Saturday, January 29, 2005


I was planning on writing something about the crop of wonderful French cookbooks that were published in the last year. But then I received the Bouchon cookbook and quickly realized it warranted it's own review. It is a celebration of bistro food, but it is not just another bistro cookbook.

Having eaten at both the French Laundry and Bouchon, I believe that one of the things that make dining at any of Thomas Keller's restaurants such a pleasure is the perfection. The service is perfect. The food is perfect. You may not love every dish, but you are unlikely to find real fault either. Reading Bouchon is a sneak peek into the world of Thomas Keller as much as it is a peek into a bistro kitchen. So the Bouchon cookbook is a little bit of perfection too. It is a huge oversized format 340 page book that is very well written. It features gorgeous photography, wonderful essays about various elements of bistro cooking, discussions on various ingredients as well as techniques and recipes, of course. My only criticism is that this is a book you may not want to actually bring into the kitchen for fear of defacing it!

Eating in bistros in France you get a chance to discover how truly great simple food can be. Really it's the techniques that bring out the perfection in everyday ingredients. But if you want to know how Thomas Keller elevates simple dishes like roast chicken or potato leek soup to the point of perfection, this is the book for you. While most of the techniques are very traditional, you will also find the little touches that distinguish the Keller kitchen such as the salt mixture he uses in duck confit or the herbs or spices he uses to bring out the best in simple vegetables like cauliflower or fennel. While not every recipe may appeal to the home cook, there are plenty of recipes that have potential to become standards in your kitchen.