Every month, two cookbooks just published are submitted to my eyes as a non-expert cook: educational quality of the book, accessibility of recipes, aesthetics, diversity of ingredients and test of one of the recipes. Everything will pass there! I have never felt in alchemy with chemistry. When I was a child, I was offered a small chemist whose pyrex test tube did not resist my laboratory experiments. Since then, my cautious nature has seen fit to move away from any white coat, leaving it to those whose job it is to go and unravel the mystery of molecules. The school did not reconcile me with this discipline but it at least taught me that I had to take gloves with chemistry, and especially never put my fingers there. You think that under these conditions, it was impossible for me to even imagine eating it. We don't do an entire education, so molecular cuisine has as many attractions for me as a sign announcing the presence of nuclear radiation. Ferran Adrià is considered by many to be one of the best chefs in the world. But he is above all one of the leaders in molecular cuisine, which made any fusion between him and me impossible. I had made a reason for myself on Ferran Adrià, realizing that I was perhaps missing something but considering that I preferred to miss something than to pass through something especially if it was a pyrex glass. And then came this family meal, Cooking at home with Ferran Adrià book by Phaidon editions. Was I going to take this risk? Knowing the importance of family among the Spanish, I deduced that Ferran Adria had to take tweezers for this work and that I was therefore not going to endanger my whole family by following its recipes. So I took the risk, I bought it.
Family meal is not a family meal, at least as I understand it: children bawling their pittance, husband tackling the cutting of chicken, mother-in-law reminding that she "does not do that but it 'you see' and great-uncle putting the concept of napping at the table into practice. We forget that cooks have only one life: that of kitchens. In fact their family does not have the same blood but shares the work of the same flesh. These Family Meals are therefore those that Ferran Adrià shared with all of his staff at El Bulli, his restaurant. This book begins with a chapter that explains its origin: every day the kitchens had to serve a full meal for the 75 people who worked there, with a tight schedule and budget. From the first pages, you will feel pleasantly guided and advised: you will be given the essential bases for designing family menus and tips to organize and prepare you. The following chapter concerns the basic recipes for making sauces like romesco or pesto and broths. I know in advance that I would not start today in the house fish stock but I like the idea of having the recipe, to know that one day may be ... And then everyone agrees to say that the broth is the base, it does not hurt to remember. Then come the meals, 31 menus each consisting of a starter, a main course and a dessert. Then we close this work with a glossary and a well thought-out index since it incorporates both the ingredients and the recipes.
Phaidon is a publishing house better known for its affordable works of art, but it has recently (at least in France) broadened its horizons to cookbooks, including the famous La Cuillère argent. As it is not to an old monkey that one learns to make a face, it is not to a publishing house of works of art that one learns to make food photography. On Repas de famille, there will inevitably be a difference of opinion on the staging: some will find the graphic aspect old-fashioned and completely outdated, others delightfully old-fashioned and furiously vintage. Both will be right: the photos of Family Meals do not follow the codes of modern culinary photography. But it is obvious that the thing is wanted, bringing to the surface of our memories the cooking works of our grandmothers who showed in pictures how to reverse engineer a pigeon or prepare its sweetbreads.
The choice of ingredients
If we put aside the French and the Portuguese, the big neighbors of the Spanish are the fish! Many menus follow the codes of Catalan and Spanish cuisine, so there is a strong Mediterranean influence that emerges and the fish are tasted in a thousand and one ways: cod stew, sesame sardines, mackerel with vinaigrette or Japanese sea bream. You will have noticed that the Japanese sea bream has a more than distant relationship with the Mediterranean and Spain but when you have the most famous restaurant in the world, you come from all over the world to work there. To satisfy these international appetites, Family Meals takes the best of each country and takes a tour of the culinary world (teriyaki pork belly, Mexican rice, couscous quails and even cheeseburger) even if we always land in Spain (Catalan cream, Catalan turkey and chocolate and olive oil toast). In this regard, plan a few cans of olive oil, they will not be too much!
Family meal by Ferran Adrià presents his recipes using a photographic step-by-step process. In other words, for each step, a photo will tell you what to do. The recipes do not save photos since we can even admire the cooking of butter or drained pasta. If it may seem superfluous for some, for my part I totally agree with this type of presentation: it allows me to note that I have not minced my onions correctly or that my meat still needs to grill a little. For each menu, you will first have a double page presenting all the ingredients (see photo above) as well as a chronological bar to give you an idea of the organization to adopt before the meal. For the recipes, which generally take up a double page (see photo below), the book gives the quantities of ingredients necessary for 2, 6, 20 and 75 people. As I do not intend to have 73 children, the ingredients for 75 people seem superfluous but Ferran Adrià recalls that at the beginning this book was designed for restaurateurs and their brigade, then he wanted to then send to individuals, hence this particularity. By cons, providing the list of ingredients for 2 and 6 people is a great help, cooking is not a matter of mental calculation. And it is not because we have a recipe for 2 people that it is enough for example to multiply by 3 the quantity of spices for a meal of 6 people. As often, the details make the difference and in Repas de famille, this detail is proof of the author's real commitment to facilitate family cooking: no frills, no bling-bling but essentials.
To test Repas de famille, I wanted to pay tribute to the international staff of El Bulli and so I composed a menu with a German potato salad, an Italian osso-buco and a Spanish Catalan cream. Even if the book consists of 31 menus already written, Ferran Adrià invites us to make our own menus by going to dip in one or the other, so I only made it to my stomach. Thanks to the timeline given at the start of each menu, I knew exactly what time I should start cooking. So I had an appointment at nine o'clock in my kitchen this Sunday morning. I see that some people turn pale, but you have to admit the fact that you don't cook grandma by frying the ingredients for 5 minutes in a pan. So I started with the Catalan cream which had to have time to cool down to be served. From the start, the photographic step by step was essential. You must indeed whip the cream on the fire for ten minutes until it is thick. When you don't have a photo in front of you, the notion of thick is finally rather vague: my spoon must stand alone in it? Must it be thick-liquid or thick-thick? When you are an amateur cook, not sure of yourself, it is usually during similar stages that you miss your dish. Assisted by the photo, we know exactly what texture we have to achieve and we no longer take time into account: you may need to whisk 12 minutes rather than 10 but at least the Catalan cream will have the desired consistency. 2:30 before the meal, I had to take care of the osso buco. This recipe required tomato sauce which is part of the basic recipes given at the beginning of the book. So I started by making my own tomato sauce by frying a can of crushed tomatoes with garlic, onions, salt, pepper and sugar in olive oil, then filtering it through a fine strainer. It is not complicated, it does not take much time but as I was proud to have made my own tomato sauce! To finish my osso buco I did as for the Catalan cream: I remained very attentive to the photos, to ensure the size of the diced carrots, the cooking of the veal shanks and the evaporation of the white wine . Finally I finished with the starter, which is a potato salad with mayonnaise, pickles, capers, pieces of sausage and chives. I only found it unfortunate that the book does not give the mayonnaise recipe because in the real guide it lacks this basic recipe. On the other hand, I who usually make my potato salad with "raw" mayonnaise, I loved the idea of mixing my mayonnaise with whole liquid cream, it then becomes less thick, more creamy and softened. I would never make my potato salad again like before.
In the end it is true that I spent my whole morning in the kitchen but in a serene atmosphere, without any stress or worry. If I had any doubts, I immediately referred to the photos and I reassured myself by comparing what I saw in the book and in my pans. I felt helped and supported which had the effect of making his three hours of cooking very pleasant, without any moment of solitude. What about the family? There comes the final blow when, at noon, you bring your dishes to the table, you are asked for bread to sauce, you pass the plates a second time, you lick your fingers, you scrapes directly into the dish, you are told "Thank you mom, it was too good" and you say "Thank you Ferran, it was too good"!
Do you like to cook? Buy it. Do you want to learn to cook? Buy it. You don't like to cook? Buy it anyway. In short, buy Ferran Adrià's Family Meal! Family meal, Ferran Adrià, Phaidon, 352 pages, € 24.90