Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chef Dave Cruz of Ad Hoc on Vacations

Recently I had the good fortune to chat with Chef Dave Cruz, the Chef de Cuisine of Ad-Hoc, considered one of the “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants” by the San Francisco Chronicle and part of the Thomas Keller group of restaurants. He happened to be visiting family in West Texas.

Naturally, our conversation turned to vacations.

Now my idea of a perfect vacation would include eating my way through exotic lands like Greece, Italy, France, Singapore and…the list goes on. Sometimes, it's running off to a deserted island all by myself with a good book.

For Chef Cruz there are two types of vacations:

1. Checking out restaurants and eating.
“So much of what you do as a chef relies on our food memories,” he said. “You taste something, and you know it.”

2. Coming home to his family. For more on that, check out my article.

I don’t know about you all, but it’s not that often I get to lunch with a famous chef. So for once I zipped up and let a man order for me. Every time he tried to ask for my opinion, I just shook my head and said, “Order the way you would if I wasn’t here.”

“When I go to a restaurant, I order a lot of food so I can taste across the menu,” he said.

My response: “Go for it!”

We ended up sharing a ceviche, a salad of crab cakes and field greens, and Mahi-Mahi tacos with a mango salsa. But the best part, for me, was about three hours of conversation about food: cooking, ingredients, philosophies.

Of course, I came home totally inspired. So after I worked on my article for a bit I tried out a recipe from Ad Hoc At Home, a cookbook featuring family style recipes and a project Chef Cruz collaborated on with Chef Thomas Keller.

Sautéed Lamb Loin Chops

12 1 ¼-inch-thick lamb chops (about 4 ounces each)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil
4 thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, slightly crushed, skin left on


1. Remove the lamb chops from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Set a cooling wire rack over a baking sheet.
3. Season the lamb chop generously with salt and pepper.
4. Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
5. Add 6 of the lamb chops to the pan and cook until well-browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Turn the chops and add half the thyme and garlic, and cook, basting the meat with its own fat, until browned on the second side.
7. Transfer to the cooling rack, along with the thyme and garlic. Repeat with the remaining chops, thyme and garlic.
8. Transfer the chops to the oven and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat is 128 degrees to 130 degrees. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest in a warm spot for 15 minutes for medium-rare.

Excerpted from AD HOC AT HOME COOKBOOK by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books).
Copyright 2OO9. Deborah Jones photographer.

The recipe wonderfully showcases the flavor of lamb, with the garlic adding a nice flair. Frying the garlic creates bits of golden crust on the outside, but the later roasting makes the inside sweet and buttery soft. I loved the garlic so much, next time I’m going add more cloves.

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