If you have been following along on the blog this week, you have already seen this post about the recent trip I took out to Napa, CA with my friend and assistant magazine editor, Charynn Olsheski and our husbands. One of the main draws to make this trip out West was this amazing opportunity that was presented to us: visit Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.
When it comes to celebrity obsessions, both Charynn and I are starstruck when it comes to our favorite chefs. Thomas Keller being at the top of that list, we are huge fans of his popular restaurants, Bouchon, The French Laundry, and were beyond thrilled to be invited back into the kitchen of Ad Hoc, his latest restaurant in Yountville, Californa. We met with Sarah Zozaya, Pastry Chef and Katie Hagan- Whelchel, Executive Sous Chef (see the picture to the right), and passed along some of our readers’ questions to head Chef Cruz.
Can you give us a little background as to the mission of Ad Hoc and how it came to be established?
As the name implies, it was originally intended to be a temporary restaurant, a place that would only be open for a few months until a different concept was developed and realized. The impetus for the restaurant was based on the childhood food memories of Chef Keller. Things like fried chicken, beef Stroganoff and meatloaf were among the reference points that inspired the menu. Today our goal is still to touch on those food memories, we have just expanded the reference points. We serve dinner family style and invite our guests to serve each other, as well as dine with each other, just as we have from the start.
What local resources inspire the menu, and how does it change seasonally?
Surely, The French Laundry garden as well as our own garden in the back of Ad Hoc are great inspirations. They truly represent our location and the great bounty of the Napa Valley. They are wonderful because we get to be a part of the process – we have a say in what seeds are planted, and we get to be a part of the rearing, as well as a part of the harvest.
If people wanted to pull inspiration from Wine Country and their Ad Hoc visit to entertain once they return home, what would be your suggestions in terms of food and wine?
Serve what you love. I believe that in wine country, we make food we love to eat and produce wines we love to drink. If you carry that back to your own guests at home, you can’t go wrong. Have your guests be involved too. We get such joy in cooking for and serving our guests. We’ve begun to realize that most people enjoy it as well – they love getting in there and being a part of the process, knowing that they had a part in making the evening special. Keep it close to home.: we pick herbs from our backyard, and use many of our own vegetables that we grow. But we also have many relationships with producers very nearby that have great product and take immense pride in raising it. It’s a wonderful feeling to support people who are also our neighbors, especially when you know they care about their product.
The Ad Hoc cookbook is one of my personal favorites, what inspired this particular library of recipes?
Ad Hoc, plain and simple. These were among our favorite dishes to cook for our friends and, of course to eat. The cookbook was a wonderful way to share some of them.
We hear Thomas Keller Restaurant Group just opened a new outpost called Addendum. Tell us about it!
Addendum was inspired mostly by demand. We are fortunate to have many people who enjoy the fried chicken we make, as well as the barbecue dishes we do on alternating Mondays. We figured it was so natural to box it up neatly and eat it for a picnic in our garden, or somewhere outside nearby. Add some Napa wines and finish with a “hoc pop,” our own version of a push pop or a Creamsicle and it’s a great way to enjoy what the Napa Valley is about.
We had a fabulous experience at Ad Hoc and encourage you to visit on your next trip to Napa. In the meantime, Chef Cruz is sharing the famous Ad Hoc Fried Chicken recipe with all of us!
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
½ cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
About ½ ounce (3 large) rosemary sprigs
About ½ ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs
About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat leafed parsley sprigs
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
Two-2 ½ pound chickens
1 quart buttermilk
10 cups peanut oil
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnishing
For the Brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using. Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. With a knife and pair of kitchen shears, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast halves and 2 wings.
Bring the peanut oil to 330˚F. in the 6 quart sauté pan. Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container. Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray. When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature.
Fry the dark meat for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt. Carefully add the white meat to the oil and fry for about 6 to 7 minutes until cooked. Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly. It is very hot when it comes out of the oil.
While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.
Be careful. The oil can spurt as the chicken is added and fried, making this is a perfect recipe to use a splatter screen. Place a thermometer in the oil to help monitor the proper cooking temperature. It is a good idea to make this brine a day ahead and refrigerate it. Do not add the chicken to warm brine and do not leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time or it may become too salty.
For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine: