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"French Laundry" cookbook errata ?


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Has anyone found any outright errors in the French Laundry cookbook ? Any idea if there is a published list of errors ?

Some friends and I are cooking a meal composed entirely from dishes from the French Laundry cookbook. I've spent most of my weekend practicing the first of my dishes, chestnut agnolotti with a celery root sauce. The sauce calls for 3 cups of cream, which I added, but it seems waaaaaay too much: the flavour of the cream dominates completely. I'm going to try it again with a lot less cream (maybe 1/3 cup ?) and see how it turns out.

Another dish I'm doing is the truffle custard with chive chip. To make the chip, you slice the potato really thin, sandwich a chive chip between two slices, and then bake the chip with some clarified butter between two silpats at 275. A friend of mine tried this and the chips wouldn't brown, so he looked it up in McGee, who clearly states that caramelization doesn't take place at any significant rate below 310 degrees.

So what's the story ? Any of you tried either of these recipes, or found errors in the book ? Suggestions ? Anyone dare me to call the French Laundry and ask for Chef Keller ?

Update: I just made the celery root sauce again, this time using 1/3 cup + a splash of cream. Looks (and tastes) much better.

- S

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Fish--I haven't made the potato chip, but it is derivative of something Ferran Adria has done at El Bulli for many years. He has pushed this to the next level--drying chips of various vegetables/spices/nuts into powders to concentrate them--sprinkling these powders onto silpats and then baking them off in between two silpats. Think about it this way: anything will brown or take color in an oven, it's just a question of how long it takes and at what temperature. Meringues will dry out overnight in an oven with the pilot light on but if you rush it, say at 200 F, you risk turning the white meringue into a light beige.

Trying your flat potato/herb sandwich tuiles at 300 or 325 shouldn't be a problem--unless the added heat might discolor the herb in the process.

Some basic caveats, apologies if you are all experienced cooks--did you see the chips your friend sliced and cooked? Was a mandoline used for very thin slices? Can you vouch for your friend's actual oven temperature and that the oven was pre-heated?

You may be correct in that the recipe might actually be 275 in a convection oven, which would be roughly the equivalent of 325 in a conventional radiant heat oven at home--and that this was not converted.

But like anything, it is just a recipe and as a cook, for many/most things, recipes just aren't that important in the grand scheme of things.

So, make sure the potato slices are thin, turn the oven up a bit, and check after 20 minutes.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Actually, it's an interesting problem for any cookbook: what is the mechanism for the author to be alerted of the problems or for readers to be notified about the discovered errors.

Example: there is a very time-consuming (slicing of 15 granny smiths being part of it) recipe of apple confit in Vongerichten's "Cooking with a 4 Star Chef". I was tempted to make it since i bought a book, but fortunately one day i stumbled on the review of this book on amazon that mentioned the confit disaster and i digged the following article in Time, where "The apple confit may have been a disaster--"I don't know what happened," Vongerichten says sorrowfully" . ( for curious the full text is here). Should the publisher be responsible for providing the errata?

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I made the chive chips a while ago and they definitely did brown, although not as much as in the picture. I recall it took longer than the 20-25 minutes in the recipe.

I can't say for certain what the difference between our two experiences might be. It is possible that the browning is not entirely due to carmelization/Maillard, but to normal process of browning w/ exposure to air accelerated at the higher temperature. I don't think convection/conventional oven will make a difference except in time. 275 degrees is still 275 degrees even if the air is circulating. I do agree w/ Andy- up the heat some and monitor it closely. Or maybe try increasing the time.

On the agnolotti: This is one I haven't tried from the FL cookbook. Looking at it, it does seems like 3 cups of cream is overkill for the amount of starches in the sauce. Maybe he is draining and extracting the water from the potato and celery root more throughly and needs the extra liquid. My bet is that this is a typo left over from scaling down the recipe for home-size. My complaint is often with the tester who, like any experienced chef, work from experience and instinct and don't turn this off when testing a cookbook.

Out of curiosity, what else are y'all making for this fete? Everything I have made from the FL cookbook has been outstanding. The torchon of foie gras with the picked cherries was a big hit at our anniversary party this summer and it was one of the best foie preps I have ever had.

A.

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Actually, it's an interesting problem for any cookbook: what is the mechanism for the author to be alerted of the problems or for readers to be notified about the discovered errors.

We welcome reader responses. There's usually a mailing address on the copyright of most cookbooks. If you write to the publisher, the feedback/complaint will get to an editor who should respond with some sort of explaination. If we're at fault we usually send our response with a complementary cookbook. But that's just my company. Other publishers might not handle it with such aplomb.

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -Ernest Hemingway

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Some basic caveats, apologies if you are all experienced cooks--did you see the chips your friend sliced and cooked?  Was a mandoline used for very thin slices? Can you vouch for your friend's actual oven temperature and that the oven was pre-heated?

...

So, make sure the potato slices are thin, turn the oven up a bit, and check after 20 minutes.

Thanks for the response Steve.

No, I wasn't at my friend's house when he made this, but he's an obsessive cook, went to culinary school for a couple of years, and I know he owns a mandolin. I believe he's also had that dish at French Laundry (he certainly saw mine when I got it) so he knows what it should look like.

I'll give it whirl myself over the weekend.

- S

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Actually, it's an interesting problem for any cookbook: what is the mechanism for the author to be alerted of the problems or for readers to be notified about the discovered errors.

In this case, I sent an email off to Michael Ruhlman - I'll let you know if he responds.

Should the publisher be responsible for providing the errata?

The publishers of the various technical books I use in my day job generally make the errata available on-line. I've also seen the authors publish these lists online, too. However, the writer of a computer science book is much more likely than a chef to have a personal website !

- S

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I've never tried Jean-George's apple confit, and not sure what it entails, but I have a version that I'd be happy to share! Slip me a PM...

While I don't tend to cook from the "coffee table" books (as much as I love browsing them!), I do take issue with the pâte de fruit recipes (Yuzu and Concord grape, if I recall) in the FL book just on the basis of reading the recipes. Pâte de fruit can be tricky to nail and something just tells me they won't work... Anyone have success with them?

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

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I find it hard to believe that books can be published - distributed to thousands ( often hundreds of thousands or more ) people with recipes in there that have not been tested over and over again to make sure that they work.

Is it not also the editors job to make 100 % sure that it is correct? I know when I write out a recipe for myself that I triple check to make sure that I have it right. I know with many dishes a glob of this and a handful of that type of approach is just fine, in fact that is what I do the majority of the time. BUT with baking - there is usually a need to be precise with the quantities.

How can a recipe that does not work get into a book.... to my mind no chef/cook that allows a recipe to go in that has not been tested more than once in more than one kitchen is not doing themselves any favours.

One good word for the sultry food lady here - Nigella - I have not yet found one of her recipes that does not work, and her narrative often gives helpful suggestions and warnings about things that can go wrong. Giving the maker of the recipe the best chance possible to get it right.

Don't get me wrong I am not advocating a " cooking for dummies " type approach to all cookbooks, just wishing they/cooks/chefs/editors would check to make sure things are correct so that people don't waste time and ingredients on something that is not gonna work!

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I find it hard to believe that books can be published - distributed to thousands ( often hundreds of thousands or more ) people with recipes in there that have not been tested over and over again to make sure that they work.

But that assumes people buy books in order to cook from them. ;-)

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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LOL well silly me .. why would I want to cook from a cookbook of all things!

I forgot they were just supposed to sit on coffee tables so that people can pretend they can actually cook that kind of thing .. - but just not tonight since they have already taken that frozen lasagne out of the freezer.

The Ultimate in decore.. a cookbook that has only had the pictures devoured and not the food.

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The Ultimate in decore.. a cookbook that has only had the pictures devoured and not the food.

Oh, you'll be referring to the Grand Finales book then. Visually stunning. Insanely uncookfromable. Perfectly suited to the coffee table of your choice.

Or, if you want to be particularly flash, streak it with flour/chocolate to give that "just used" look and leave it lying around the counter. Just don't complain if guests call your bluff and ask you to cook from it.

Don't try, just look

;-)

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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  • 4 years later...

*bump*

I am making the tomato sorbet with tomato tartare and garlic tuile this weekend. The title says "with basil oil", but all the references in the recipe are for chive oil. I'm going with basil oil but it seems like a pretty obvious mistake (by the way, I love this book!).

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

I worked at TFL for a while a couple of years ago while I was living in Napa. I was also in charge of ALL of the chip work, meaning chive chips, pommes maxim, beet chips, apple chips, fennel chips, etc., you get the point. I still have my template for shaping the potato taped to my recipe book.

As for the chive chips, you need to use kennabeck potatoes. Their starch/sugar content is pretty much perfect for "chipping." Next major issue is thickness. At TFL, I used a deli slicer to get literally paper thin slices. Unless you have access to one, obviously the next option is the mandolin. The chive points are also a concern. They need to be the smallest/thinnest ones you can find in the bunch. Definitely keep the oven low, we did use ~275. It takes longer, sometimes up to an hour +, but it ensures an even, crisp chip. you also need to add weight. So, from the bottom, sheet pan- buttered silpat- potatoes- buttered silpat- sheet pan- wieght. At TFL, we used steel plates the size of the sheet pan. Just make sure the weight is evenly spaced.

Good luck on your TFL dinner. Need help, send me a message.

-Chef Johnny

EDIT : I also wanted to add a little secret we used with the chive chip. When you pull them out of the oven and let them cool, use a small pair of scissors to trim the chip's corners to make them rounded. You didn't hear this from me.... :P

Edited by ChefJohnny (log)

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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I worked at TFL for a while a couple of years ago while I was living in Napa. I was also in charge of ALL of the chip work, meaning chive chips, pommes maxim, beet chips, apple chips, fennel chips, etc., you get the point. I still have my template for shaping the potato taped to my recipe book.

As for the chive chips, you need to use kennabeck potatoes. Their starch/sugar content is pretty much perfect for "chipping." Next major issue is thickness. At TFL, I used a deli slicer to get literally paper thin slices. Unless you have access to one, obviously the next option is the mandolin. The chive points are also a concern. They need to be the smallest/thinnest ones you can find in the bunch. Definitely keep the oven low, we did use ~275. It takes longer, sometimes up to an hour +, but it ensures an even, crisp chip. you also need to add weight. So, from the bottom, sheet pan- buttered silpat- potatoes- buttered silpat- sheet pan- wieght. At TFL, we used steel plates the size of the sheet pan. Just make sure the weight is evenly spaced.

Good luck on your TFL dinner. Need help, send me a message.

-Chef Johnny

Thanks for the knowledge, Johnny. I'm about to pick up the TFL cookbook and I'll keep these notes in mind.

"In a perfect world, cooks who abuse fine cutlery would be locked in a pillory and pelted with McNuggets."

- Anthony Bourdain

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TFL weblog of a normal person making all the dishes in TFL. She found a few outright errors in the book (e.g. missing ingredients). Very well done weblog with great pictures and interesting writing. Edited by Patapsco Mike (log)

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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  • 1 year later...
TFL weblog of a normal person making all the dishes in TFL.  She found a few outright errors in the book (e.g. missing ingredients).  Very well done weblog with great pictures and interesting writing.

What were the missing ingredients? I've skimmed through her entire blog ( well not the Alinea at home one yet) and I've only noticed a mix up of basil for chive oil in one recipe...

Edited by Scout_21 (log)
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  • 4 years later...

TFL weblog of a normal person making all the dishes in TFL. She found a few outright errors in the book (e.g. missing ingredients). Very well done weblog with great pictures and interesting writing.

What were the missing ingredients? I've skimmed through her entire blog ( well not the Alinea at home one yet) and I've only noticed a mix up of basil for chive oil in one recipe...

In the Vanilla bean roasted figs with honey-vanilla ice cream, her book apparently didn't have the vanilla beans for the ice cream. My book does as it was there when I cooked that dish a few weeks ago.

I guess I have a different edition?

Anyway, I wanted to bring this back to life to see if an errata has either been published somewhere or if someone is aware of all of the mistakes? I've cooked a good amount of dishes from TFL and have had no problems yet but I am curious. I contacted Ruhlman but he said he didn't believe an errata list was compiled and said he would get back to me, and never did.

Anyone have anything?

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I bought mine a long time ago in a cheapo store. (Jack's World in New York) I think it was $9.99, the proverbial steal. But I remember that there were slips of paper tucked into various pages with edits. The books were not shrinkwrapped or anything, so obviously a lot of those little slips of paper fell out. Anyway, I always assumed it was just the Jack's World copies that had errors, and that's why the books ended up in that store. Apparently not. I haven't looked at my copy in a long time. I remember that I enjoyed reading it tremendously when I first got it, not for the recipes but just to read, but I don't think I ever made anything from it.

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I'm not aware of an official error log of the FL book, best bet would be to read the above mentioned blog and see what she came across. I do think she changed/substituted things some times though. If it's a really involved recipe, I'd probably just google that recipe to see if something was mentioned somewhere, before rising a ton of time and money.

Sure would be nice to have at least an online error log for every book, just not practical.

Errors slip in all the time, be it from translation, typing, human error. Even Modernist Cuisine has errors (to my utter surprise and dismay at that price...). At least they published them and fixed what they knew by then in the 2nd edition. With that hyper anal and super expensive book I really would have expected zero errors. But with any other mass produced book, there's only so much a publisher can do and stay cost effective. A cook book without any errors is quite rare I'd guess.

Publishers generally love to hear about errors, if they do or do not offer anything in return then is anyone's guess. But at least they'll probably fix it in the next edition.

As for testing, the more expensive (celebrity/famous restaurant etc) recipes go through multiple testing in home kitchens most of the time. I'd not expect that from the $12.99 Pasta Bible or 40 ways to fry a chicken kind of books though.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Yeah. I was surprised at how many errors were in Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. All metric weight errors for the most part.

Anyway, I was just curious about TFL. Still no idea whether to use Basil oil or Chive oil for that tomato dish so I'll make it twice and try both.

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Yeah. I was surprised at how many errors were in Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. All metric weight errors for the most part.

I would be interested to know which ones. I use this book quite a lot but can't think of any errors off the top of my head.

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Yeah. I was surprised at how many errors were in Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. All metric weight errors for the most part.

I would be interested to know which ones. I use this book quite a lot but can't think of any errors off the top of my head.

This is from an amazon.com review, where I discovered this error list (I didn't find these, someone else did. I checked a few of them and they checked out so I assumed all of them check out):

"p. 042 says

1 cup / 225 gr white beans

1 cup of beans would have weighed 225 gr only if dry beans had had the same density with water, which they most certainly do not.

p. 042 says

2 ounces/ 28 ml of olive oil

2 ounces equals 56 ml, not 28

p. 049 says

2 tbsp butter / 28 g

2 tbsp flour / 28 g

According to many sources, Larousse Gastronomique and common sense included, the weight of two tablespoons of butter is double the weight of two tablespoons of flour (different density of the two materials). In other words, if you have kitchen scales and follow the weight measurement the recipe tells you to, the recipe won't work. It will only work if you follow the spoons (volume) measurement.

This mistake, namely saying that a ½ cup of anything (dry or wet ingredient) is 110 g, regardless of that anything being parsley, breadcrumbs, flour, butter, or what-have-you, occurs DOZENS of times throughout the book. Pity... pity.

p. 070 says

½ pound / 115 g

½ pound is 225 gr

p. 109 says

2½ lb / 225 g haricots verts

2½ pound is 1,135 g. 225 g is ½ pound.

pages 135 and 161 say

turn the steak / lamb chop 180 degrees (on the grill)

If my memories from high-school geometry are right, turning the steak 180 degrees will flip it and the left side will indeed become the right side. However, the lines (grill marks, in our case) will coincide. That is, the steak will be marked along exactly the same lines (or maybe parallel to the previous ones, if one's not careful with the flipping), and not in a crosshatch or crisscross pattern. If you desire the latter, you should turn the steak 90 degrees (for a square crosshatch), or something like 70 or 110 degrees (for a longish, lozenge-like pattern).

p. 142 says

½ cup / 225 ml heavy cream

½ cup is 110 ml

p. 143 says

1 cup / 450 ml of the hot broth

1 cup is 225 ml. 450 ml is 2 cups

p. 143 says

add ¼ cup / 112 ml

¼ cup is 56 ml

p. 148 says

1 cup / 225 g fresh bread crumbs

Fresh crumbs are quite fluffy. How come they are 225 g to a cup? Maybe 225 ml (volume) not 225 g (weight) would have been better.

p. 178 says

1½ ounces / 32 g (for a bunch of parsley)

1½ ounces is 42 g

p. 209 says

three plum tomatoes or 500 g canned tomatoes

Is this possible? If three plum tomatoes (plum, mind you, not beefsteak) equal one 500-g can, this would make them unusually large ones. Also, a 500-g can of plum tomatoes contains 6 to 9 of them, which makes them hardly equal to the three fresh ones that the book claims. It seems that size should indeed matter, after all.

p. 199 2nd line, says

1 cup / 110 ml

1 cup is 225 ml. 110 ml is ½ cup

p. 207 says

3.5 pounds / 1,350 g

3.5 pounds are 1,600 g

p 257 says

yields 1¼ cup / 28 g

C'mon! 28 g makes for quite a measly cup. 280 g is correct, not 28.

p 259 says

½ a tbsp of honey / 7 gr

Honey is quite thick (dense), as we all know. It is impossible for ½ tbsp of honey to have the same weight with ½ tbsp of water. Why not use ml instead of g and get out of this confusion?

And now, for a couple of factual mistakes.

p. 148 says (with reference to veau viennoise)

This is not exactly French style, it's more of an Italian thing

Isn't this more of an Austrian thing, if we notice the title which screams Vienna? What would viennoise mean?

p. 158 says

au moutarde

Shouldn't this be à la moutarde ?

p. 160 says

place a sliver of garlic

OK, we did that. That takes care of the 4 thinly sliced cloves of garlic that the recipe requires. Reading on, one sees that the 20 whole cloves of garlic (yup, 20 of them) that are listed in the ingredients are not included in the directions. Hey! Where did them 20 cloves of garlic go, uh? What are we supposed to do with 'em?

p. 184 says

piment d' esplète

Nice French accent marks and all, but the word esplète is non-existent.

In my humble opinion, it should be piment d' Espelette. Espelette is the name of the pepper-producing city in the Basque territory in France, non?"

I still like Les Halles and find it worth having. I enjoy the writing and it is very classical french bistro fair. I also own Bouchon and that is extremely classical as well, just to another level in refinement so owning both is nice.

By the way, have you done the Coq au Vin. I haven't, but have read that the recipe does not work, but I'm not always so quick to trust random people online. Not everyone can cook. Has it worked for you if you'd done it? I am going to do it this winter.

Edited by Robenco15 (log)
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