The celebrated chef owns one of this country's most acclaimed restaurants, The French Laundry, which is located in the heart of California's Napa Valley.
Keller is not someone who had an intense childhood passion for food. In fact until his early 20s, he had an unremarkable relationship with food — falling into it. A high school grad with some limited carpentry skills and not much of plan, he was washing dishes at one of the restaurants his mother owned in South Florida. When the chef quit, she moved him behind the stove where he made burgers and sandwiches. He had very little interest in cooking. But one thing led to another and now at the age of 45 he is considered the best of the best.
He believes cooking should be slow and deliberate and deserves all of our attention
As he prepares to open another restaurant in New York City, we asked him to share some of his favorite recipes. He demonstrated at our studios his salmon cornets, baked salmon dish and his famous lemon tart. Keller also discussed wine pairing.
Makes 24 Cornets
Keller says this is one of his favorite dishes to serve to large groups of people because it's fun to look at, it's distinctive, delicious and doesn't require a plate or silverware. You can eat it standing up, with a glass of Champagne or wine in one hand. He says at the French Laundry he uses a specially made Lucite holder to serve the cones, but you might fill a bowl with rock salt, or peppercorns, and stand the cones up in this to serve them.
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
(makes about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces salmon fillet (belly preferred), skin and any pin bones removed and very finely minced
3/4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced chives
1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
small pinch of freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche
1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
1/2 cup crème fraiche
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground white pepper to taste
24 chive tips (about 1 inch long)
For the Cornets: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets.
There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.
Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point.
Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door. This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet.
Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling.
When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so.
Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.
For Salmon Tartare: With a sharp knife, finely mince the salmon fillet (do not use a food processor, as it would damage the texture of the fish) and place it in a small bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the tartare for at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours.
For Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraiche: Place the red onions in a small strainer and rinse them under cold water for several seconds. Dry them on paper towels. In a small metal bowl, whisk the crème fraiche for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it holds soft peaks when you lift the whisk. Fold in the chopped onions and season to taste with the salt and white pepper. Transfer the onion cream to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve of for up to 6 hours.
To Complete: Fill just the top 1/2 inch of each cornet with onion cream, leaving the bottom of the cone empty. (This is easily done using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or with the tip of a small knife.) Spoon about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the tartare over the onion cream and mold it into a dome resembling a scoop of ice cream. Lay a chive tip against one side of the tartare to garnish.
Lemon Sabayon/Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
butter and flour for the tart pan
1/3 recipe Pine Nut Crust (recipe follows)
2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Honeyed Mascarpone Cream Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey
This tart is best served at room temperature, within a few hours of assembling, but if necessary, it can be refrigerated and served cold.
For the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.
Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.
Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate the shell and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is golden brown. Remove the shell from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. There may be some cracks in the shell; they will not affect the tart.
For Lemon Sabayon: Bring about 1-1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the mixing bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl, for even heating. After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and when the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened, light in color, and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the water as you add the butter: Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. That sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart shell and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; do not leave the oven (this will happen in a few seconds). Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.
For the Honeyed Mascarpone Cream: In a bowl set over ice, whip the cream until it is frothy. Add the mascarpone and honey and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes, or until the cream is thick and creamy. Keep refrigerated until serving.
To Complete: Serve the slices of the tart with mascarpone cream on the side.
Pine Nut Crust
2 cups (10 ounces) pine nuts
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Since the recipe uses only one egg, it would be difficult to cut down, but the extra dough can be frozen for future use.
Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle).
Add the softened butter, the egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients. Divide the dough into three parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using. The dough can be frozen for future use.
Makes enough dough for the 9-inch tarts.
Slow Baked Atlantic Salmon, Spring Vegetable with Red Radish and Garden Herb Vinaigrette
80 grams salmon filet, skinned
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Malden salt, as needed
1/4 tablespoon English split peas, blanched, peeled
4 each Spring Onions, trimmed, cooked
1/2 cup Fava beans, peeled
1/2 cup Morels, sauteed
3 each crème brulee molds, large
Lightly coat salmon with extra virgin olive oil.
Season with Malden sea salt.
Place in ceramic ovenware dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in a 225 degree F oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
Garnish with spring vegetables and drizzle with vinaigrette.
Fines Herbs/Red Radish Vinaigrette
1.5 tablespoon red radish, brunoise
2 teaspoons chives, chopped
1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon chervil, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Mix radish, herbs and extra virgin olive oil.
Add vinegar at the last minute.