The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià

Editor’s note: Linda Avery reviews the recently released cookbook by super chef Ferran Adrià, a collection of “family meals” prepared for his staff at the now closed El Bulli restaurant in Spain.

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià
by Ferran Adrià
photos by Francese Guillamet

Facts: Phaidon Press Inc. 384 pages, $29.95 (or Amazon at $17.15)
Photos: Grab a calculator and do the math (see 4th paragraph below: Open the Book)
Recipes: 93 plus basic recipes
Give to: Gourmet home cooks, professional chefs, cookbook collectors

The name Ferran Adrià immediately summons thoughts of molecular gastronomy: his famous spherical olives which appear as jellied green blobs jiggling on a spoon but burst to fill the mouth with the flavor of intense olive juice. Or the frozen Gorgonzola balloon, a hollow white sphere, about eight inches across and the color of fresh ricotta, topped with a grate of nutmeg meant to be broken (with your fist?) and eaten in shards.

photo © by Francese Guillamet

Ferran Adrià is the father and inspiration of a creative culinary era of deconstructing the dish and reassembling in a way you’ve never seen. His three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli closed last July after 24 years. He will reopen as the El Bulli Foundation in two years, most likely transforming the space as he transforms food.

When I first saw The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià, I wondered if I need buy a chemistry set or cylinder of liquid nitrogen.

No, this truly is home cooking, the maestro demonstrating in detail how a dish should be done. You see, “family meals” are the repasts of his restaurant family; the menus of dinners prepared and eaten daily by his staff of 75.

He insisted on good food, easy-to-find ingredients that are mostly fresh and the aggregate couldn’t be expensive. (I think I read that the cost could not exceed €6/person but I can’t confirm).

Open the Book. There are 31 meals within. Each meal has a starter, a main, and a dessert. Recipe ingredients are listed for 2, 6, 20 or 75 and carefully calculated (not mathematically but via testing at each level) for each group. So using a bit of math, we know that 31 meals x 3 recipes equals 93 recipes.

photo © by Francese Guillamet

Each recipe has photos showing every step — about 15 photos per recipe. That’s almost 1,400 photos not counting the photo stack of appetizer, main and dessert preceding the meal, photos of utensils, types of fish and more.

It’s a blog but on paper: each step of every recipe is a photo with instructions superimposed. One almost doesn’t need to read English.

Aside: is this some sort of Bizarro world? Maybe the first caveman recipes were chiseled into a rock wall. Then the Egyptians invented paper and recipes were portable and accompanied by illustrations and later photos. Fast-forward to the internet: food blogs have photos of every step of the recipe. Is this where the world turns around? Now photos of every step put back on paper? Should we be sharpening our chisels?

Here is the entrée from Meal 24 which consists of Garbanzo Beans with Spinach & Egg, Glazed Teriyaki Pork Belly, and Sweet Potato with Honey & Cream.

Glazed Teriyaki Pork Belly

Teriyaki is a sweet Japanese sauce used for marinating before roasting or broiling. You can make the teriyaki sauce yourself or use a good-quality, store-bought sauce.

photo © by Francese Guillamet

Serves 6
For the teriyaki sauce
(Makes 4 1/3 cups)
1/3 cup lemongrass, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups soy sauce
1 3/4 honey

For the pork belly
2 1/2 pounds pork belly
10 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
12 black peppercorns
3 garlic cloves
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups teriyaki sauce

For the teriyaki sauce
1. Using a rolling pin or other heavy utensil, crush the lemongrass and ginger.

2. Put the chicken stock, sugar, and soy sauce into a large saucepan.

3. Add the honey.

4. Add the crushed lemongrass and ginger. Put the pan over medium heat, bring to a boil, then boil for 15 minutes.

5. Strain and reserve.

Make the pork belly
1. Put the pork into a large pan with the water. The pork should be well covered, so add more (water) if necessary. Add the salt and peppercorns.

2. Coarsely chop the onions and add to the pan with the garlic.

3. Bring the water to a simmer.

4. Cook the pork covered, for 1 1/2 hours, until cooked through, adding more water if necessary to cover. Remove and place on a cutting board.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

6. Cut the pork into strips about 3/4 inch thick.

7. Place the pork in a roasting pan in a single layer, then cover with the teriyaki sauce.

8. Roast the pork for 30 minutes, regularly basting with teriyaki sauce to glaze.

9. Serve the pork with spoonfuls of the teriyaki sauce.

6 replies
  1. Linda Eckhardt
    Linda Eckhardt says:

    3 cups of sugar + 1-3/4 cups honey to slather onto pork bellies for 6 people?

    I don’t think so.

    Typical chef’s recipe, not really translatble to the home cook.

    I think I’ll pass on this book.

    • Linda Avery
      Linda Avery says:

      Hi Linda
      The teriyaki sauce recipe states that it makes 4 1/2 cups but the pork belly recipe only calls for 2 1/2 cups.
      Essentially you’re only using about half of the sauce recipe.

  2. Vero
    Vero says:

    I originally loved the book, but found that many of the recipes have the wrong amount of ingredients. For example, the beef stock recipe calls for 6 lbs of celery to make 8 1/2 cups of stock… obviously wrong.
    Yesterday I made the noodles with shiitake & ginger and I ended up having to throw away the food: inedible. For 6 people the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oister and 1/2 cup of soy. The final product is SO salty it cannot be eaten. Too bad, I imagine that Ferran Adria would be very upset if he knew that the measures in his book have been translated wrongly… I will not cook from his book anymore.
    I will submit my comment in other places as well.


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