We like to look at the iconic dishes of the world’s most famous chefs, it’s a great way of understanding their contribution to food but also, we have to admit, we often just enjoy drooling at their wonderful creations.
The king of classic, Thomas Keller, is responsible for two three-Michelin-star restaurants in the U.S: The French Laundry and Per Se. He’s also responsible for a number of other ventures including his famous Bouchon Bakeries and Bistros.
On top of operating restaurants at the highest level, Keller has also been responsible for training some of the best talent in America today, including chefs Grant Achatz and Corey Lee. He is also part of the team that was responsible for America’s new found success at the legendary Bocuse d’Or cooking competition.
In his own words from The French Laundry Cookbook:
"Autumn 1990 was a sad time in my life. I was going to be leaving New York after ten years. I would be starting my life over in Los Angeles, and my new employer there wanted me to prepare a dish for a food and wine benefit that would really wow people. Shortly before I moved, some friends took me to our favorite restaurant in Chinatown, and, as always, we went to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream afterward."
“I’d been nervous about his food and wine event; I guess it had been in the back of my mind for a while. I ordered an ice cream cone, the guy put it in a little holder--you take it from the holder--and said, "Here's your cone."
“The moment he said it, I thought, ‘there it is!’ We are going to take our standard tuiles, form them into cones, and we're going to fill them with a tuna tartare. And that's what we did. Now I use salmon, but you can really use anything. The cone is just a vehicle."
Oysters and Pearls
This is perhaps one of chef Keller’s most famous dishes, a sabayon of pearl tapioca, beau soleil oysters and white sturgeon caviar. This dish is featured on both the menus at Per Se and The French Laundry, a dish that has stayed on the menus since it was created and one we fully expect to remain there.
It seems crazy to follow such a technically, luxurious offering like Oysters and Pearls with roast chicken, however, Keller has become somewhat famous for his take on the classic roast.
The video below shows you that he approaches the recipe very simply, a few great ingredients and a good use of technique, but that’s the foundation of most of Keller’s cooking and this is one of the best roast chickens you’ll ever taste.
Butter Poached Lobster
Keller’s Under Pressure cookbook, published in 2008, is often referenced by chefs as playing an important role in their approach to cooking. The book was in large parts Keller introducing Sous Vide cooking to the culinary world outside of France and one of the most famous dishes he created using this technique is butter-poached lobster.
”I wanted to find a way to cook lobster gently, so it wouldn’t be tough. I don’t remember seeing it done anywhere else, and this made perfect sense to me. Who in America hasn’t had lobster with melted butter?” wrote the chef in his French Laundry cookbook.
Truffle Infused Custard
Another one of Keller’s most famous creations. This is a white truffle infused hen egg custard with a ragù of black Périgord truffles. There’s also some veal stock for added sticky deliciousness and a brittle potato crisp for texture.
Coffee and Donuts
A classic, simple and elegant dessert that’s served at the end of many of Keller’s tasting menus. It’s actually a coffee semifreddo topped with frothy milk and served alongside some cinnamon dusted, buttery donuts.
Here’s Keller on the conception of the dish.
"This may be another of those had-to-be-sad-to-see-it creations, like the salmon cornet. I was working in L.A., miserable and poor. I had a James Beard Foundation dinner coming up and I had no idea what to serve. Across from my apartment was an S and K doughnut shop. I'd go there once a week for a glazed old-fashioned doughnut and a cup of coffee. I liked the glazed old-fashioned because it was so heavy."