The Manresa cookbook!

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The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:28 am

Okay, it came out a month ago, but I just finished devouring the tome that is the Manresa cookbook. It is really fascinating to see what is behind dishes like Into The Vegetable Garden, as well as some of the process of developing them.

I'm not going to lie, having read almost every recipe, there is not much for the home cook to make. Even recipes like the caramels require "glucose syrup," which is apparently corn syrup minus the fake vanilla and salt that Karo sticks in there. (I found some at my local Jo-Ann Fabrics, in the candy section.) But that's just the beginning. Understandably, given the literal farm-to-table nature of the restaurant, a lot of the produce is difficult to come by. That goes double for people like me who wouldn't know a burdock if one bit me in the burdocks. There are also numerous sub-recipes that are used multiple times, like the Vegetable Broth (p.28), which is efficient for a restaurant but not for the home cook. Still, there are some more accessible components of recipes that I want to try, like the Celery Root Cream (p.208).

The good news, then, is that the recipes aren't dumbed down in the least. Everything, including the liquids and seasoning, is measured on a scale, to which I say, Bravo! Why should I have to dirty a spoon to get three teaspoons of something when I can just pour straight into a bowl on top of a scale? I'm not sure, however, if my home scale, which is nominally accurate to 1g, can accurately measure very small quantities like 4g salt. Luckily, he includes imperial volume measurements throughout so you can choose. Sometimes this yields humorous sequences of increasingly imprecise measures, such as "100g mint leaves / 3.5 oz. (about 4 bunches)".

The thing is, though, even without recipes this would be a book worth reading. The photography is gorgeous. Those of you who are familiar with Ten Speed Press in Berkeley will know that they really go for quality. At about $30, it's a steal.

As always, I have no affiliation except as someone who has been to Manresa enough that they know us as diners.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Frank Deis » Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:35 pm

Having eaten at Manresa and having admired David Kinch from afar for a long time -- I will probably have to buy a copy of this book.

But as you say -- one of the beauties of David Kinch's cuisine is that when you eat it you just shake your head and realize you can't even imagine how he puts these things together. In contrast when I eat something by Thomas Keller I am taking it apart in my head and figuring out what went on in the kitchen, and I generally come around to "yeah, I could do that!" Kinch is just in another world. It will be fun to see what is behind some of those dishes.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:31 pm

Frank Deis wrote:Having eaten at Manresa and having admired David Kinch from afar for a long time -- I will probably have to buy a copy of this book.

But as you say -- one of the beauties of David Kinch's cuisine is that when you eat it you just shake your head and realize you can't even imagine how he puts these things together. In contrast when I eat something by Thomas Keller I am taking it apart in my head and figuring out what went on in the kitchen, and I generally come around to "yeah, I could do that!" Kinch is just in another world. It will be fun to see what is behind some of those dishes.


Honestly, seeing the recipes made me feel a little better about my own cooking. What I have experienced at Manresa is so far afield from "normal" food that you wonder if he is cooking or doing magic. It certainly tastes more exotic and better than anything from normal restuarant. While he's not by any stretch a molecular gastronomist, he really is using ingredients and techniques that go beyond what you see in ordinary kitchens. Even something as simple as a vegetable puree is vacuum sealed during cooking to prevent it from being watered down by the steam. Or the spot prawns, which are shocked in salted water. Can you imagine the dedication required to mix salt into warm water so it dissolves, then chilling it hours in advance so it's ready to receive the prawns and keep them from taking on unsalted water? And that's not even going into the different kinds of kombu (seaweed), citrus, and all the produce from the farm.

I'm going to a signing with Chef Kinch tonight, it will be fun to say hello.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Timo Olavi » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:01 pm

i had no knowledge of the restaurant prior to seeing the book on amazon, but it is now on my to-buy list. i don't really buy cookbooks for recipes, rather mostly for inspiration, and this one seems like one i'd get a lot out of :)

if you're interested in innovative cooking, another book i'd recommend is from Mugaritz. while immensely inspiring, some techniques are so out there that they seem almost alienating eventhough it's all based on 'naturalness'. if i ever manage to wrap my brain around them i think it might just change the way i look at cooking :lol:
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:12 am

Timo Olavi wrote:i had no knowledge of the restaurant prior to seeing the book on amazon, but it is now on my to-buy list. i don't really buy cookbooks for recipes, rather mostly for inspiration, and this one seems like one i'd get a lot out of :)

if you're interested in innovative cooking, another book i'd recommend is from Mugaritz. while immensely inspiring, some techniques are so out there that they seem almost alienating eventhough it's all based on 'naturalness'. if i ever manage to wrap my brain around them i think it might just change the way i look at cooking :lol:


And I in turn had no knowledge of Mugaritz (either book or restaurant) until reading your post, Timo. Looks like a fascinating book, albeit one that I couldn't often cook from. My wife orders most of the cookbooks in the household, so I'll see if I can get her to put that one on her list.

By the way, welcome to the FLDG! Hope you enjoy it here.

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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Timo Olavi » Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:40 am

Mike Filigenzi wrote:Looks like a fascinating book, albeit one that I couldn't often cook from.

yes, that's exactly how i feel about it. while it's not my favourite book, i do find my thoughts returning to it more often than to the rest of my bookshelf.

Mike Filigenzi wrote:By the way, welcome to the FLDG! Hope you enjoy it here.

thank you! i'm sure i will, so far so good :D i've been lurking for a while now, so it feels good to have finally taken the plunge.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:35 pm

Timo, you paint a really alluring picture of having that book in front of you, like a tasting menu. Welcome to the neighborhood!

I think I am going to tackle the Garden Veloute this Saturday for my mother-in-law's birthday celebration. Wish me luck, there is a vegetable stock and several varieties of blanched and pureed vegetables in the veloute. Then 2-5 vegetable purees, in addition to edible flowers.

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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:08 am

wnissen wrote:Timo, you paint a really alluring picture of having that book in front of you, like a tasting menu. Welcome to the neighborhood!

I think I am going to tackle the Garden Veloute this Saturday for my mother-in-law's birthday celebration. Wish me luck, there is a vegetable stock and several varieties of blanched and pureed vegetables in the veloute. Then 2-5 vegetable purees, in addition to edible flowers.

Walt


That's going to be one busy day. (And I'm assuming that you like your M-I-L and that therefore you will not be including oleander or hemlock in the mixture of "vegetables"!)

Please report back on the results - I'd be very interested to hear how it turns out.

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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby James Dietz » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:19 am

I couldn't take it anymore! I had to order.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:19 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote:That's going to be one busy day. (And I'm assuming that you like your M-I-L and that therefore you will not be including oleander or hemlock in the mixture of "vegetables"!)

Now that you mention it, I was surprised to see that he includes roasted chopped cherry pits in the one of the recipes, as I understand there's cyanide inside. However, it is destroyed by cooking.
Please report back on the results - I'd be very interested to hear how it turns out.

I am also interested, Mike. I've never made a vegetable broth where I was instructed to be "thoughtful but open-minded about what goes in."

James, it's a beautiful book, I think even someone who will never contemplate making a single recipe can appreciate the photography.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:50 am

The ingredients for the tisane, from left to right: flat leaf Italian parsley, fennel, onion, garlic, beets, carrot, and leeks. Just the tops go in.
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The greens for the velouté, from left to right: red chard, arugula, spinach, and dandelion. I ended up not using half the dandelion because it was the most bitter of the greens, but I probably should have used less. The greens are individually blanched and then shocked in salted water.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:53 am

Splitting into posts because of the four attachment limit.
Essentially the only thickener in 1 liter of velouté is 100g of potatoes (variety unspecified). I used Yukon golds.

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Then everything is pureéd with the tisane to make a soup.

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The finished velouté: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jycov2Kd6h0

Ingredients (not including 15g butter and 190g whole milk) for the celery root pureé:
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The eggplant, after charring the skin, resting, peeling, removing larger seed pods, and chopping very fine:
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby James Dietz » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:58 am

I assume you are weighing everything, as the book insists?

I don't own a scale. Do I need one? How many folks regularly use one?
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:01 am

The dish with raw flowers and leaves.
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Now the three purées, and a quenelle of mustard whipped cream (!) formed between two spoons. I added the velouté tableside, so I don't have a picture of the finished dish. You can pretend it looked just like real one.
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This was my first go at really ambitious restaurant cooking. I was happy with the result; serious complexity, flavor, and great texture. I feel like I needed much better temperature control and seasoning to take it from merely reminiscent of the real thing to the next level. And the other downside is that I was at the farmer's market by 9:30, shopped at the grocery store for the week, took about an hour for lunch, and just barely got everything made and cleaned up by 4:30. I ran the dishwasher twice (not including the dinner dishes) in addition to doing them by hand three times. Just the tisane and velouté took about two and a half hours. I can't imagine doing this every week, let alone every day.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:05 am

James Dietz wrote:I assume you are weighing everything, as the book insists?

I don't own a scale. Do I need one? How many folks regularly use one?

All I can say is that, as a scientist, I love the measurements in grams. Precise, easy to scale up or down, and doesn't require getting any measuring cups dirty. He does provide imperial equivalents, so you don't need a scale. I ended up using them for the salt, because my scale doesn't do a good job with very small measurements like 4g of salt.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby James Dietz » Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:11 am

wnissen wrote:
James Dietz wrote:I assume you are weighing everything, as the book insists?

I don't own a scale. Do I need one? How many folks regularly use one?

All I can say is that, as a scientist, I love the measurements in grams. Precise, easy to scale up or down, and doesn't require getting any measuring cups dirty. He does provide imperial equivalents, so you don't need a scale. I ended up using them for the salt, because my scale doesn't do a good job with very small measurements like 4g of salt.


So, you use a scale regularly? Can you recommend one?

Jenise, if you are reading do I need a scale? :o
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby James Dietz » Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:32 am

wnissen wrote:The dish with raw flowers and leaves.
IMGP1414.jpg

Now the three purées, and a quenelle of mustard whipped cream (!) formed between two spoons. I added the velouté tableside, so I don't have a picture of the finished dish. You can pretend it looked just like real one.
IMGP1417.jpg

This was my first go at really ambitious restaurant cooking. I was happy with the result; serious complexity, flavor, and great texture. I feel like I needed much better temperature control and seasoning to take it from merely reminiscent of the real thing to the next level. And the other downside is that I was at the farmer's market by 9:30, shopped at the grocery store for the week, took about an hour for lunch, and just barely got everything made and cleaned up by 4:30. I ran the dishwasher twice (not including the dinner dishes) in addition to doing them by hand three times. Just the tisane and velouté took about two and a half hours. I can't imagine doing this every week, let alone every day.


Inspiring stuff, but it is time consuming. You need a sous chef and a few other assistants!

I spent a couple of hours on a salad today, slow roasting some beautiful rainbow carrots and a red bell pepper. I put two (cooled) carrots of different colors on top of a small bed of arugula and radish greens and spinach dressed with lime-infused EVOO, scattering a few slices of the cooled bell pepper around. I shaved some raw carrot on top and placed 4 slices of Persian cucumber dusted with a bit of Tajin at angles to the carrots.

It was a beautiful dish to look at, and the roasted, caramelized carrots took on a starchy root vegetable character that contrasted with the crunch of the fresh and slightly spicy cucumbers, the sweetness of the red pepper and the peppery, slightly acidic flavor of the greens.

Then, I followed with a simple fettuccini dressed with garlic EVOO and TJ's Creamy Toscano cheese soaked in Syrah.

And a 2001 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Pinot to accompany.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:53 pm

James Dietz wrote:Inspiring stuff, but it is time consuming. You need a sous chef and a few other assistants!

Thanks for your kind words. Sous chef is exactly what I was thinking. Most of the prep would have been the same whether I was making 4 soups or 40, but I don't know how they get it all done. The kitchen is putting out 20 or so courses every day between the two menus, and many of them involve items that have been freshly fried, ice creams that that melt as soon as they hit the plate, etc.

I spent a couple of hours on a salad today, slow roasting some beautiful rainbow carrots and a red bell pepper.
[snip]
Then, I followed with a simple fettuccini dressed with garlic EVOO and TJ's Creamy Toscano cheese soaked in Syrah.

And a 2001 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Pinot to accompany.


Wow, really? That sounds lovely. Did you have a special occasion? And did you have a recipe for the salad? Since this is the wine lover's group, I'll mention that the only Sleepy Hollow pinot I've had was probably ten years ago from Talbott in Carmel, and I didn't especially care for it. That may be more that Talbott's style doesn't agree with my taste.

I followed the vegetable soup with grilled filet mignon and roasted duck-fat potatoes, paired with a Windy Oaks Estate Cuvée pinot noir from Santa Cruz. And then we had tie-dyed birthday cake, and no, I'm not kidding about that.

I use my scale as much as I can, which is to say when I get a recipe that uses weights. It really is very convenient to stick the bowl on the scale, hit "Tare" to reset it to 0, and just pour straight from the container. Faster and less mess than a measuring cup, and more precise to boot. I've also converted some of my commonly used recipes, like pancake mix, to weight by measuring as normal and then weighing the result. It's a heck of a lot easier to scale up, then. Instead of leveling 16 cups of flour, I just pour 125g*16 = 2kg of flour straight into the bowl. As I mentioned, ordinary kitchen scales aren't good at measuring an absolute quantity less than 10g, so I still use volume measurements for amounts below that, even if I have weights. I bought the French equivalent of Joy of Cooking, "Je Sais Cuisiner" ("I know how to cook") in large part because all the recipes use metric weights and I don't have to convert.

The scale I recommend for general kitchen (and postage) use is the My Weigh KD-7000. Measures to 1g or 0.1 oz resolution, up to 7kg / 15 lb. It comes with a flip-up spatter shield that is handy in the kitchen, and lasts forever on a set of batteries. $38 delivered.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby James Dietz » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:13 pm

No special occasion for lunch, other than being excited by all the food talk here and reading the Manresa cookbook.

I have a few bottles of Windy Oaks. I would say that Arcadian's style is a bit dialed back from that of Windy Oaks, or at least the Windy Oaks I have tried (pre-2007).

The rest of your meal sounds very good, too. Do you buy the duck fat? And do you use it for other than frying potatoes?
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:17 am

Thanks for the writeup, Walt! Looks like it came out beautifully.

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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:54 am

James Dietz wrote:I have a few bottles of Windy Oaks. I would say that Arcadian's style is a bit dialed back from that of Windy Oaks, or at least the Windy Oaks I have tried (pre-2007).

Yeah, Windy Oaks is pretty clearly running nearly full throttle, though I really like that I don't get the sense of heat from them that I do many other pinots in the same alcohol range.

The rest of your meal sounds very good, too. Do you buy the duck fat? And do you use it for other than frying potatoes?

I am sorry to say that I purchased it, rather than rendering it from a whole duck. The product is from Sonoma Saveurs, which I believe is now defunct. Duck is the one meat that I feel better about ordering in a restaurant rather than making myself, so we haven't had the opportunity to make duck fat.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Frank Deis » Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:57 pm

Gosh what ambitious cooking!!

I don't know -- I'm not sure I would even WANT to serve my guests a soup that looks exactly like a tide pool, or a dish that looks like I got it out of my garden with a shovel, dirt included. I think it would feel a little like entertaining my guests by hanging a trapeze in my living room and learning how to do flips on it -- there is more entertainment going on than nutrition. That's not a criticism, but just a reinforcement of my feeling that you pay Manresa's prices for being amazed and entertained. I think maybe at the French Laundry or Keller's other restaurants, you're more paying to be fed, but in an impeccably perfect way that can give a similar sense of wonder.

So many French Laundry dishes lend themselves to "fancy" entertaining at home, but unless I surprise myself I don't see wanting to serve food from Manresa at home. I won't have the book until Christmas -- of course they are famous for the salty caramels they give away after the meal, those are probably make-able, and some tiny muffins with I think black olive bits in them, I don't know maybe I will find a few things that I'll want to do. But not the tide pool and not the "garden" dish.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby wnissen » Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:28 pm

Frank, I know what you're saying. Some of the dishes are fanciful and only make sense in the context of a tasting menu format, where you have the opportunity to come up to speed. Also, the more "out there" the dish is, the better to keep it to just a few bites, to keep it from becoming overwhelming.

I have to say, though, one of my guests for the above dish doesn't eat salad and tends toward the "meat and potatoes" style, but he ate all of the soup.
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Re: The Manresa cookbook!

Postby Jenise » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:01 pm

Finally had a chance to read this thread today (been in Maui). Several things, in no particular order:

1) Must have this book! And Timo, maybe it's on YouTube, but long ago David Kinch competed on the American show Iron Chef (and won). I have never seen more impressive cooking on that show by anyone--if you can find the episode, it will build a lot of dimension for your reading of the book.

2) Jim, confession: I don't have a scale either. I feel guilty about not owning one and have planned to buy one since forever, but I am neither a scientist nor much of a baker so the occasions on which it would be useful to me are few. I don't even own measuring spoons.

3) Talbott Sleepy Hollow vs. Arcadian Sleepy Hollow: Walt, don't blame the vineyard. Talbott's style is earthy and brawny, and a terrific match for intense root vegetable flavors (borscht, beet salads, parsnippy stuff), where the Arcadian is much more refined and delicate (at least, based on the 04 and 06's I've had).
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