I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about cooking from Daniel Boulud's recently released cookbook, Daniel: My French Cuisine. Daniel is, after all, a fine dining restaurant cookbook—most of the recipes in the main section of the book is contains at least 3 separate recipes, if not 5, 7, or even 10. It appears to be a book in the spirit of The French Laundry or perhaps Alinea, calling for gums, starches, and equipment that I'd probably never use more than once. Truffles and caviar are abundant.
Yet once I found a few recipes that required only a trip to the grocery store and butcher shop and got down to the actual cooking and eating of things, I changed my tune. Yes, many of the recipes are time-consuming and exacting in their process. Yes, I spend the better part of a day preparing a ceviche. But the process was surprisingly gratifying, and a fun reminder that I can prepare technical, challenging food if I want to. And, most importantly, each dish tasted pretty awesome, and none of the garnishes I spent so much time slicing and picking felt extraneous.
Daniel Boulud is justifiably famous for giving a fresh, modern face to high-end French cuisine, and his cookbook reflects this culinary point of view. Not only does it include an array of technical recipes from the cookbook, but it also has a totally fun and whimsical chapter penned by Bill Buford detailing the two and half weeks they spent recreating some of the more bombastic French classics like turbot soufflé and canard à la presse. At the back of the book is a collection of Boulud's homier dishes, food that he prepares for his family and at smaller dinner parties. These recipes are far more casual—think roasts, salads, and rustic vegetable sides—but they're not exactly weeknight fare.
There are a few ways to approach Daniel. If you've got the free time, access to a good grocery store, and a good collection of sharp knives, try making some of the restaurant dishes start to finish. They are undeniably rewarding. If you're feeling a little less ambitious, pick and choose elements from the dishes to make on their own. Boulud's braised short ribs and his sweet potato purée are both going into my regular rotation. And if you're entertaining, consider the recipes in the final section of the book. These offer a fun peek at Boulud's style without requiring too much technical skill.
This week, we'll make three recipes from Daniel. First, we'll try that aforementioned ceviche with bay scallops and blood oranges. Next, we'll prepare a modern take on salade Lyonnaise, with simmered leeks and a six-minute egg. For our final dish, we'll prepare an epic duo de boeuf with those tasty short ribs and a seared peppery tenderloin.
Win 'Daniel: My French Cuisine'
Thanks to the kind folks at Grand Central Publishing, we have five (5) copies of Daniel: My French Cuisine to give away this week. All you need to do for a chance to win is to tell us about the most challenging dish you've cooked in the comments section below.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.