The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià

Published by Phaidon, 2011

November 15th, 2011

Phaidon, the venerable art publisher, has been producing cookbooks since 2006 with its English translation of the Italian classic, The Silver Spoon. Their recent offering, Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal is a testament to their facility with images, and this cookbook provides simple and beautiful photos of all the ingredients and steps required to produce the tasty, tasty recipes the book contains. Considered by many to be the world’s greatest chef, foodies the world over mourned the day El Bulli, Adrià’s Michelin 3-star restaurant, closed on June 30, 2011 (it is anticipated to reopen in 2014 as a “creativity centre”). Adrià was even a featured artist in Documenta (2007) where for each of the 100 days of the exhibition, 2 guests were flown to the legendary restaurant for a dining experience. El Bulli did, however, experience a backlash from some critics who cited it with elitism, arguing that it focused on chemicals rather than real food. This book is the answer to those concerns. This volume contains almost 100 recipes that Adrià made for his family – his brigade of 75 staff – for the “breaking of bread” before service each night. But you don’t have to be a Michelin-starred chef to prepare these meals – the book provides step-by-step illustrations and instructions to guide even complete novices through the trials and tribulations of preparing dinner. Even before launching into the techniques, each menu starts with a listing of ingredients, accompanied by images, as well as a schedule suggesting 1 hour before you want to sit down you should “make and bake the coconut macaroons, then cool” while 5 minutes before you should “soak the potato chips in the egg, then cook the potato omelet” taking the guesswork out of timing.

While food cost appeared to be a non-issue at El Bulli where the average meal was 250 Euros, this book skillfully reassures us that food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. Since these recipes were originally conceived to feed large numbers on a budget, the meals often incorporate inexpensive ingredients such as beans, potatoes, eggs and sardines.

The best part about this book is that it’s full of things you actually want to eat. And they are not just recipes but conceived as 3-course meals, combined in interesting and nutritious offerings such as Roasted Eggplant with Miso Dressing, Sausages with Tomato Sauce and Crème Catalane, and Beans with Clams, Salt Cod and Vegetable Stew, and Baked Apples. In fact, one of its most appealing recipes is one of Adrià’s childhood desserts – Bread with Chocolate and Olive Oil. The simple instructions call for spreading grated chocolate over toasted bread, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt. Even we could do that.

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