Thomas Keller is one of my culinary heroes so I was ecstatic when I heard that a cookbook inspired by his restaurant ad hoc was being released. The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon are two of my favorite cookbooks and I was very much looking forward to see what Thomas Keller’s definition of simple, family-style food is. ad hoc at home is indeed miles simpler than the other books, but every bit as good. ad hoc really showcases Keller’s philosophy of featuring and maximizing every ingredient.
I don’t believe I have ever cooked with fennel until tonight, although I will admit that I once had a fennel bulb sit in my crisper drawer for several weeks after never roasting it as intended for a Thanksgiving dinner. Tonight’s dinner was braised crispy chicken thighs with fennel, olives, and lemon from the ad hoc at home book.
Making the chicken was easy, as expected. It started with sweating onions and garlic, adding fennel batons, Ascolane olives, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, thyme, and bay leaves. White wine, chicken stock, and previously browned chicken thighs were added to the pan and braised briefly in the oven. After the chicken was cooked, I turned on the broiler to get a beautiful crispy, browned skin on the chicken.
This is a good example of how the sum is greater than the parts of a dish. Relatively simple ingredients came together to make a complex, comforting meal. The crispy skin combined with poultry, salty and slightly bitter olives and lemon zest, and anise from the fennel to make delicious dish.
I whole heartedly recommend ad hoc at home to anybody for not only simple recipes, but also as a study on how to showcase every ingredient to its full potential.