The greatest work by one of the world's most renowned chefs—returns in paperback.
Spontaneous meals at home with friends form the foundation of this dazzling collection of recipes that are easy enough for novices yet so inspired they could be restaurant-worthy. The result of a rare sabbatical from this famed chef's 4-star kitchen, A Return to Cooking is "an unprecedented look at the creative process of one of the world’s best chefs" (Anthony Bourdain) as Eric Ripert prepares simple meals for friends in different locations, using ingredients at hand.
Expect to be enchanted by Eric's lack of pretense and his irrepressible joie—a chef who likes American mayonnaise and alphabet pasta, but can also lecture on subjects as diverse as the power of vinaigrette and the merits of Tabasco, shallots, and coconut milk. And every bit as fascinating is the bird's-eye view of the magic that occurs when decades of cooking experience coalesce with the forces of a chef's intuition.
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About the Author
Michael Ruhlman is the author of The Elements of Cooking, The Soul of a Chef, and The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, among others.
Eric Ripert is the co-author of the recently published On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin, and chef and part-owner of Le Bernardin, awarded four stars by The New York Times, three stars by the Michelin Guide, and rated best restaurant in New York by Zagat. He is a frequent guest on such national shows as Bravo's Top Chef, Today, Charlie Rose, Martha, and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. He has opened two new restaurants, 10 Arts in the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton and Westend Bistro in Washington, D.C. You can watch Eric Ripert in action on his forthcoming television show Avec Eric and on his Web site, www.aveceric.com.
Read an Excerpt
SHRIMP WITH FRESH COCONUT MILK, CALABAZA, AND AVOCADO
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced
One 1-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
1 kaffir lime leaf
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup coconut milk, fresh or canned
4 cilantro sprigs
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped scallion
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
36 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 medium calabaza squash (found in Latino markets; you can substitute butternut squash)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lime, halved
Prep: 35 minutes -- Cook: 35 minutes
To make the broth, melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir lime leaf and cook until tender; do not allow them to color. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
For the shrimp, combine the cilantro, scallion, ginger, and oil in a large bowl. Season the shrimp generously with salt, pepper, and the cayenne pepper and add to the bowl, tossing to coat the shrimp with the cilantro mixture. Place the shrimp on a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching one another, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Peel the squash with a chef's knife. Cut the squash into 1/2-inchcubes; you will need at least 60 cubes.
Combine the butter and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the squash dice, season with salt and pepper, and cook at a simmer until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Divide the squash cubes among six ovenproof soup bowls, leaving space to alternate with the avocado dice (which you will prepare just before serving). Set aside. (You can cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the shrimp, up to 3 hours.)
Preheat your oven to 350ªF. Remove the bowls from the refrigerator.
Shortly before serving (to prevent the avocado from browning), pit and peel the avocado. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and place 10 pieces in each of the prepared soup plates, alternating with the squash.
Place the shrimp in the oven for 4 minutes, or until just barely cooked. During the last minute of cooking, put the prepared soup bowls in the oven to heat.
Meanwhile, reheat the reserved sauce over medium heat.
To serve, place 6 shrimp in each bowl, to form a pinwheel. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the shrimp and squeeze the lime juice over all the bowls. Serve immediately.
POACHED PEARS WITH POIRE WILLIAM CARAMEL SAUCE
This is a delicious and easy dessert, especially if you have beautiful pears. At fancy ice cream cafes in France, poached pears, a quenelle of vanilla ice cream, and hot chocolate sauce is a common dessert. But Eric has put a caramel sauce with it, one flavored appropriately, even obviously, with pear brandy, and mixed pistachio nuts into the ice cream. Everything can be prepared as much as a day in advance.
3 cups sugar
6 cups water
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
12 small or 6 large pears
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup poire William (pear brandy)
1 pint good-quality store-bought vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Prep: 25 minutes -- Cook: 30 minutes
For the pears, place the sugar, water, and vanilla bean in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then lower the heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stems intact.
Add the pears to the simmering liquid. Cover with a circle of parchment paper to ensure even cooking and cook small pears for 15 minutes, large pears for 25 minutes, or until a small knife inserted in the bottom of a pear goes in with little resistance. Take the pan off the heat and cool the pears in the cooking liquid.
For the caramel sauce, heat the sugar over medium-high heat. Once the sugar melts, allow it to cook until it has a light caramel color. Take the caramel off the heat and add the heavy cream; be careful, the cream may sputter out of the pan. Stir to fully incorporate. Add the poire William and stir to combine.
To serve, place 2 small or 1 large pear on each dessert plate. Combine the ice cream and pistachios in a mixing bowl, stirring to mix. Place a scoop of ice cream next to the pear(s) on each plate. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the warm caramel sauce over the pears and ice cream, and serve immediately. (Refrigerate any remaining sauce for another time.)
SMOKED SALMON CROQUE-MONSIEUR
6 ounces Gruyere cheese
Twelve 1/2-inch-thick slices pullman bread (or good-quality white bread)
3/4 pound sliced smoked salmon
1 tablespoon Lemon Confit (below), cut into tiny dice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Prep: 20 minutes -- Cook: 5 minutes
Using a Japanese mandoline or a vegetable peeler, slice the Gruyere very thin.
Lay the bread slices out on a work surface. Place the Gruyere on 6 slices and the smoked salmon on the other 6 slices. Sprinkle the salmon with the lemon confit and chives. Close the sandwiches. Cut off the crusts, using a serrated knife. (You can make the sandwiches up to this point 2 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Spread the softened butter on both sides of the sandwiches. Heat two large nonstick saute pans over medium-high heat. Add 3 sandwiches to each pan, Gruyere side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn them over and cook for 1 minute longer.
To serve, slice the sandwiches in half on the diagonal, then in half on the diagonal again (to make 4 triangles), and arrange the triangles on a plate.
3 cups kosher salt
1-quart canning jar with tight-fitting lid
Prep: 15 minutes -- Curing: At least 1 month, preferable 3 months or more
Place the canning jar and lid in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them. Dry on a rack upside down.
Pour a layer of salt into the bottom of the jar. Cut 1 inch off one end of a lemon, then quarter the lemon, starting at the cut end, but leaving the uncut end intact. Open the lemon over a bowl and pour salt inside. Place the lemon in the bottom of the jar. Continue with the remaining lemons (use the remaining salt and the salt that falls into the bowl), packing them into the jar and covering each layer of lemons with salt. Seal the jar and refrigerate.
The lemons can be used after 1 month, but they are best after 3 months and will keep for up to a year.
To use the confit, cut the lemon quarters apart. Cut away all the flesh from the rind; discard the flesh. Use as directed in the individual recipe, or blanch briefly, dice or julienne, and add to salads, stews, or grain dishes.
Table of Contents
Summer: Sag Harbor
A Return to Cooking
How the Chef Becomes a Cook
The Power of the Vinaigrette
Soup or Sauce?
“Be a Chef and You Can Be Anything”
Winter: Puerto Rico
A Spiritual Journey
Flame for the Cooking Spirits
Cooking the Landscape
West Indies Improv
Like Turning on Ice
Puerto Rico Poissonier
Toward the Center of the Cook
Bounty, Beauty, and Vastness
The Obligations of Lunch
How Not to Cook
Raw (or Almost Raw)
The Cook as Pâtissier
The Craftman’s Hands…
The Source of Heat
The Return of the Chef
Close to the Fire
A Chef’s Process
New House, New Style
A Perfect Meal
When Cooking Achieves the Level of Art