Cooking with Hubert Keller

pommes paillassonIt’s morning at Fleur de Lys restaurant in San Francisco

and Hubert Keller stands at the stove with a pan of potatoes sizzling happily in front of him. I had written the recipe for this dish, pommes paillasson–shredded potatoes cooked in oil and butter until they are crispy outside and meltingly soft within. Easy right? But as I wrote, I’dPP breakfast! stumbled over this: just how do you flip a 10-inch pancake? Put a plate over the top, grab it and the hot pan together with both hands, and flip? Then what? A second plate? Suddenly what had been a simple recipe with about 5 ingredients threatened to become complicated. (Such are the trials and tribulations of a cookbook writer. Hubert and I are working on his cookbook memoir, Souvenirs.) So now, as I stood next to him, I thought: “Now, I get to see how to flip it.” Then, I confess, I squealed. Because no sooner had that thought crossed my mind, when the pancake flew into the air, flipped, and returned exactly to the pan, cooked side up. “How is a normal person supposed to do that?” I asked. Hubert was already basting the edges of the pan with a nut of butter that ran under the cake to help brown the second side. He turned on me a puzzled expression. From the time he was an apprentice at Auberge de l’Ill in Illhaeusen, Alsace, France he had flipped pommes paillasson (where it was generously laced with black truffles) in just this way, with a graceful swirl and jerk. I’ve since made the dish again at home (no truffles) and let G handle the plate-and-hot-pan flip.  Then he used the crusty cake as the base for a good, old-fashioned American breakfast of fried eggs and bacon.

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The cooking was a huge success. My daughter is really thrilled with herself. She enjoyed herself so much that she made dinner last night. She also made the rice again that you made together. She likes it so much she sat around eating the leftovers. She is even making dinner now—pasta with meat and tomato sauce. She said she likes cooking and considers it a real interest.  She grew an awful lot from the experience.

-Anne Doherty, San Francisco

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner