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Photos by Deborah Jones

Ad Hoc at Home, Thomas Keller and company's latest cookbook has just been published and it is his most accessible and warmest book in that it presents food that is quintessentially American, meatballs and noodles, fried chicken, ice cream sandwiches and pineapple upside down cake.  It's also a book that should appeal especially to home cooks. Thomas speaks to what he thinks are the most important kitchen issues facing home cooks, such as how to organize your space, the tools that are important.

Ad Hoc at Home--Jacket As I was typing the last sentence, and generally trying to gather my thoughts, an email from Thomas dropped, congratulating everyone.  The book is number 7 on the New York Times bestseller list. Fifty-dollar fatties often dismissed as coffee table decor don't typically make that list. That says a lot about the book's immediate appeal!

Yes, I love the food in this book. The fried chicken recipe has changed the way I see all brines.  I love cool new techniques the Ad Hoc team has come up with, like the potato pavé (above); the potatoes are cut thin, cooked like scalloped potatoes, cooled and then cut into "pavés" that are fried on their sliced or crenelated side, making them especially crispy.

Writers for the LATimes and Wall Street Journal have been a tad churlish when they came across recipes that took them a long time [editorial intrusion.. LATimes food editor Russ Parsons took me to task in an email for my use of churlish; he's right—is he ever wrong?! not that I'm aware of! seriously!—churlish was indeed inexact...I was reacting not to the criticism so much as the notion that anything that takes time is ipso facto not home cooking, which is what the book bills itself as...this is the kind of thing that happens when there's no copy editor to ask questions of the writer, and I should have been more precise, thoughtful, etc., but this certainly has given me an idea for a future rant about quick and easy...]  Well, yes, some recipes do take time, even homey ones (and that time, I would add, is part of their deliciousness).  But there are others that are delicious and easier than you'd expect from Keller (such as marinated strip steak, cod with parsley, cornish hens, blueberry cobbler and apple fritters), because sometimes quick and easy is exactly what you want.

But what I want to do here, because I can, is to call attention to the non-Thomases who made this book happen who don't typically get much attention.  I'm thrilled that they put a group shot in the book, because these big books are truly group efforts.

David Hughes, of Level Design in St. Helena, is responsible for the cover illustration and the easy warm visual tone throughout the book.  He set a great stage for the photography and recipes.

P_275_grilled_asparagus-00504Dave Cruz is the chef de cuisine of Ad Hoc.  He's the one I worked most closely with when writing the headnotes for the recipes. He is an enormously thoughtful, curious, articulate chef—really impressive and I felt lucky to be working with him so closely.

Susie Heller is the woman who develops, tests and makes sure all the recipes work in book form, with her right arm, Amy Vogler; these two labored with Dave Cruz and Thomas and other chefs from Ad Hoc in Susie's home on every single recipe, a painstaking, critically important job.

And I never have the right words to completely describe the excellence Deborah Jones brings to the photography.  She always makes the point that it's her good fortune to work with such talented chefs.  True enough, but the chefs typically refer to her with the prefix "the amazing." Hard to disagree.

The French Laundry Cookbook was where it all began for me, and I'm nostalgic for that one, but this Ad Hoc at Home is surely the most valuable of Keller's cookbooks for the home cook. It's out of the park.

Picnic-04057 Here's the team—each one deserves individual congratulations.  Clockwise from the bottom left: in black, the amazing Deborah Jones, David Hughes the designer, Dave Cruz, Ad Hoc chef de cusine, Jeff Cerciello director of casual dining for Keller's restaurants (and lead chef on Bouchon), me, Amy Vogler, Thomas Keller, Susie Heller (and Thomas's dad's dog, Aussie).  No writer was ever more lucky than I to work with such pros.

More links:

Excellent NPR profile of Keller: "Skippy [peanut butter] is really that flavor profile I'm looking for"

Kim Severson's profile of Keller in the NYTimes, discussing his relationship with his dad, from whom he was estranged for years but with whom he shared a deep and affectionate relationship late in his dad's life.

(And if you're in Cleveland, don't forget to see Thomas at the Fabulous Food Show.  Thomas and I will be on stage for a conversation on food and cooking Friday at 7 pm.  I'll be back the following day to sing the gospel of Ratios, Saturday at 2:45, and Michael Symon will be doing food from HIS new book Saturday and Sunday.  See the complete schedule of all the chefs here.)

Update: Here's the video made by the publisher of Thomas talking about the kind of food that's in the book:

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28 Wonderful responses to “Ad Hoc At Home:
A NYTimes Bestseller?!”

  • Lynda

    I love the food and concept of Ad Hoc, and this book is a beauty. My bday is in a week and it’s the only thing I put on my list.

  • cable hdmi

    I love to cook for at free time. I am getting impressed by Ad Hoc Cookbook. I hope it will be comfortable, portable, easy to understand and more enjoyable. I am giving a party to my friends this weekend at my farmhouse. I was wondering about some new items to treat my friends with. I will surely try few from here and let you know.

  • *susan*

    I understand your strike-through, and appreciate your side bar. Does seem sad though since churlish is a word that we don’t get to use often in common conversation.

  • Darcie

    Gee, why didn’t you mention that Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee would be in CLE, too? :)

    I just got paid today, and since the economy needs stimulating, I think I’ll head to B&N and get Ad Hoc. After viewing the photos for the pave and thinking about what I can do with 20 lbs of potatoes I bought on sale, I think I know one thing I’ll be making this weekend.

  • luis

    Bro, I am still stuck with “Under Pressure”. So much there to learn and do…And most of all that is the type of food that is the holy grail of health.
    For a 30 min meal… I go to Rachel Ray.. I have Jacques Pepin fast food my way…and…it doesn’t grab me much so far. That is not to say I won’t pick up a copy of the latest Keller popular food book. Why not? The guy must have some killer recipes there.
    bottom line is…dog tired from work rising with the chickens as always and ready to cook.
    As a home cook my biggest problem these days is coming up with a flavor. You know.. the right spices the right dish.. apples and apples typething. To me this is just like Ratio. Something you could tackle in a methodical and scientific fashion. You want Louisiana…spice this!! Alabama..that… Tandori..this etc… for the home cook. Nothing you need to fly to other continents to collect… it’s what makes up a flavor and what doesn’t belong type of thing. Capish?

  • Wilma de Soto

    At last!

    A book, written by renown Chef Thomas Keller and and prize-winning food writer Michael Ruhlman, expressly to appeal to the “Home Cook”. Designed especially to put us forever more in our place well away from chefs.

    This book may also affect a great many cooks currently working in US restaurants.

    “NOT that there’s anything WRONG with that.”

    It’s great!

  • Kate in the NW

    This one’s getting mylar-ed (don’t know why I bother, as the inside will be completely grease-splattered and smudged, as it should be) and put on the counter right next to Bouchon, which still has the best roast chicken recipe in the known universe.

    Also – the idea that home cooks don’t cook things that take a lot of time?! Damn skippy we do. It is not the reviewers but WE who should be churlish. Also bearish, beastly, bitchy, cranky, cross, dour, fractious, huffy, irritable, ornery, severe, sharp, short, snappish, snippy, spiteful, spleeny, surly, testy, truculent and waspish.

    Hrumph! ;-)

  • Natalie Sztern

    Michael you never fail to send me to the dictionary: today with the word ‘churlish’ – with each book of yours I learn a new word, my first being ‘prosetylize’..(we all remember our first!)
    And I love the challenge I get reading you….Mr. Keller is mighty lucky he finally hooked his girlfriend cause she is one gorgeous looking gal.

    I have come to learn if you recommend it: It’s definitely good…ps after eating michael symon’s mac and cheese his name is getting bandied around here a lot

  • Victoria

    M.R.,

    I personally own two copies of this wonderful book – one for the city and one for the country. It isn’t exactly the kind of book you want to lug around, but it is EXACTLY the kind of book you want to read from cover to cover.

    And cook from.

    The fried chicken is almost ridiculous it’s so good. I have made it twice, cooking it in a pot with 6-inch-high sides, as suggested, which meant the peanut oil didn’t splatter all over the place. I bought a duplicate pot so I can have two of them going at once!

    Everyone should want to (1) come to my house for dinner, and (2) be on my Christmas list!

    Congratulations once again on a fantastic accomplishment.

  • Anthony

    Michael, love the site. Question, there are so many cookbooks out there today as food as become a superduper popular topic more now than ever, if you can have a library of only three cookbooks, which 3 would they be? It would defintely have to be something a home cook would love since that’s what I am. Thanks!

  • arnold | inuyaki

    I had that potato pave at Ad Hoc once. It was one of the most beautiful and delicious potato dishes I’ve ever had. I’m thinking of adding it to the Christmas menu.

    Also, great to see Chef Cruz is getting some pub too. He definitely deserves it.

    Anyway, I’m loving this book like everyone else. Thanks for all your work on it, Michael.

  • bob mcgee

    Really outstanding job, Michael, and team.
    Am waiting anxiously, with Momofuku in hand, fo Ad hoc to arrive. The potatoes as heavenly as the potato dominoes in 7fires. cheers

  • WineToMatch

    Can’t wait to pick up AH@H…it sounds particularly handy.

    Though I have to say I’ve always found the Keller tomes to be very useful. Not so much as a source of recipes to be followed to the letter, but as a place to find thoughtful notes on preparation and technique. When embarking on a new dish, I’ll often see if any of Keller’s books feature recipes in the same genre and use the instructions and notes to get me started with my own development of the dish.

    Congrats Michael!

  • RecollectedStephanie

    I too was charmed by the NPR interview – Keller has tapped into something so joyously, gorgeously, ebulliently human that I had to write about THAT aspect of his work. (But I’m buyin’ that cookbook.)

  • Amanda

    That picture is a photo of POTATOES!? I thought for sure it was some kind of awesome fish at first glance :) ha!

    Can’t wait to attend the FFS this weekend and get my own copy!

    woot!

  • Julie

    Congratulations! I love the book. Gotta admit: I do have it on my coffee table because it’s so pretty, but it’s already been splattered with aioli and chicken juice and the like, so it’s getting plenty of use. As I just opened my blogroll for my daily lunch reading, I happened to be enjoying a salad tossed with bleu cheese dressing from the Ad Hoc recipe… and that’s just one example of how I’ve made great little adjustments to my home kitchen thanks to this book.

  • Rhonda

    Michael,

    Congratulations to you, Chef Keller (who is my personal Hero), and the incredible team that brought this project to fruition.

    What a year you are having! How many books do you have on the bestsellers list right now? 5? 6?

    Well deserved.

  • Boonie

    Congrats to all on the book, Michael. Picked it up last week and have been totally thrilled with it. It’s great to see Keller with a smile on his face in the pics…like he’s REALLY enjoying the recipes. Highly recommended!!

  • carri

    I’ve had my copy of Ad Hoc a week now…it is a great book, totally deserving of it’s place on the best seller lists! Kellers interview on NPR was entertaining, but personally, I’m a JIF girl.