Cook the Book: 'On the Line'

20090223ontheline.JPGYou’d think that a chef with three Michelin stars would guard his secrets. But Eric Ripert, with Christine Muhlke, has written the restaurant equivalent of a tell-all memoir—well, minus the sordid love affairs. The establishment in question is Le Bernardin, the phenomenally successful fish restaurant now in its 23rd year; the book is On the Line.

The sweeping narrative takes you all the way from the front of the house to the back of the pantry, providing “day in the life” timetables for everyone from the porter (“8:41 a.m.—Sorts and smells squid, turning plastic gloves inky”) to the pastry cook (“10:30 .a.m—One hundred dozen petits fours are finished for lunch.”) Dishes are described in detailed play-by-plays (“1:37:54—Flips fish”), kitchen jargon decoded (“Giuliani” is slang for “julienne"), and enormous quantities of raw ingredients recorded (250 pounds of butter and 500 pounds of black bass a week).

And then there are the recipes, more than 40, straight from Le Bernardin’s kitchen—scaled down but in no way simplified, for the home cook. We’ll be posting one of Ripert’s dishes every day this week, from meaty braised halibut with asparagus and wild mushrooms and filler-free crab cakes with Dijon mustard emulsion to an Asian-influenced tuna tartare “sandwich." Come back, too, for pastry chef Michael Laiskonis's dark chocolate, peanut, and caramel tart.

The dishes are pretty heavy on the mise-en-place, but are as rewarding as they are challenging. —Michele Humes

Win 'On the Line'

Courtesy of Artisan Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of On the Line. In the comments below, just tell us your favorite way to prepare or eat seafood.

Contest will end and comments will close at 3 p.m. ET, Monday, March 2, 2009. One entry per community member. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.