I think I would have been intimidated by any cookbook by Ferran Adria of the experimental mecca (lately shuttered) elBulli in Spain. And now after reading through much of his new book, The Family Meal, I wonder if there exists a more accessible one out there. I’m also left feeling that Adria really is a teacher first–it makes perfect sense that he’s replacing his restaurant with a cooking school.
Any cook can get into The Family Meal–named after the meal served to the staff before service begins–but this would be an ideal cookbook for a culinary newbie. Adria begins with basic tips about menu-planning, shopping, and organization and storage of food, fresh as well as pantry. He goes on to name the equipment, herbs, condiments, and staples that should be found in any kitchen. And by my assessment, he’s spot on.
Then he’s on to how to cook eggs, several basic sauces–tomato, pesto, barbecue, aioli, etc.–and stocks. These are the building blocks for the 31 menus that make up the bulk of the book. And each menu–starter, main, and dessert–comes with a photograph of all the ingredients you’ll need and a timeline showing the order in which to cook them. There’s a whole section at the beginning on efficiency. I can’t say it enough: I love this book. The recipes are given for 2, 6, 20, or 75 guests, and every single step is pictured. This is an incredibly user-friendly cookbook.
I’m only just getting started on the dishes, but the potato salad has already received requests for the recipe as well as encore appearances at my house. So here it is for 20: Mix 8-9 lbs boiled and cubed new potatoes with a cup of chopped chives, 1 bunch of chopped green onions, 20 chopped gherkins, 4 cups of mayonnaise, 1 cup whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups dijon mustard, and 1 1/4 cups capers. Adria includes 13 chopped hot dogs as well, but I was serving this alongside a bunch of wursts, so gut genug.