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Ad Hoc at Home

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Written by Heather Jones   
Wednesday, 07 April 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Ad Hoc At Home" by Thomas Keller and Dave Cruz

Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller and Dave Cruz (Artisan Books, 2009) is a 2010 IACP Cookbook awards finalist in the Chefs and Restaurants category AND a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the General Cooking category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie IACP Finalists' Guide and James Beard Finalists' Guide.

Win a copy of Ad Hoc At Home! - details

Photo by Deborah Jones
You know who Thomas Keller is right? Of course you do, and if you’re like me you have come to terms with the fact that you might not make it to his Michelin three star restaurant French Laundry anytime soon.  But one great thing about Chef Keller is that he is a prolific cookbook author and has no problem sharing how he makes the magic happen in his restaurant kitchens. 

In this latest cookbook “Ad Hoc at Home” he celebrates the art of home cooking, his way. Ad Hoc at Home mimics the same philosophy that chef Keller put to use when opening the restaurant of the same name -  family style meals reminiscent of home.  I know I wish every home I step into would serve dishes like these. Chef Keller’s process is methodical and detail oriented, often times the recipes will take you far longer than you would expect, even for some of the simplest dishes, but the end results are breathtaking - his recipe for Beef Stew is by far the best I’ve ever made.

Since time is always of the essence I haven’t had a chance to work my way through too much of this cookbook, but one dish that I could make over and over again are the Grit Cakes with the Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce (see below).  My daughters and I love corn grits and make them frequently at home, but this recipe takes them to an entirely different level.  Home style cooking done right with one of the world’s greatest chefs, it doesn‘t get much better than that.

Win a copy of Ad Hoc At Home! - details

Grits Cakes

Excerpted from AD HOC AT HOME by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright 2009. Deborah Jones photographer.

  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
  • 2 cups coarse stone-ground white grits
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground panko crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Canola oil
  • Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce (see below)
  • Deep-fried oregano

Crispy polenta is an easy, satisfying dish, and it gave us the idea of trying a similar preparation using grits instead of cornmeal. When we make polenta, we sometimes enrich it with Italian mascarpone. For these grits cakes, we replace it with all-American cream cheese, and the result is crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle. These will work as an appetizer as well, topped with a small dollop of Tomato-Basil Marmalade.

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (or a quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper. Cut a second sheet of parchment the same size and set aside.

Finely chop the garlic. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and work into a paste, chopping and scraping the garlic with the side of a chef's knife.

Combine the garlic paste and chicken stock in a medium saucepan, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally to keep the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed and the grits are tender with just slight resistance; when a spoon is dragged through the grits, the bottom of the pan should remain visible.

Stir in the butter until it has absorbed, then stir in the cream cheese until well combined and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the grits evenly in the prepared pan. Cover with the second sheet of parchment paper. With your hands, smooth and compress the layer of grits. Top with a second baking sheet, weight with cans or foil-wrapped bricks, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm, or overnight.

Remove the top pan and the parchment from the grits. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen them and invert the pan onto a cutting board. Peel off  the parchment paper. Trim the edges and cut the grits into 12 equal pieces.

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Combine the panko crumbs and parsley in a third shallow bowl.

Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip each cake into the flour, turning to coat and patting off excess, then dip in the eggs, letting the excess drip off, and coat well in the panko crumbs. Set on the baking sheet.

Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a large nonstick frying pan and heat over medium heat until the oil just begins to shimmer. Carefully add as many cakes as will fit in the pan comfortably and cook until golden on the first side, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the rack and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining cakes, adding more oil if needed. If at any point there are burned panko crumbs in the oil, discard the oil and replace it with fresh oil before continuing.

Coat a serving platter with some of the tomato sauce, arrange the grits cakes over the sauce, and sprinkle with the oregano leaves. Additional sauce can be served on the side.


Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Excerpted from AD HOC AT HOME by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright 2009. Deborah Jones photographer.

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup minced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fennel
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Two 28- to 32-ounce cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 Sachet (see below)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

This is a convenient tomato sauce because it's all done in the oven-you don't need to spend time tending the pot on the stovetop. Use San Marzano tomatoes, from the eponymous region in Italy that grows the best plum tomatoes for sauces. This version is excellent with grits, polenta, or meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the oil, onion, leeks, fennel, and garlic in a large ovenproof

Dutch oven or a baking dish and sprinkle with salt. Put in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize.

Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the oven.

Meanwhile, drain the canned tomatoes and remove the seeds.

Coarsely chop half the tomatoes. Puree the other half in a food processor. Add the tomatoes to the vegetables along with the sachet, season with salt and pepper to taste, and return to the oven for 1H hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The sauce should be thick and have a full rich flavor. Run the side of a spoon through the sauce-if it runs back together immediately, it is too thin. Return it to the oven and cook until thickened.

Discard the sachet and let the sauce cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.



  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

Sachets are used to flavor cooking liquids. A cheesecloth sachet encloses small herbs and spices such as peppercorns and cloves, and works like a tea bag. Once the contents have added their flavors to the cooking liquid, the sachet can easily be removed and discarded.     

Lay out a 7-inch square of cheesecloth. Put the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and garlic near the bottom of the square and fold the bottom edge up and over them. Roll once, tuck in the two ends of the cheesecloth, and continue to roll. Tie the cheesecloth at both ends with kitchen twine.


Win a copy of Ad Hoc At Home

The registered Project Foodie user that leaves the most memorable or creative comment below will win a copy of Ad Hoc At Home.  Keep the comments clean and relevant - tell us what attracts you to Ad Hoc At Home and/or what you feel makes this book award-worthy and we'll select one to be the winner of Ad Hoc At Home.

Please note that you must be registered to enter this giveaway and upon winning provide a US postal address for us to ship Ad Hoc At Hometo.  We'll announce the winner on May 2nd.

If you have not yet registered with Project Foodie, please take a moment to do so right now--it's absolutely free; and we promise never to share your email address with spammers or other unsavory types.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 April 2010 )
This Is the One
jettrash23 (Registered) 2010-04-07 10:11:43

Okay, so this is the cookbook I've been coveting. Scouring used bookstores all over town hoping that some desperate soul needed to sell this book for beer money. I've read numerous articles articulating Mr.Keller's culinary prowess and am super excited by the prospect of whipping up many delightful dinner party delights! Keller's aesthetic is gorgeous food made with love, and that smells good to me.
I dream in Keller
JJS360 (Registered) 2010-04-07 11:00:44

After reading Michael Ruhlman's "The Soul of a Chef", I have fantasized daily --- perhaps more often --- about the gustatory rabbit hole I so desperately want to tumble down that is the French Laundry. When Chef Keller opened the more earthbound Ad Hoc, the daydreaming all seemed to become possible.
Dory (Unregistered) 2010-04-11 15:08:47

This cookbook has been on my wish list for months. I knew I had to have it from the moment I saw the cover. And I hear the fried chicken recipe in this book is amazing.
MamaMerc (Registered) 2010-04-12 08:00:01

While I may never find myself at the French Laundry, to have Ad Hoc at Home, is a dream come true! I can not wait to try the delectable dishes that I know my friends will be envious of and my family will ask for over and over.

You know the food is a definite WIN when my two year old will eat it, and he enjoyed the Grit Cakes so much that he even asked for seconds!! I am so excited to see to see how many other things I can get him to try.
mpark46 (Registered) 2010-04-14 15:47:08

I am an admitted cookbook junkie. Seriously. My husband is trying to cut me off and won't indulge my addiction any further. He says he will never buy me another cookbook ever again. So wrong!

I would love to be able to win this cookbook that I have been pining away for, obsessively scouring the internet looking for recipes and photos! The brownies and fried chicken alone are probably worth their weight in gold.

Please, pick me! Pick me!!!!
apientka (Registered) 2010-04-16 06:29:24

I admittedly do not know much about Chef Thomas Keller. I am a full time working woman and a mother of two beautiful children who inspire me daily. What drew my attention to Ad Hoc At Home was the notion that Chef Keller wants to deliver "family style meals reminiscent of home." Some of the best memories of my childhood have been through my mother's cooking. Many of those recipes are what I make today for my children. It is a way of sharing my childhood with them and providing a means of getting to know a side of their "grammy."

I want a book that will help to serve as an inspiration to me. I want to not only serve meals for my family that were from my past, but also create new ones that will make my children say "My mom made the best..." or "I loved my mom's..." As an adult and mother I now realize just how important cooking and sharing meals with one's family is; I hope to make it this way for my children as well.
southerncooker (Registered) 2010-04-21 05:23:57

First let me say thanks for sharing the recipe for Grits Cakes. I think I'll be trying these soon since we are a grit loving southern family. I've dreamed of eating at Thomas Keller's restaurant but since I don't think I'll ever make it there having this book would mean I could do it vicariously. I love to cook and would put this one to good use.

We often gather at my aging Mom and Dad's on Sundays for family meals. I know I could serve some stunning family meals from this, I'm almost certain award winning book.

Good luck Chef Keller.
porkbellyrulez (Registered) 2010-04-23 15:48:18

This book has been the top book on my list of wants. Thomas Keller is a master chef. This homecooking book is what family meals is all about. I believe fast family meals such as hamburger helpers and the such are okay sometimes, but I really enjoy taking the time to put love and work into please my family with home cooked meals. They are out all day working at school or work and they deserve to come home and have a meal prepared for them that not only satisfies the hunger, but also delights their palates. My family means everything to me.
And the winner is...
pam (Publisher) 2010-05-01 15:10:35

The coveting is over jettrash23 - you've won! We can't wait to hear about the creations Chef Keller helps you make.
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