Cook the Book: 'The Family Meal'

20111003-family-meal.jpgBefore elbulli shut its doors back in July, it was arguably the most important and influential restaurant in the world. Reservations were made years out for a dinner at the famed restaurant in Roses, Spain.

And while much has been written about dining at elbulli, the public knows relatively little about what went on behind the scenes. For instance, has anyone ever stopped and thought about what Ferran Adrià's 75 employees sat down and ate before the restaurant opened for service each night? It might be fun to imagine the staff chowing down on Olive Spheres and Hot Cold Gin Fizzes, but in reality things were a little tamer and a lot more practical for the home cook.

The Family Meal is Adrià's latest cookbook, and it's quite a departure from his previous titles. The title conjures up warm images of families convening around the dinner table, but that's not quite what this cookbook is about.

This is a book about what the most famous chef in the world and his staff ate for dinner. Those who have worked in restaurants will immediately recognize 'family meal' as something a little different. Family or staff meal is the pre-service dinner that all members of staff sit down to together and enjoy just before the restaurant's doors open for dinner, and even at a place like elbulli.

The bill of fare is simpler and more comforting that you might expect, with nary a foam (well, OK, maybe one foam) or pair of tweezers in sight. The menus in The Family Meal served to nourish and satisfy the staff of elbulli, and in turn the cookbook is meant to do the same for its readers' families, whether they are related by blood or by restaurant kitchen.

Unlike other books about elbulli, The Family Meal is written as an approachable reference for home cooks, made up of beautifully photographed three-course menus served at the restaurant, pantry stocking and technique tips, and ideas for incorporating Adrià's methods for brining the efficiency, organization, and preparedness found in restaurant kitchens into the home. Each recipe is set up with step by step process photos ensuring that the cook will be able to follow along visually. As an added bonus each menu can be prepared for 2, 6, 20 or 75 people and is prefaced with a complete shopping list and timetable outlining prep time.

This week we're going to be cooking our way though a few of the menus in The Family Meal, from Spanish classics like Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms and Catalan-Style Turkey to international crowd pleasers including Cheeseburgers (can you believe that they had cheeseburgers before service at elbulli?!?) and Adrià's take on simple Roasted Chicken.

Win 'The Family Meal'

Thanks to the generous folks over at Phaidon, we are giving away five (5) copies of The Family Meal this week.

All you have to do is tell us about the sort of meals that you imagine chefs and restaurant employees eating before service in the comments section below.

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