Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Very Special French Laundry at Home: Happy Blogiversary!

As I mentioned in my previous post, this is a Very Special French Laundry at Home. And, as wise as you are and as well as you've come to know me, more than a few of you have emailed to ask, "Holy crap, are we going to learn a serious life lesson like on those 'very special' episodes of Facts of Life?"

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this Very Special edition of French Laundry at Home will not feature cousin Geri. It will not overcome great odds. There will not be a cameo by Charo. It will not recover from tragedy. It will not address a taboo social issue. There will not be a guest appearance by Jim J. Bullock. There will be no hugging, no learning. Kristy McNichol is not in the building.

Instead, there will be champagne and lots of eating because today is a very special day (to me anyway). It's the one-year blogiversary of French Laundry at Home. As you know, I started this site on January 15, 2007 with the intent of spending two years cooking every dish in The French Laundry Cookbook. So much for that timeline, eh? Once I started cooking, I just couldn't stop. It's too freakin' addictive! In just a year, I've cooked 71 out of 100 dishes, and I am having the time of my life. I hope you are, too.

Based on the spike in email and site traffic that started right after Christmas, it seems like many of you have either dusted off your copy of The French Laundry Cookbook, permanently borrowed one from the library, or received a copy as a gift. Congrats, and welcome! Oh, and call someone else for bail money if you get busted for the library theft. I can't help ya there.

Many of you who've been in touch over the past few weeks have asked what my favorite dishes have been so far, or what I would recommend you try if you got The French Laundry Cookbook as a holiday gift, so let me spend my blogiversary telling you just that.

First, let's start with the Top Ten. They're in no particular order, and asking me to rank them would be very Sophie's Choice of you, so I'm not gonna do it. I love all ten equally.

1) Oysters and Pearls: The only oyster dish I will ever eat. Enough said.

2) Linguine with White Clam Sauce: Easy, easy, easy, especially when you cheat and use store-bought pasta like I did. The reason this made the list is not just because it is excellent, it's also because I have an emotional connection to this dish. It came at a time when I found out I had skin cancer and another friend got some bad news about her father. So, it was so wonderful to sit with my friends around my dining room table and have not just this dish, but the giant bowl of leftover pasta with clam sauce and a few glasses of wine to try and feel better. It worked.

3) Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage Cream, Brown Butter, and Prosciutto: If it were possible to marry food, meet my new husband. But, ssshhhhh... don't tell my boyfriend, Mike Bloomberg.

4) Black Sea Bass with Sweet Parsnips, Arrowleaf Spinach, and Saffron-Vanilla Sauce: After I divorced the Agnolotti, I'd shack up with this dish for sure. Also, keeping The Bloom in play, because, hello, I think I'd make a fantastic First Lady.

5) Roulade of Pekin Duck Breast with Creamed Sweet White Corn and Morel Mushroom Sauce: One of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Also see: notes on the duck dish at Per Se. I feel the same way about this dish.

6) Coffee and Doughnuts: I know you haven't seen the post for this yet. It's coming I swear, and it's full of slightly drunk, caffeinated goodness, and doughnuts that are, um, shall we say an interesting shape.

7) Cream of Walnut Soup: I associate this with snow and a cold, cold day. Nothing better than the near-silence outside when it's snowing hard, and you've got a little shot glass of hot cream of walnut soup in your hands. Really, life doesn't get much better than that. Well, except when I become the First Lady in a Bloomberg White House. That might be better than the Cream of Walnut Soup, but not by much.

8) Lemon Sabayon Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream: I hate lemons almost as much as I hate celery, but I loved this dish. Go figure.

9) Tasting of Potatoes with Black Truffle: It's only been a week or so since I've made this, yet I dream about that potato purée all the time.

10) Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Leeks, Pommes Maxim and a Red Beet Essence: Butter, lobster, beets... three of my favorite foods. It's perfect. The only way to make it better would be to add bacon, so... um.... guess what I'll be trying this weekend?!?!?!?

So, those are the dishes I think I love the most (so far). Now, here are the dishes I think could pop your French Laundry Cookbook cherry:

Gazpacho: So simple and straightforward. You can't screw this up. It's a great place to start.

Gougères: Again, there's really no way to mess this up. They're easy and will be gone in minutes, they're that good.

Black Sea Bass with Parsnips: This was one of the simplest dishes to do, and it's really, really good.

Salmon and Celery: Yes, I know I pitched a fit about how much I hate celery, but you could make it without it, or use something else in its place. This dish was really easy and a real crowd pleaser.

And, the dishes I will likely do over because I'm pissed off they didn't work the first time, or I know I can do them better:


Spotted Skate Wing: This time with skate instead of halibut.

Chocolate Cakes with Beet Ice Cream
: I need those cakes to work, damnit.

Crème de Farine: I know, I know, being married to Dick Cheney would be a far easier and less painful form of torture, but I don't care. I want to get that dessert right. Or at least, less pitiful-looking. I owe it to The Durf. Durfster. Steeeeve. Steeeeve-a-reeeeno. Duurrrrrrrrfff.

Pot Au Feu: No brainer. Those cock-ups were all my fault. I can make this work. And, so can you -- it's also a pretty easy one, if you can, you know, tell the difference between buying beef and pork. Gah.

Agnolotti: Any kind, any filling. I will go to my grave having accomplished a beautiful agnolotti, even if it takes me until I'm 100 years old.

I know I was all gushy and mushy in my end-of-year post back in December, but I can't close this post without again thanking you for being such great readers. Your witty emails and comments make my day, and even the bitchy ones make me smirk because I can say nasty things back to you as I'm reading your email and you won't know it, so ha ha ha on you!

Before I go, and this really is a Very Special thing, I want to tell you about the money you raised for Share Our Strength, because honestly, I'm blown away. I kicked off the fundraising drive back in August expecting to raise between $250-500 by the end of the year, but really didn't pester you too much about it until closer to Thanksgiving when I just wouldn't shut up about it. And, it worked.

The results are in and my original secret goal of $500 was way off, because from August through the end of 2007, we raised $3,000!

I originally said I would match 10% of the total donation, but I've changed my mind. You guys opened your hearts and your wallets and it's only right that I do the same. So, I'm actually going to match 50% of the total and donate $1,500, for a total of $4,500.

Let me take a moment to thank those who opted-in to be thanked publicly:

Kristen Byrne
Brian Chan
Carolyn Ciesla
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Karchmer
Elizabeth McGhee

I want to thank each and every one of you, on this list or not, who donated to this worthy cause. I am so grateful that you all are as kind and generous as you are.

Thanks again for such a great year, and for making this one-year milestone such a pleasure to reach.

I had the great pleasure of being in New York this past weekend with my family to celebrate my dad's birthday, so I'll be back in a few days with an actual food post. If you want, please feel free to use the comments section to wish my dad a happy birthday. He'd love it. Well, he'll love it once he's done killing me for telling the entire internet about his birthday. Oh well, he's so old he'll probably forget about it in a day, anyway. KIDDING.

Or, use the comments to tell me what you're cooking these days -- French Laundry Cookbook-related, or not. I'm curious...

Up Next: Venison Chop with Pan-Roasted Butternut Squash and Braised Shallots (featuring my backyard version of Marlin Perkins' Wild Kingdom)

Read my previous post: Salmon "Chops" with Celery and Black Truffles


junglegirl said...

I am making a raw food pasta with zucchini noodles and mac nut parmesan, haha! I love your site and your humor and sent my mother your end of year wrap up because it was so good and so inspiring. Especially hearing about the way you began this blog. Thank you and Happy new year!

Moonbeam's Auntie said...

Happy Blogiversary Carol, from sunny Los Angeles. Love the blog and kudos on all the awards! Happy New Year--

Heidi from SC said...

This is the quintessential post! I've been waiting for this one. I'm so glad that I don't have to wait anymore. I am one of those people who e-mailed after my gift of TFL cookbook arrived with questions galore. Thank you for your wit, bravery, and all that you do!

Victoria said...

I wish I could be funny because you always make me smile and laugh, but basically all I can come up with is congratulations on your blogiversary, and thanks for this great post, thanks for the great year-end post (I sent the link to a lot of friends), and thanks for your great blog. I may be jumping on board late, but jumping I am. I've retrieved my copy of the book and am starting with the dishes you recommended first. But dammit, next weekend I AM MAKING VEAL STOCK for the first time. Again, thanks and congrats. And happy, happy birthday to your dad. I was going to say that maybe you'll get to Gracie Mansion before you get to the White House, and you might invite me to dinner, but then I remembered the Bloom doesn't actually live at Gracie Mansion. Oh, well.

Mary Coleman said...

What an incredible year you have had. Great food, hilarious writing and such a good cause. You're a great addition to the blogosphere and I do hope, after you've done the last recipes from the cookbook, you keep on with your blog! It will be interesting to see what you do next.
And a most happy birthday to your dad!

John said...

Happy Birthday Daddy-O....You have taught your daughter how to be strong and funny.Not an easy task. Great Job!!!

Congrats on the anniversary..I hope to spend many many more with you...on your blog ..that is!!

Spooneroonie said...

Happy Birthday, Carol's Dad! Please don't kill her. We love her, and she has the awards to prove it. I hope your birthday was a riot!

Lately, I've made onion soup (from scratch.....no packets in sight)from Cooking For Dummies. I've also made the potatoes and cream with garlic, and it's so yummy. Complete go-to dish. It reheats awesomely.

Congrats on a whole year, Carol. I'm proud to say I was here from the beginning, and I've enjoyed every single minute. Your posts never fail to make me laugh, and laughter is such a rare thing these days. So, thank YOU. Keep up the good work!

Kristen said...

Trudy! How I miss your antics! Congratulations on the success of your blog, Carol!

Teena said...

I love your blog -- it never ceases to make me laugh out loud! I, myself am pursuing a similar (albeit longer, but less complicated!) project of cooking all 1293 recipes in The Gourmet Cookbook (the big yellow one!). I am almost half done! You can read about it here: http://thegourmetproject.blogspot.com/

Happy cooking!

JoP in Omaha said...

Congratulations on the anniverary. Awesome job you've done.

But...but...but....the blueberry soup didn't make your cut of favorites???!!!!! I'm stunned. I've made that soup, and it's to die for. Maybe the best thing I've ever eaten. And it's nowhere in your list???

I'm speechelss. And I'm lobbying others: don't overlook that blueberry soup. It's so easy to make, and the result is amazing. The dish is unforgettable---well, for me, I guess not for Carol. Sniff.

mrschloesmom said...

I know that I'm just the latest hobo to jump into the boxcar, but DAMN YOU CAROL!! I can no longer prepare a meal for my family without starting at least one dish from zero!! How dare you contaminate my Kraft Foods & Family mailings with thoughts of fresh made pasta and creamy clam sauce instead of Sandra Lee styled Velveta Shells & Cheese mix-ins!

Kim said...

Happy birthday, Carol's dad, and happy blogiversary to you! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences - they're fun to read and drool about.

Nan said...

Happy Birthday, to you (Dad), cha-cha-cha,
Happy Anniversary to you, (Carol),
Happy, happy, happy, happy, everything.

The cha-cha's are brought to you from Sunny California by my daughter, who adds them to every birthday song.

Anonymous said...

1. Stumbled on your blog recentely. Love it. Keep up the good work.

2. Got the French Laundry/Bouchon combo for Xmas. Can't wait to try out some of the recipes. I feel much more confident about doing it with your step by step decriptions.

3. Did I miss the entry or have you not done Tongue in Cheek yet? Very interested to see how that one comes out.

Liz said...

For some reason, I've gone all Asian in my food desires. I think it's a combination of too much Donna Hay and Delicious magazine and too much Kylie Kwong on TV.

Although not in my Asian fixation, I have a recipe from Delicious that I adapted. Originally, it was a topping for veal and involved sage. I hate sage and veal is pretty pricey. So, I replaced the sage with some Italian parsley and used it on pork chops to make a quick and fabulous weeknight meal.

Adapted recipe for topping (they call it a picada)

3/4 C toasted coarse breadcrumbs (frequently, I use panko)
1/2 C toasted hazelnuts
1/3 C chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 t cayenne
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 T olive oil

Mix all ingredients. They recommend putting sauteed spinach on top of the veal and then top with the picada. Works great with a pork chop.

rt said...

Phew...I'm taking Mrs. Garrett off speed dial now. (funny how I hated that show, but it is lodged in my memory).

Last cool thing I cooked: I took Ruhlman's suggestion when I was home for the holidays, made stock from the leftover turkey, then made two different risotto dishes with the various leftovers and assorted items (half bag of frozen peas, proscuitto, and a molto mario recipe) Mom had in the fridge (mario was not in the fridge). It worked out well because it was good comfort food when half the family got sick the day after xmas. Plus it was good because two decades after leaving home, Mom can now relax about whether her son can cook for himself.

Brad S said...

Palette de Porc a la Biere from the Les Halles cookbook.

Sally Forth said...

Congratulations on your blog anniversary and Happy Birthday to your Dad! That venison chop is really good. I've been playing around with my mortar and pestle making rubs since we're in the barbeque holidays down here.

Gillian said...

Love your site - thanks for sharing your Adventures in French Laundry with us. Happy Blogiversary and Happy Birthday to Dad!

Chief Family Officer said...

Happy Blogoversary! I've been reading for just a couple of months now (I think I found you via the now-defunct Yahoo Picks) and I've really enjoyed your hysterical posts. Thanks for sharing and making me laugh!

Karen said...

Yay! My copy of the French Laundry Cookbook arrived yesterday and I can't wait to start! Your blog really inspired me (not to mention made me laugh out loud at work, not the best environment to read your blog), but I'm going to try and make my own sausage first (am also reading Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. Who is also awesome). Anyway, happy anniversary!

Anna Banana said...

I think everyone (maybe you too?) is in denial about what's next after you make recipe 100. What's next?? Could you make one of those little surveys so we can all vote on the cookbook for your next blog? Please don't go away! Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on one year. Happy B'day to your dad too.

JoP in Omaha said...

What I've been cooking: last weekend I made the short ribs from the Bouchon cookbook. They were easy to make, and result was delicious. I highly recommend this dish to those who own the Bouchon book.

Happy birthday, Carol's dad!

MrsVJW said...

Bravo to those who gave to SOS!!!

The Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Leeks, Pommes Maxim and a Red Beet Essence was my first dish. I can't wait to cook lobster like that again! Based on this last post, I may try the lemon tart recipe with key limes for a party next month. Thank you, if for nothing else than all the pictures of the processes so people can look back and go "Ok, this is what it should/(sometimes should not) look like at this point..."

On the everyday cooking front, it's the start of a new year, a real "go" at my diet again, so it's a lot of stuff from Cooking Light. Going well so far, even if I am dreaming of the butter-poached lobster.....

biskuit said...

First, keep up the great work! Love the blog and following your adventures. The very same weekend you started it last year, I cooked a 7 course French Laundry-inspired dinner for my wife's birthday (a few photos at http://flickr.com/photos/kaplanbr/sets/72157600210905325/ ) and just last week I repeated the feat (LOTS more photos at http://flickr.com/photos/kaplanbr/sets/72157603697458801/ ). Both meals turned out exceptionally well, but of course there were some speedbumps along the way (darn truffle chips and chive chips simply take a lot more heat and time than Keller calls for). So, I'll be following your escapades in preparation for next year and my once a year French Laundry extravaganza.

Pastrymann said...

Hi Carol,
A belated B-day to you Dad. I know you enjoyed you dining at Bouchon and especially the C.B,& J. Ahhh it brings back childhood memories. Say, Carol how is the dirty dog ?

Anonymous said...

thank you dear neighbor for all you do. we sure are so lucky and appreciative!!Happy anniversary and Happy Birthday to your Dad! your writing is wonderful cb.
love, hm

pdxblogmommy said...

Bon Anniversaire a Ned! Hope NYC was fabuloso and not too cold while you all were there!

Well, I echo the lot in hoping that once you're done with this you give us something else to follow that's equally interesting and hilarious at the same time.

I think for me, though, half the hilarity is knowing what you're doing and what you likely look like doing it and where the snarty lart is half the time awaiting some cheese.

Since many of us went into DinerGirl withdrawl, this was an excellent way to keep up with the laughing and the snark, so thank you.

Love ya, mean it.

Trailer Trash.

A Gifted Underachiever said...

Congrats Carol! I absolutely love your blog. Fun, fresh, and exciting.

I thought about doing a similar type of blog myself (With Anthony Bourdain's Les Helle's Cookbook) but didn't want to rip off your idea completely :).

Keep up the great work!

Julie said...

Congratulations on your blogiversary and happy birthday to your dad!

I've enjoyed your first year of writing and it saddens me to think that you might stop posting when you reach the end of The French Laundry Cookbook.

Please say you have something in mind for post-French Laundry Cookbook blogging and your posts will continue even after you've cooked your way through the book.

Carol Fan said...

Happy Blogaversary Carol!!! And thank you for a wonderful year of cooking and laughing and drooling.

You know I was reading the do-over list with my fingers crossed that we'd be treated to a second round of candy apple ice cream and soft shell crabs. Well, my hopes are dashed. However, I'm still looking forward to an invite to the tasting menu of your top ten. :)

Please, please, please tell us you've got a contract to turn this blog into a book - complete with a DVD of the Celines!

Love to Mike and . . .


Carol Blymire said...

Y'all are so sweet -- and yes, I have some ideas in the hopper for when this project comes to a natural close. Not ready to share, though, but I'll still be around, I promise.

p.s. -- The Bloom sends his love.

amber said...

happy bloggiversary to ya!

that list of "the easy ones" looks great. can't wait to get started on it!

hollerhither said...

Congratulations (arriving a little late to the party, sorry)!

And thanks so much for your nice note, it made my day. :)