Fooling around with Thomas Keller
“I feel like I’m married to Thomas Keller,” I said to Mark after an eleven-hour day cooking from Ad Hoc. “You’re not married to Thomas Keller,” he said. “You’re just fooling around with him.”
This is Thomas Keller. He runs several restaurants, including the family-style Ad Hoc. He is universally considered the best chef in the world…in the world. And he wrote a book for home cooks. So I was more than excited when I got it for Christmas.
But the man is killing me. Killing me! The first thing I wanted to make was beef short ribs. But in order to make the beef short ribs, you really must make beef stock because store bought wouldn’t really do the dish justice. So yesterday I made beef stock according to Thomas Keller. This required, first, an early morning trip to the farmer’s market in freezing cold for beef bones because where else can you even find beef bones? The recipe says they should be meaty. I don’t know if these were or not but they were the only beef bones within 150 miles of Nashville.
So I get the beef bones home and put them in the oven to roast. This takes about an hour, during which my oldest friend, Stacy, calls from Chicago. We commiserate about our two sons going off the college next year and the fact that we are not ready to cut those apron strings. Just a few short years ago, when we had to bribe them with M&Ms to go Number Two in the potty, were were more than willing to let them go. But now, we’re not so sure. While I am talking to Stacy, I am cradling the phone on my shoulder as I repeatedly turn the bones to achieve a uniform, dark color as steam gushes from the oven.
I, of course, haven’t read ahead in the recipe and realize that it calls for using both a conical strainer and cheesecloth. I have neither of these. So after the bones brown and I have them simmering away in a huge pot (never boil stock or it will become cloudy, heaven forbid), I run to the mall in search of strainer and cheesecloth. On the day after Christmas. What an idiot.
I secure said strainer and cloth from Williams-Sonoma in exchange for Noah’s first semester of tuition in college. It is now about 2 p.m. The recipe calls for simmering the stock for five hours, then adding the aromatic vegetables and simmering it for another hour. And, bear in mind, this is just one ingredient for another recipe.
So, here’s the stock simmering away. I will admit I did get a good long session of Farm Town in while I was waiting the six hours for the stock to be done. Finally, it was time to turn off the stove because you have to let the stock rest. I can assure you that by this time I was more pooped than the stock.
Ta-da! Here it is. Strained twice through the platinum strainer and designer cheesecloth. By now, it is eight o’clock at night. I started this at nine in the morning. Thomas Keller is killing me. This is not home cooking. But I did realize as I labored through this that I learned at least three techniques I’ll use a lot in my cooking. And maybe that’s the real lesson here. Plus, I got enough stock for the short rib recipe with some left over for other uses.
I freeze it in increments of one cup in freezer bags. And realize after all this that I’m not even hungry. I eat some cheese and crackers. I’m sure Thomas Keller is dining on those short ribs right now and he’s not even giving me a second thought. How cruel.