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We had been eying these two cookbooks for ages. After purchasing them as a gift for my spouse, she has not put them down in weeks. I was really debating between this Essential Thomas Keller, and this - the Complete Thomas Keller The Complete Thomas Keller: The French Laundry Cookbook & Bouchon. I am so glad I made the decision I did. (In the end, I did also purchase Bouchon Bakery).
The difference, as you can read, is that **Essential comes with Ad Hoc**, and ++Complete comes with Bouchon++.
Ad Hoc is Thomas Keller's accessible, home cook cookbook. Sure, accessible to him is not the same as, say, Rachel Ray, but the recipes are really quite delicious and achievable. Bouchon, on the other hand, is modeled after Keller's accessible restaurant, Bouchon. This was a way to open up quality French bistro-type food without breaking the bank at The French Laundry. So, both compilations have an accessible cookbook, and The French Laundry. For our taste, we found Ad Hoc to be a little better for our needs (the emphasis on family instead of creating French bistro-style food at home).
If my wife ever turned up missing, I would need to look for her at The French Laundry. She is enamored with Keller, and his style of writing is superb. He mixes personal anecdotes with recipes, and at the onset says something like "you might find many of these recipes (in the French Laundry) will be out of your reach when you begin. That's ok. Keep at it. We have not watered down our recipes, you have the real thing, and they will take time to perfect. In the meantime, try to make components, side dishes, sauces, and perfect those one at a time." As a home cook, Keller has produced the best fine dining cookbook I have ever seen - challenging you without being haughty.
He has a whole area about cooking Foie Gras, and his preference for serving in cool. Here are a few other highlights: (FL) salmon tartar with sweet red onion creme fraiche, puree of english pea soup with white truffle oil and parmesan crisps, parmigiano-reggiano crisps with goat cheese mousse, poached moulard duck foie gras au torchon with pickled cherries, double rib lamb chops with cassoulet of summer beans and rosemary, veal stock, etc. (ah) buttermilk fried chicken, roast cornish game hens, pan-roasted halibut, endive and arugula salad, lamb meatball, creamed baby spinach, pineapple upside down cake, etc.
If you are a chef, you need this. As a home cook, you might look at these books and feel they are a little expensive. They are large, coffee table cookbooks. They are worth every penny.
Recommend without reservation.