First aired on In Town and Out (10/12/11)
One of the traditions that you can bank on in the next couple of weeks is the annual holiday feast around the dinner-table. A similarly festive scene played out every day at El Bulli, the critically acclaimed restaurant of award-winning Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. Before serving his famed molecular meals, Adrià would cook dinner for his family of chefs and waiters. These were simple, hearty dishes that would sustain them through a busy dinner service, and these behind-the-scenes recipes have been collected in a new cookbook called The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià.
In Town and Out host Michael Bhardwaj and his two Christmas cookbook reviewers, Andrew Quinlan and Alexandra Pietrzak, had high hopes for Adrià's new cookbook, and the design of the book — from the many decadent, step-by-step pictures of meals to the simple, easy-to-follow recipes — made their tummies rumble.
"When I opened the book, the first thing that caught my eye were the lovely pictures of the meals," Pietrzak said. "There's a picture depicting what your concoction should look like at each stage. It was exciting, it made you want to go grocery shopping and get started right away."
But then the three started cooking from the book and their high hopes were deflated like a soufflé left too long. Most of the meals were mediocre at best. At worst, they were outright gut-churning.
It wasn't all bad, though. Both Pietrzak and Quinlan were impressed by Adrià's recipe for pulled pork wraps (we've included that recipe below), which was simple but delicious. "The flavours came together beautifully," said Pietrzak.
Fish stew was another hit at one of Pietrzak and Quinlan's dinner parties, but their guests were less than impressed by Adrià's anchovy-heavy recipe for Caesar salad. "It was pretty much an anchovy dressing, not a Caesar dressing," said Quinlan. "There were not a lot of good looks around the table."
The panel was surprised that so many basic dishes, like pasta bolognese, could fall so flat. "A lot of the food didn't live up to what you thought from the pictures," Quinlan commented. The baking times and temperatures throughout the book were also problematic. "Most of the time I was pulling some kind of soupy mess out of the oven," said Bhardwaj.
Quinlan and Pietrzak were also disappointed that the book didn't live up to its behind-the-scenes premise. "I liked the idea that they had put these meals together," Pietrzak said. "But I want to know why these particular dishes go together, or what's special about it."
Ultimately, the biggest disappointment was the realization that an internationally renowned chef such as Ferran Adrià could produce a cookbook that was so middle-of-the-road. This Christmas cookbook gets a lump of coal in its stocking.
Mexican-style slow-cooked pork
(The original name of this dish is cochinita pibil, and it comes from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Cider vinegar is used in Mexico instead of white wine vinegar.)
- If you have time, marinate the pork shoulder for 12 hours in the fridge. If you are short of time, you can marinate it for 30 minutes.
- Achiote (or annatto) is a shrub native to Mexico and Peru. Its fruit is used as coloring and flavoring in many dishes. The paste is available from specialty food stores and delicatessens. If you cannot find it, you could try making a mixture of orange and lemon juice, pepper, and saffron, although the result will be different.
- You can use flour or corn tortillas.
2/3 cup orange juice
2 pinches dried oregano
2 pinches ground cumin
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6¼ achiote paste
¼ cup olive oil
2¼ lb boned and tied pork shoulder roast
2 pinches salt
1 small white onion
2 red onions
½ small habanero chiles
3 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
6 flour tortillas
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, oregano, cumin, white wine vinegar, achiote paste, and oil. Process with a hand-held blender until smooth. Prick the meat several times with a fine-pointed knife to help the marinade penetrate deep into the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Line a roasting pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil. Put the meat in the middle of the foil and bring up the sides a little. Pour over the marinade. Coarsely chop the onion. Scatter the white onions over the meat. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Fold the foil over the meat to make a parcel and seal edges tightly, so that no steam or liquid will escape as it cooks. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably 12 hours, in the fridge. Roast the pork shoulder for 4 hours. While it cooks, finely chop the red onion. Remove the seeds from the habanero chile and chop the flesh finely. Mix the chile with the onions. Add the lime juice, then season with salt. Once cooked, take the meat out of the oven, and let it rest for 20 minutes. While you wait, toast the tortillas in a dry frying pan and wrap in foil to keep warm. Remove the string from around the pork, then cut into thick slices. Spread the pork over a serving platter and pull the meat to shred with your fingers. Spoon over the sauce from the pan. Serve the pork with the warm tortillas and red onion salsa.
For 2 people you will need 1 orange and ½ lime. For 6 people you will need 2 oranges and 1 lime.
The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià
by Ferran Adrià
Buy this book at:
From the publisher:
The Family Meal is the first home cooking cookbook by the world's greatest chef, Ferran Adrià. It features nearly 100 delicious recipes by Ferran Adrià that anyone can prepare, inspired by the dishes eaten every day by the staff at his legendary restaurant El Bulli, awarded World's Best Restaurant five times.
Read more at Phaidon Press