One more Christmas cookbook -- sort of. James bought me Thomas Keller's new Ad Hoc cookbook for Christmas, but -- as often happens -- he couldn't wait and gave it to me early. So I got an extra Christmas and a little extra time to peruse TK's idea of family style meals.
It's a lot to jump into. The great chef obviously has time for perfection and an army of sous chefs, line cooks and commis ready to simmer his sauce and peel his asparagus.
I had planned to pan fry a few leftover slices of Christmas prime rib I tucked away (obviously this post waited a bit to publish) but Keller, along with the two bunches of asparagus in the fridge, kept calling my name. Asparagus with tomato bacon stew. Simple techniques and ingredients cook down for more than a hour to a rich sauce with just a hint of porky flavor.
First, lardons of slab bacon render (chalk up 30 minutes) and are set aside with about half of the released fat. To the remaining oil are added chopped leek, onion and garlic which cook until just soft -- 5 minutes or so -- then canned tomatoes (I admit it, I veered -- we had fresh so I ground them up and used them) which cook down for 45 minutes (an hour and 20 minutes and counting). Half of the resulting mixture is puréed and returned to the pan to cook down for 15 minutes more (now we're at an hour and 35 minimum). As a finish, the bacon is stirred in to warm through. While the sauce was finishing I trimmed and peeled (yes Keller says peel and so I peeled) the asparagus which was cooked in a wide sauté pan with the reserved bacon fat and a bit (3 TB) of chicken stock. After 6-7 minutes (well, we didn't quite hit two hours) the asparagus are tender but not soft with just a bit of delicate bacon flavor.
The sauce was rich and still fresh tasting and a nice change. I could see it would easily liven up a simple grilled halibut or other hearty fish. But the real revelation? Pan roasted peeled asparagus.
Will I be peeling asparagus every time? Probably not - although James did feign shock that it was my first time in spite of his obviously exalted, peeled stalk worthy station in life and at the dinner table. But for some special Sunday night (Ad Hoc at Home is a Sunday leisure time cookbook -- nothing to turn to for a bit of weeknight kitchen fun) I might give it another turn.
Now I am eyeing a vegetable bin full of carrots for Keller's Nante Carrot Stew . . . next time I have a spare couple hours.