The French Laundry Cookbook
I originally bought the cookbook when I spotted it at Costco around fall/winter of 2010. At that point, I’ve heard of The French Laundry and know of its status in the culinary world, but didn’t really understand what was so special, so I got the cookbook mostly as a coffee table book with nice pictures.
As I flipped through the book, all the recipes looked daunting in comparison to anything I’ve done up to that point. All the recipes I’ve tried before were filled with shortcuts to get an end product as fast as possible. It was scary opening a cookbook and seeing a recipe list a few items, such as a stock, as ingredients, along with references to other pages in the book for instructions on making those from scratch. It wasn’t just the fact that almost everything is made from scratch that caused me pause, but there just seemed to be so many steps refining each component that goes into a dish. All the refinement almost seemed pointless to me, and thus I never took the cookbook as a real cookbook. It seemed like only the extremely lucky would get to eat this food, and the extremely talented would be able to cook it. I eventually moved to a new apartment, and my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook stayed in a box inside a storage closet.
This all changed this summer. My friend invited me to join him for a meal at Urasawa when I visited Los Angeles in July. I was able to see the craftsmanship and attention to detail that contributes to each course in person and experience the end result. The sushi really stood out to me. The balance of flavor and the just-right density of the sushi rice just worked so well for each of the sushi courses. Yes, the items placed on top of the sushi rice were exquisite, but Hiro and Ken could have put almost anything on top of that rice and the end result would still be amazing.
The seed was planted in my head. Amazing food isn’t just about the individual ingredients on the plate, but how they are put together. And I wanted to see what else is out there. I started reading more about food online and talking with my friend about other restaurants to try in the future. I then remembered that I have a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook, and dug it out. Suddenly the recipes made a lot more sense. The goal is to make every component that goes into a dish as perfect as possible. I then searched online for “french laundry at home” to find other people’s experiences with the recipes, and stumbled upon Carol Blymire’s blog “French Laundry At Home”. The post that Carol wrote after cooking every dish in The French Laundry Cookbook was extremely inspiring and has a list of great first recipes to try. I decided that this is where I’m going to start my gastronomic adventure.