Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some Thomas Keller catch-up

Remember A Perfect Storm? New England fishermen who earn a living on pitching boats in freezing sleet are the kind of people who should eat a soup made of butter, potatoes, slab bacon, and rivers of cream. Those are the people for whom Boston clam chowder -- a truly bonkers dish, when you think about it -- was invented. Not for the likes of me.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate it. As you would expect, Thomas Keller's chowder was sensational -- rib-sticking, smoky-sweet, packed with clams. It also required 11 cooking vessels, plus a parchment lid and a conical strainer. Keller cooks ingredients separately: leeks in one skillet; shallots and clams, in another; a pan to crisp the bacon; yet another to boil the potatoes. Then you cool the potatoes on a tray. Keller often calls for cooling things on trays. I sigh. I feel slovenly. But there's just not room on the counter of my kitchen to cool things on trays. There's not room in my sink to wash the trays, or in my drainer to dry them. I mean, I can make room, but it's a hassle. I remain skeptical that this book belongs in the home kitchen.

Anyway, to garnish the chowder, I made Keller's soup crackers, which were tedious to cut out and ultimately ridiculous. 
I just typed that snotty sentence while eating leftover soup crackers. They are delicious. I still don't think soup crackers are worth the effort. Do I?

Some other dishes we've cooked out of Ad Hoc:

-Sweet potato and lentil soup. Again with the trays, but what fantastic soup. "I don't usually like lentils," said Isabel, as she devoured her soup. "I don't usually like soup!" said Owen, as he devoured his. Highly recommend. 

-Chocolate chip cookies
Isabel is trying to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie and has been testing recipes for the last few weeks. The other day she tackled Keller's, which calls for chopping up two different strengths of dark chocolate then fastidiously sifting out and discarding the cocoa dust. We liked these cookies fine, but there was too much chocolate, not enough distinction between chunk and cookie to put them at the top of our ranking.

Incidentally, here are the interim results of Isabel's testing, listed by the source of recipe:

1. Cakewalk by Kate Moses (Robust cookies flavored with espresso powder, irresistible and possibly unbeatable.)
2. Baking by Dorie Greenspan (The classic -- but better.) 
3. Toll House (The classic.)
4. Ad Hoc at Home
5. Joy of Cooking, 1975 (Thin, pale, unimpressive.)

If you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie, Isabel is looking for more recipes to try.

23 comments:

  1. Hi! I am a Tipsy Baker lurker, but as soon as I saw your chocolate chip cookies, I thought "they need to try my favorite!"
    Here is a link to them: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Best-Big-Fat-Chewy-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie/Detail.aspx
    Be sure to make them big (like 250 calories/each-big). Soooo good! Hope you enjoy them!
    Wendi

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  2. I LOVE your blog and have been reading it ever since I saw your article on Slate about buying vs. making yogurt, granola, etc.

    It feels kind of wrong that my first comment relates to chocolate chip cookies (instead of letting you know that my thoughts were with you and your family throughout the beautiful posts about your mother), so hopefully my condolences are better late than never.

    David Lebovitz's chocolate chip cookies are delicious, and he just recommended using ALL the chocolate bits and dust and goodness in this post:

    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2010/05/chocolate_chip_cookies_ready_for_dessert.html

    I got the recipe from here (although it calls for regular ol' chips):

    http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000158.html

    And your goat is adorable.

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  3. You have to try the famous NYT best chocolate cookie recipe. I first heard about it on Splendid Table. The secret ingredient is salt. The secret tip is to let the dough sit for a few days before baking. Also, they say that a warm cookie will always beat a cold cookie, so be sure that Isabel compares cookies at the same temperature. These were a hit for me.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

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  4. I have to admit that my absolute most favorite New England Clam Chowder is the one they serve at Soup Plantation. It aways tastes as good as I remember it. Low brow, I know!

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  5. Adore your voice; thanks for keeping me entertained. This is the first time I've been compelled to comment because I too am forever in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. For a while, my fave was the NYTimes recipe (posted by another reader), but this one from Cook's Illustrated has eclipsed it:

    http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=19364

    But my favorite tip I like to share is the importance of using good chocolate; Nestle morsels suck, frankly. I go for Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking chips. The best!

    Charlotte

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  6. I will second the recommendation for the David Lebovitz ready for dessert chocolate chip cookie. I noticed that one person commented with a link to the 101 Cookbooks recipe. They are both Dsvid Lebovitz recipes, but they are totally different. The Ready for Dessert one is much better.

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  7. Azure, I just have to weigh in. I made those NYT best-chocolate-chip-cookies-ever a few times. Loved them. Loved the salt. Was astounded by the way they just didn't seem to go stale (was it the cake flour?) and retained their goodness for days, without having to go in the freezer. And they look so professional, like cookies you pay $3 each for.

    I brought them to my friend Kate's house at some point, feeling very proud. Kate is the author of Cakewalk and the person whose cookies are ranked #1 with Isabel. (I can't wait to send her this link!) At this point in our friendship, Kate hadn't written Cakewalk and I didn't know about HER cookies. She tasted the NYT ones and seemed to me to not be particularly impressed. I tried not to be hurt as she is a woman who ALWAYS tells me she likes my cooking. Her only comment was that she thought the salt was a little "precious."

    Huh. Precious? I sensed that she knew more than I. I sensed a master. So when I first read her early draft for Cakewalk that was the first recipe I tried. I have NOT GONE BACK TO THE NYT RECIPE SINCE. A whole year of these awesome cookies. In fact as I write this I am looking at the half dozen or so I have left from my last batch, telling myself that it is far too late to eat a cooki.....

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  8. Chocolate chip cookie threads are always fascinating. Everyone is passionate about their favorite, and there are often stories behind them, like Mary P.'s. Then there is the chewy versus crisp debate. And the kind of chocolate and whether it's chips or chunks or feves.

    I've tried all the cookies mentioned in this thread so far, except the Cakewalk version, and like them all OK, though the New York Times/Jacques Torres recipe makes too much, and like Cakewalk Kate I find it a bit precious, not for the salt but for using equal parts cake and bread flours. If you tally up the protein content of those two flours you'll wind up with the protein content of all-purpose flour, so why not just use that and simplify things?

    Anyway, my go-to CCC is Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cook's Illustrated, circa 1996 and collected in "The New Best Recipe" (p. 777). It's almost identical to the one Wendi above recommends on AllRecipes.com. In fact, the All Recipes version is CI's, minus two tablespoons of flour (for those who use scales, CI lists it as 10 5/8 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour), and also minus CI's rather fussy but interesting shaping method, in which you take a dough ball, tear it in half and reform it so that the top surface is jagged, which gives a nice craggy texture. ("Smitten Kitchen" posted her own adaptation of All Recipes' CI adaptation -- so much for intellectual property.) BTW, the CI cookie Charlotte mentions is from a 2009 issue of the magazine and is called Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, and is almost identical to the earlier one, except it uses all brown sugar as well as browned butter -- all of which makes it a bit too rich for what I look for in a CCC.

    At any rate, if you don't have the CI book, it is posted on Recipezaar under the name Chocolate Chip Cookies (at least they credit CI even if they don't name it correctly).

    And you could always encourage Isabel to create her own CCC a la Ratio -- approximately equal parts flour, butter, and sugar by weight, plus the trimmings.

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  9. I recently won a chocolate cookie bake-off with the Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe out of David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Chocolate.

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  10. since i'm trying not to eat or think about chocolate chip cookies, do you think mr. keller would mind if you shared the basic information about his sweet potato & lentil soup. not his beautiful prose about how to cook it, just the ingredients and basic process?

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  11. Thank-you all for these recipes! Isabel has gone through them and will try them all, in order. And I AM going to encourage her to develop her own favorite cookie. She already made the Cakewalk cookies with white whole wheat flour and liked them better that way. She's a crunchy girl. She may not actually be my daughter.
    To anonymous who asked about the sweet potato soup recipe: http://dineomite.blogspot.com/2009/11/lentil-and-sweet-potato-soup.html

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  12. Oh, hungry now. For whole wheat, I use the Cook's Ill. rule of thumb and sub in 1/3 of the total amount of AP flour.

    I have ad hoc, but am returning it to the library uncooked from; I've got too much going on to tackle his recipes right now, no matter how delicious.

    My go-to chocolate chip recipe was from Pam Anderson (the cook, not the blond) in USA weekend, which used to be available online and I wrote out here:

    http://www.girldetective.net/?p=1523

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  13. My dear Tipsy,
    Please dig through the recipe cards you inherited from your grandmother and provide Isabel with her peerless formula for chocolate chip cookies.

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  14. My personal favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe... should delight children, parents and goats alike. http://anotherfrakingfoodblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/oatmeal-macaroons.html

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  15. How do homemade crackers compare to the oyster crackers you can buy in the grocery store? I may be shallow, but I think they are fine and very good in soup. I hesitate to make homemade versions of things that seem fine as is. Your thoughts?

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  16. My favorite chocolate chip cookie is from Christopher Kimball's "Dessert Bible." I don't think it's the same as the Cook's Illustrated recipe. He uses butter AND Crisco, for flavor and texture. I have to admit I do use Cook's Illustrated's insane technique of making a ball of dough, splitting it in half, then putting it back together with the jagged edges up. Now I'm eager to try Kate Moses's recipe, though.

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  17. I can't wait to hear the results! I vote to make Isabel your first guest blogger.

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  18. Try Canadian cooking personality Anna Olson's Chocolate Chip Cookies. They have something special in them to make them soft and chewy. Our favorite!

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  19. Karen -- I am with you. They're better than oyster crackers you buy in the store, but how much do I really care about excellent oyster crackers? The ones from the store are fine.
    J

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  20. Myabe it's the new england blood in me, but i find the original TollHouse cookie absoutely delicious. sometimes other recipes are just too over the top - too rich..
    it seems to me that chocolate chip cookies are very subject to the weather..the dampness?dryness of the air changes the cookies. they are cetainly in the long run the best cookie ever.....

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  21. boredinspanish a.k.a thanksalot5/19/10, 10:51 AM

    thanks i will be sure to try all of your suggestions!

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  22. Yum! All of these comments are making me crave cookies. Just wanted to throw another one into the mix: my favorite is the recipe on the back of the Hershey's chocolate chips bag.

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  23. I love the movie called A Perfect Storm, it was the first movie that I watched with my song, It was 5 or 6 years ago.. I think that your information is so interesting! thanks for sharing!22dd

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