At home with Ferran Adrià: Cocinar en Casa, no, seriously..

Cocinarencasa

I’ve recently come across a book that got me hooked -not from the first page- but from the very front cover. It was a picture of Ferran Adrià walking, looking ever so slightly morose, a grocery bag in each hand. The book is called Cocinar en Casa, Home Cooking, a collaboration between the famous grand wizard of elBulli and a Spanish grocery giant Caprabo. And since Ferran has famously proclaimed in many interviews that he used up all his cooking juices in elBulli’s kitchen and did no cooking at home, the photo on the front page was even more ironic than it was intended.

The basic idea is a semi home-made of sort, taking common foods from supermarkets and sprucing them up a little. Well, in this particular instance, quite a lot, since these ideas came from that amazing brain of Ferran Adrià. Whether you like the food or even agree with the approach at elBulli, it’s hard to not acknowledge that Adrià is certainly a genius – a mad one, perhaps, but a genius none-the-less. Here the genius is again at work, doing his thang on humble ingredients from a common supermarket. And, no, you’re not required to get a degree in Biochem or even a chemistry set to use this book, just a Sifon or two will do nicely.

AlldaymojitoThere are some wow why didn’t I think of that moments in the book, like
a recipe for caramel foam that prescribes melting a pint of Haagen Daaz
icecream in the microwave then feeding the melted concoction into a
Sifon, et voila, caramel foam! What about frozen gazpacho
popsicles? Take canned gazpacho, pour into little cups, add popsicle
sticks, freeze. How much easier could this get? Or another one, for
Mojito para Todo el Dia, Mojito for all day – your ordinary everyday
mojito, with a sheet or two of gelatin, into the Sifon and out come a
foamy mojito. Keep the Sifon cool in the fridge and you can have
mojitos all day. Tell me if that doesn’t sound bloody superb to you.

Superpizzabefore
And how about one for Super Pizza, take a simple store-bought cheese
pizza, then transform it with fresh mozzarella, basil, peeled cherry
tomatoes and olive oil, precisely applied with an eye dropper no less.
Pida una pizza y conviértala en una superpizza. You don’t even need to
speak spanish to understand that.

Superpizzaafter
A few recipes probably wouldn’t work here in the US of A. The one for
a simple asparagus in vinaigrette, for example. Take a jar of
beautiful white asparagus, pour out half the liquid content, replace it
with good olive oil and vinegar, close the lid and give it a good
shake. There you have it, white asparagus in vinaigrette. The recipe
looks like it would work wonders on beautiful preserved white asparagus
from Spain. But would you really do that to canned vegetables you
could get at Safeway? I shudder at the thought. Even more cause for
concern are these recipes for various raw things. I don’t think Ferran
has ever seen the inside of a Safeway, let alone the fish or meat
counters, or he wouldn’t be telling us to do a salmon sashimi from
supermarket fish!

Tortilla
And then there are a few -a few- that are rather dubious
looking on their very own merits. The most famous -or infamous I
should say- is the recipe for the classic Tortilla Espagnole, the
spanish national omelette. Here the mad scientist Ferran prescribes
using bagged potato chips instead of potatoes -oh, pardon me, not just
any chips, but bagged potato chips fritas en aceite de oliva. The
classic tortilla espagnole recipe calls for cooking potato slices
slowly in olive oil, so I guess Ferran is trying to stay in that
spirit. Well, this looks so dubious I simply have to give it a try,
that tortilla espagnole à la Ferran. And while I’m at it I might as
well make a meal out of the book, no?

So that was what I set out to do yesterday. I picked three recipes.
The tortilla would be the starter, then the main course of chicken -
store-bought roasted chicken all dressed up in a simple sauce made of
dried fruits and bit of Sherry and Port – followed by a dessert of
apricots with honey and saffron.

The recipes offered up a bit of a challenge. The tortilla recipe
simply called for a medium bag of potato chips. Well, um, dear Ferran,
there was no such thing to be found at my local markets, nor could I
find one that was fried in olive oil. Geez, it was hard enough to find
a bag that wasn’t flavored with BBQ sauce, or sour cream and onion, or
honey dijon, or musquite, or whatever the heck it is people liked in
their chips these says. What ever happened to simple salted potato
chips? I finally settled on a bag of Kettle Chips, just as good a bag
store-bought chips as any, I thought to myself. Then, there was the
question of the chicken. Finding a whole roasted chicken in Santa Cruz
proved to be a bit difficult, but I finally found one, sitting properly
in a styrofoam tray, at Staff of Life. (Oh just hush about the name
already, didn’t I say I was in Santa Cruz?) Oh, right and there were
no dried cherries to be found – I needed them for the chicken – so I
bought some dried cranberries instead, that would give it a bit of a
North American twist I supposed.

Tortilla2
Armed with my provisions, I set out to follow the recipes, just as
precisely as I could. That proved to be a bit of a problem too. How
many chips were in a medium bag I wondered, then decided that I
couldn’t be bothered and just used half the content of the large Kettle
Chips bag. Four eggs were whipped in a large bowl, then the content of
half the bag of Kettle Chips went in, all broken and crushed of
course. The recipe said to wait 5 minutes for the potatoes to soften up
properly. So I waited the requisite time. The potatoes still didn’t
look very soft to me, but Ferran said five minutes and who was I to
argue with him. So, the pan came out, – the smallest one I got, in
fact it was so small it wasn’t a pan at all, but a lid for another Le
Creuset sauce pan – then in went lots of olive oil and the eggy-chips
concoction. That was about it for the tortilla, now my attention could
turn to the chicken.

Superchicken
The recipe for the chicken called for first cutting up the chicken and
reserving the juices for the sauce. Um, what juice? My chicken was
nearly as dry as the styrofoam tray it came in. It was also rather
large. I’d bet it was at least a third bigger than its cousin that
Ferran was cutting up in the photo. Oh well, what was a girl to do?

Superchicken2
So the chicken dish got made, with dried apricots and cranberries and
raisins and even some pine nuts. Oh, right, and a piece or two of
lemon rind thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t find any Sherry in
the house so I used Sweet Vermouth instead, close enough, really.

Makingsuperapricots_1 Then the simple dessert. I intentionally skipped the super delicious
farmers market apricots and got some rather pedestrian looking ones
from the store, to keep in the spirit of the book. The apricots got
halved, smeared with vanilla seeds scraped from a pod, and then
drizzled liberally with honey. A few strains of saffrons went on top
and the entire thing got wrapped neatly in a foil package, and in it
went in the oven for 10 minutes.

Superapricot
How did everything turn out, you asked? Well, let’s just say I’d stick
with the classic tortilla espagnole. If it ain’t broke, if it ain’t
broke, my friends. The chicken was quite delicious, though the lack of
juice from my chicken meant that I had precious few drops of sauce to
go around, particularly on the huge American bird. Next time I’ll just
add more liquor, that should do it. And then the dessert, the apricots
-and the gloriously golden, honey and saffron infused, sauce- were
served with vanilla icecream, store-bought of course. It was quite a
nice way of fancying up dowdy and tasteless supermarket apricots. You
really should try this at home.

I’ve got a few more recipes in this book that I want to try. Well, as
soon as I get myself an iSi Sifon I’ll play with some foam stuff for sure.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime, you can order
this book
directly from the restaurant. If you can’t make it to
elBulli, then perhaps this book will bring a little bit of elBulli to
you.

Delicious Digg Facebook LinkedIn reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Email Print Friendly
  • http://vitalinformation.blogspot.com Vital Information

    Great post!
    Whole Foods actually has some very good olive oil potato chips (you could get your chicken there too, no?)

  • http://www.gastronomie-sf.com Fatemeh

    This is hysterical. And based on your locale, I presume you served this to a certain someone who (I have no doubt) got quite a kick out of it?

  • http://sfgourmet.blogspot.com NS

    Thanks for the great post — the apricots, in particular, sound fantastic. I’m just curious — what was the oven temperature you used for them?

  • http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/2005/07/be-rachael-ray-for-day-dine-dish-4.html sam

    I think Ferran is just getting ready to take part in my “Be Rachael Ray For the Day” event, that’s all.

  • http://iworks.typepad.com/ i Neat & Pearl

    always interesting n exciting entries…and beautiful photography (which model dg cam do u use?) n did you get your copy of the latest el bulli 1998-2002 edition yet? =) i love that omelette softshell crab dish! and the ox sauce reminded me of hong kong!!

  • http://su-lin.blogspot.com Su-Lin

    What fun! I just ordered this book as I was curious as to the recipes inside. Luckily, I have a boyfriend who can translate everything for me!

  • http://www.pistoynopisto.com Nopisto

    There is a previous book made with El Corte Inglés (another spanish supermarket giant) that was even better, it’s called “Cocinar en 10 minutos con Ferrán Adrià” cooking in 10 minutes with Ferrán Adriá that now is out of print but I can send you fotocopies if you want.
    And if you like this you need to check the new DVDs that they are selling right now, the same recipies from the book you mention ¡Including the odd tortilla” teached with his special way of talking by Adrià himself.

  • http://knifesedge.typepad.com/knifes_edgerestaurant_ran/ haddock

    I agree with Sam about the Rachel Ray thing. I saw this written about maybe a year ago in some trade magazine.
    I took a little comfort in the idea that El Bulli can’t be making much money since he’s doing this and other consulting gigs.
    Seriously though, what makes this different from Rachel Ray?

  • Jon

    Speaking of books, Pim, I have a second question to ask (in addition to i Neat & Pearl’s dg cam question, which I also am curious to hear the answer to). I’ll soon be heading off for a year of schooling in France (south of Paris) and was wondering what guidebooks you may have used (food, nightlife, culture, daytrips, etc) during your recent sojourn there. Chances are you used nothing…just word of mouth and local friends for suggestions, but I thought I’d ask nonetheless. I do know I’ll be diggin into the chezpim archives for tips before I leave! (the recent post on where to find Arabica comes to mind!)
    Thanks!!
    Jon
    Los Gatos
    p.s. – Ate at the finest restaurant in town a little over a month ago….wow…..yer fella is really something. Stupendous, mindblowing, innovative, etc, etc, etc….

  • Gail

    Dear Pim,
    This is slightly off topic but you have never written about your meal at El Bulli. Is there a particular reason? I note you used the words “mad” and “genius” in the above post in reference to Ferran Adria. What did you think of the food and (being bold here) what do you think of his approach to food? If you’re comfortable sharing that, of course.
    I enjoy your blog and I’m glad you’re settled in and cooking again so we can all enjoy it vicariously.
    Mahalo,
    Gail

  • elfood

    DEAR PIM
    I’am just writing to thank you for sharing you journeys through the culinary world,It is great
    we have people like yourself who share there love of food ,If you are everin melbourne australia i run a restaurant there please be my guest i wish you all the luck in the future and thank you for all your information ray

  • http://www.culinarymuse.com Karletta

    Pim, They carry the iSi Sifon at Viking Home Chef on California Street in San Francisco. At least I saw them gathering dust there a few months ago because no one has any idea what to do with one!
    CulinaryMuse

  • http://www.carablack.com Cara Black

    so pim when do you go back to Paris? sorry I missed you for coffee there.

  • http://www.thefoodpalate.com saffron

    You have sparked a curiosity in this book, that I am almost tempted to order it. Great post.

  • http://thalia.typepad.com/ Thalia

    Pim – sounds like your chicken was cold. Not sure if they do these in Santa Cruz, but I’m imagining he was talking about the hot roasted chickens we have in supermarkets in the UK – that would produce more juice when you cut into it.

  • http://brandoneats.blogspot.com Brandon

    I’ve wondered about that potato chip tortilla recipe ever since I heard about it in an article about Adria–great post and one I particularly enjoyed reading. Any more recomendations (or condemnations) forthcoming from other recipes from the book?

  • http://chezpim.typepad.com Pim

    Hi there everyone,
    Rob: I was in Santa Cruz that day, no Holy Foods around I’m afraid.
    Fatemah: of course, ;-)
    NS: The apricots were baked at 375, the recipe said to do it for 10 minutes, but I left them there much longer.
    Sam: Ha, that’s funny. Perhaps I’d join in too. $40 a day is rather limiting in my opinion. Could I be Super-Rachel and do $400 a day? Pretty please.
    I Neat & Pearl: I’ve seen the book but haven’t got it myself.
    Su-lin: Lucky you. Just between you and me, that’s how I got by too. ;-)
    Nopisto: That sounds like fun. I might do a little search to see if I could find it somewhere.
    Haddock: There were some things in the book that were truly interesting and inventive, certainly not your average Rachel Ray. I don’t understand why you’d take comfort on the fact that elBulli might not be doing well -which, for the record, they are doing quite fabulously well.
    Jon: Thanks for the compliment, I passed it on. You’re right about the book, I don’t really use any in particular, but I’ll look around to see if there’s anything interesting and I’ll email you.
    Gail: I’ll get there one day. Soon.
    elfood: Thanks, and I will.
    Karletta: Thanks for the tip. I just saw a bunch at Chef Works in Santa Cruz too. I might just get one to play soon.
    Cara: I’m back in town, lets get a coffee here!
    Saffron: Thanks.
    Thalia: The chicken was semi-cold. That’s all I found down here.
    Brandon: Thanks, I might write about other recipes when I get a chance to try more. Stay tuned.
    cheers all,
    Pim

  • Laura

    Could the recipe have possibly mean french fries when it said chips?

  • http://www.enochchoi.com/thoughts/archives/001640.html medmusings

    links for 2005-08-15

    Carolyn Tillie’s Ultimate California Wine Blog: Greenfield/Cartlidge & Browne – 140 porn at a tasting bar: that’s terrible. how repulsive. what in the world was he thinking? how irresponsible. that kind of behaviour should get him fired. I actually li…

  • Blanca

    While working in Books for Cooks in London I heard some chefs making fun of the recipes in Ferran’s Cocinar en Casa (which coincindentally we decided not to stock). After doing a stage at their hotel in Seville and seeing first hand the creativity and sheer innovation of their dishes and the utmost professionalism of their books I was first of all shocked by Cocinar en Casa (especially after cooking tons of recipes from his Corte Ingles book pre-cooking school). For starters, it is a little tacky, it is only Spanish, the food styling is atrocious (especially compared to the UK, NZ and Australia), the recipes not very well written but the ideas… some of them are truly great and if you try the recipe for tortilla española with Spanish artisan chips from a Freiduria (places that specialise solely on chips) then this recipe is a fast way to get a tortilla to a picnic in Cabo de Gata National Park in Almeria.

  • http://chezpim.typepad.com Pim

    Laura: No, he meant chips alright. There was a photo of him crushing a bag of chips and everything.
    Blanca: That’s interesting. I made the recipe with the best chips I could find. One I like to eat even. Perhaps I should try it one more time.
    cheers,
    Pim

  • GrinNTonic

    semi-home-made with Adria Lee?
    Totally funny.