Doing battle with Thomas Keller
I was in the fight of my life tonight, but it was worth it and I think I at least can claim a draw. Ya’ll know who Thomas Keller is, yes? He’s the most respected chef in the world. He runs a restaurant in Napa Valley called the French Laundry and even the most egotistic gourmets drool over his food. He wrote a book with French Laundry recipes in it and I checked it out of the library just to see. My Lord, I couldn’t make even one of those recipes.
BUT. He has now written a book for home cooks called Ad Hoc at Home. I am pretty sure I’m getting it for Christmas because Mark asked me twice how to spell Thomas Keller’s name. The other day I was listening to a podcast of the Splendid Table and there was Thomas Keller explaining how to make Potato Hash with Bacon and Melted Onions. Skillet potatoes! I know how to do that. Well, apparently I do not.
I got the recipe off the website and decided to give it a go tonight, minus the bacon because I was already going to fry some sausages for supper. I’m linking to it here because it is three pages long. For skillet potatoes!
The first thing I did was make the melted onions. These things are so worth the effort, but it takes about an hour and I had not budgeted my time very well. It was already 6:30 and I had a long way to go. I could just see Thomas Keller sneering at me. Rookie. So I pressed on.
The next thing is the potatoes and I learned a trick here. To get these perfect little half-inch cubes the recipe calls for Keller tells you to square off the potato and then cut the cubes. I’ll use this trick over and over.
So once you get the potatoes all diced up you have to cook them in oil. Thomas Keller says that they should be “tender and a rich golden brown.” They were tender. They were not a rich golden brown. He also says to line a baking sheet with paper towels and put a drying rack on top to put the potatoes on after they’re done. I did this, but apparently my drying rack is not up to T.K. standards because the potatoes just fell through the rack. Ditched the rack. I can feel T.K. sneering at me again, but I am but a humble home cook and I’m doing the best I can.
The next thing is to brown the potatoes in the grease from the bacon you have rendered if you followed the whole recipe. But I have T.K. beat here. I already have bacon grease because all good Southern cooks have a jar of it sitting around. The final step is adding thyme, salt and pepper.
It is now almost eight at night and I am exhausted trying to keep up with Thomas Keller. But I have to tell you, the potatoes were absolutely delicious. Here’s what I like about chefs like Thomas Keller who take the time to write a book for home cooks. Thomas Keller expects that we can do this. He knows that he’s asking a lot of us. Or maybe he doesn’t. But he doesn’t cut corners or give us stupid recipes for turkey burgers or ground beef slop. Tonight, I felt as though I’d stretched a bit as a cook.
I have grease stains all over my turtleneck. The cats are picking up stray potato cubes from the kitchen floor. But I went toe-to-toe with Thomas Keller and I didn’t blink.