Cookbook Review: Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home: Deliberately Eating Together


Photographs: Paula Forbes / Eat Me Daily


Photographs: Paula Forbes / Eat Me Daily


Photographs: Paula Forbes / Eat Me Daily


Photographs: Paula Forbes / Eat Me Daily

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  1. DLD

    How can one review a cookbook without actually cooking from it? I don't get it! I have heard people say this is the greatest cookbook ever. But they have yet to cook anything. I strength of a cookbook to me is based on the success of its recipes. Not because its a Thomas Keller book. I have the Bouchon cookbook and have cooked from it many times with great success. So many times that the cover is no longer attached. That is a great cookbook.

    I actually have this book, and this past weekend I made the chicken pot pie. The crust, which calls for 2 1/2 sticks for butter was excellent. The book tells you to let the pie rest for 10 min before cutting, but that was a mistake because all the sauce escaped. I think it needs to rest at least 30min to one hour. Otherwise, it was a good chicken pie. The jury is still out on this one.

    • Sabayon

      Chillax, dude, she never says she didn't make recipes.

    • Paula

      I did cook from this cookbook; I used the pork brine and made a few of the pantry items, as well as the fancy chicken soup mentioned. I clearly didn't cook everything, but I wouldn't claim that the food and recipes were fantastic unless I had evidence to back it up.

      I agree with you, I think many people do review cookbooks without testing them. Unlike you, I do think that's possible; for example, see my review of The Big Fat Duck Cookbook from last year, or even Helen's review of Coco earlier this week. Those cookbooks are written to give you an understanding of an individual chef's process, not necessarily instructions for recreating the dish. I would never review a cookbook that is clearly intended to be used by home cooks--highly skilled or otherwise--without testing several recipes.

      I'm sorry the recipe you tried didn't work out! Try the chicken soup, dude, it's amazing.

  2. This book is VERY accessible. Keller is quite transparent as well; good ingredients plus good technique yields good food. This book brings his exceptional techniques to the home cook in a way that The FL Cookbook and Bouchon cookbook were not intended. These are familiar flavors with the Keller twist. I will be cooking my way through this book should you want to see how the recipes pan out. and on Twitter @adhocathome

  3. simon

    I don't find FL or Bouchon to be difficult at all. Time consuming, detail oriented, labor intensive, yes. But totally doable. I use them all the time.

  4. Mike

    Keller has an amazing attention to detail. He doesn't mind sending a commis out in the garden at midnight with a small flashlight and sharp shears to trim herbs as this is when they are the most flavorful and robust. During the day, the heat makes them too tender. He doesn't mind discarding about a pound of mire poix used in a stew only to replace the exact same vegetables with similar ones but blanched in their own flavor and not cooked to unrecognizable near mush.

    About the only difference that requires special training is..things will never go as planned and it takes a keen eye and a trained hand to know what is about to go wrong, why, and how to correct it.

    Ad Hoc will go on my list because the fact of the matter is, after nearly a decade of cooking lobster and as much time creating braises and stews, every time I work through a Keller recipe, even though it doesn't make sense at first, I eventually go "Oooooh, THATS why he did that!"

  5. Chris

    I have FL Cookbook and Bouchon ( I have Under Pressure - more out of curiosity) and have successfully cooked recipes in both although probably not to his TK exacting standards. I look forward to getting Ad Hoc at Home.

  6. There may be some false expectations built up around Ad Hoc at Home because of the name and our associations with the food. The name calls to mind improvised home-cooking, but this isn't really what it's about. Ad Hoc at Home is another Keller restaurant, and though the food traditional Americana, he demands much of the same rigor of his cooks that he would in any restaurant. I don't actually see much difference between Ad Hoc and Bouchon in aesthetic or difficulty. Both are dealing with rustic food from their respective countries. Both treat those foods with attention to detail that seems at times at odds with the casual nature of the food. The results can be wonderful, but also infuriating. I loved the chicken pot pie, and had no problem with the crust, but I was amused because I think of a pot pie as being a dish that should require only one or two pots. But rather than letting every flavor blend together, Keller insists on cooking each ingredient separately. I felt the same way about his beef bourguignon in Bouchon. I can respect it, even like it, but its not your mother's home cooking. . . unless your mother is a highly functioning OCD patient who has a live-in staff of dishwashers.

  7. I have both FL Cookbook and Under-Pressure. I have made many of the recipes with GREAT success from both books and recently prepared a complete entry using Sous Vide techniques for a progressive dinner. While the techniques are certainly not for the beginner home cook most dishes can be prepared with success depending on time, talent and ingredients availability. I am struggling with some of Thomas Keller molecular gastronomy techniques, like how to produce a Hayden Egg. Hopefully it will come together. I'm looking forward to buying Ad Hoc.

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