProvidenceTwo Michelin Stars in Los Angeles.

My first exposure to Providence and Chef Michael Cimarusti was on the second season of After Hours with Daniel Boulud, the MOJO HD show where Boulud throws after hours dinners at prominent restaurants. Season two was set in LA, and admittedly, it was hard to keep track of which one-word restaurant was which. As I rewatched the episode on Hulu.com, I instantly remembered Providence while watching the episode where a lobster attacks a piece of Kobe beef. You can watch the episode in its entirety at Hulu.com.

One of the first things we noticed about the tasting menu was that the dessert course featured a kalamansi gelée. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that kalamansi is the citrus of choice in the Philippines, especially in one of my favorite dishes, bistek tagalog. My parents were especially excited to see this versatile Filipino citrus featured in a fine-dining setting. For us, it was the second time in a month we’ve seen Filipino ingredients on a high-end tasting menu. (The first was the Ilocano salt and Pili nuts at The French Laundry.) So while the rest of the tasting menu looked fabulous on paper, we already had our eyes on dessert.

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beef dessert Northern California reviews steak

Birthday Dinner @ Alexander’s Steakhouse

I’ve raved about Alexander’s Steakhouse before and have been trying to manufacture excuses to go back. My birthday was as good a reason as any to make my return. My previous post has all the background info on Alexander’s, so let’s cut to the chase.

We were greeted with a nice amuse of cold sunchoke soup with crouton.


Amuse - Cold Sunchoke Coup

I started off with my usual Hamachi Shot of Grade 5 hamachi, red chili, frizzled ginger, avocado, truffled ponzu, which was a great way to get your head in the game and start off the meal. It’s $4 for one and a six pack is $20.

Hamachi Shot

Next up were our appetizers. I ordered the “Steak and Eggs,” which was carpaccio, quail egg, deviled egg, and vegetable salpicon. The presentation was a little fussy, and I really wasn’t sure how I was supposed to eat it. In the end, it was really good, but I don’t think I’d order it again.

"Steak and Eggs"

My wife ordered the Smoked Salmon Pastrami served with Boursin cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and toasted rye bread. She made these into open-face sandwiches that were delicious, although I found the sauerkraut a little subtle. Still, if this is on the menu next time we go back, I think we’d have to get this again.

Smoked Salmon Pastrami

Before our entrees came out, we had an intermezzo—a watermelon shooter with cucumber foam. I normally hate cucumbers (it’s a texture thing), but as a foam, I thought it was great and complemented the watermelon really well.

Intermezzo-Watermelon Shooter with Cucumber Foam

I was really torn about what to order for the main course. I knew it was going to be steak, but there’s so many options on the menu. Do I go with the 10 oz. filet mignon with shiitakes, scallions and candied bacon? Or how about the 2 lb. bone-in ribeye with barbecue demi glace and roasted tomatoes? The Melange had been reconfigured since my last visit and featured a filet steak with green olives and bleu cheese and a Kobe patty melt panini to go with the braised shortrib and brie en cocotte. In the end, I decided on the 28 oz. dry-aged porterhouse with black truffle mousseline. (I requested the mousseline on the side and it got cropped out of the picture.)

28oz Porterhouse

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare (as it should be), and I really loved the filet section of the porterhouse.

My wife ordered the pan-roasted halibut with beurre noisette of porcini, butternut squash, chestnuts, and brussels sprouts. Alexander’s might be a steakhouse, but their seafood is also excellent.


Pan Roasted Halibut

We both ordered dessert, but I also received a complimentary peanut butter chocolate mousse cake, so the table got a bit crowded. Every knows that peanut butter and chocolate are two great tastes that go great together, and this little birthday cake was no exception.

Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

Continuing with the peanut theme, my wife had the Peanut Gallery, which was an assortment of peanut-based desserts, including peanut brittle, peanut butter chocolate mousse, caramel ice cream, and some chocolate popcorn with peanut butter powder, which was the best thing on the plate. The crunchy saltiness of the popcorn combined with the subtle sweetness of the chocolate and the little hit of peanut butter from the powder was pure bliss.

Peanut Gallery

I had the Midnight Train, which was like a deconstructed tiramisu. I forgot to get more exact details about this dessert, but from what I remember it was a tiramisu cheesecake topped with meringue cookies, caramelized sugar strips, whipped cream and lemon zest.

Midnight Train

Overall, it was a great meal to celebrate a late 30s birthday. My wife’s birthday is in a couple months…maybe I can convince her to go back for her birthday, too.

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Ad Hoc beef breakfast reviews steak Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 9/7/08

So we went back to Ad Hoc so that my sister in law could try their brunch. As luck would have it, Prime Ribeye with Poached Eggs was the main entree, but check out the Smoked Pork Bruschetta. Here’s the menu and pics:


Smoked Pork Bruschetta
bailey long pork tenderloin, red onion marmalade, living watercress
tfl garden cucumber & fennel salad

~

Prime Ribeye and Poached Eggs
heirloom tomatoes, garlic potato cakes
red wine jus

~

Parfait
jacobsen orchard nectarine jelly
housemade granola

 

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As we talked and joked with the staff during the meal, it occurred to me that next Wednesday is not only our wedding anniversary, it’s also fried chicken night. So we’re going back next week, and holding out hope that they might serve fried chicken and waffles for dinner.

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Ad Hoc beef Italian reviews steak Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc — 07.25.08

My friend Maria was in town on business, which gave us another excuse to go to Ad Hoc. I learned there were some issues with the menu on this night. Originally, the main course was supposed to be veal osso buco, but by the time we arrived for our 9pm reservation, the main course was prime New York steak. Apparently the osso buco wasn’t up to standard and they made some changes on the fly. A coworker who had been there earlier in the evening said he was served pork belly and that they made the menu change after the first table had received their osso buco.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157606383175416″]

While I was bummed about not being able to get my hands on some osso buco, the steak was really good. But the revelation of the meal was the Heirloom Tomato Salad—thick, juicy, and meaty tomatoes with mixed greens and kernels of Brentwood corn.

Can’t wait to go back in August when my sister-in-law comes to town.

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beef grilling Northern California recipes Southern California steak

Summer Grilling – Steaks

I love grilled meat, but I love it even more in the summertime. This past 4th of July, we had a mini family reunion, and as usual, I was asked to grill some meat. I wanted to keep it simple, so I grilled some New York Strips and did an easy BBQ chicken recipe that I’ve been using for years.


finished steak

Steaks are pretty easy to make, and I don’t see why people are so amazed when I grill them. I had five steaks to work with, so I decided to do two different preparations. Three steaks were rubbed with olive oil to coat and then seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides. On the other two steaks, I used Emeril’s Southwest Essence as a rub. I don’t normally use Emeril’s products, but we had the bottle buried in our pantry, so I thought I’d use it. It worked out really nicely.

Classic Grilled New York Steaks

INGREDIENTS
New York Steaks
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Olive Oil (approx 1 tbsp. per steak)


Classic Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. One hour before grillling, remove steaks from the refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.
  2. Rub each steak with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle each side of steak with kosher salt

Southwest New York Strips

INGREDIENTS
Emeril’s Southwest Essence (or use your favorite rub)
New York Steaks


Southwest Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. The night before you grill, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel.
  2. Sprinkle rub mixture on steaks so that there’s an even coating on all sides.
  3. One hour before grilling, remove steaks from refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.

COOKING TIMES

For medium rare, I generally cook the steaks for 4 minutes per side. Add or subtract a minute depending on your desired doneness. If you want to make cross-hatched grill marks on the meat, turn the steaks 90 degrees after 2 minutes.

To check for doneness more accurately, use a digital instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat (med. rare is somewhere between 130-135 degrees)