Long before chef Ludo Lefebvre opened Petit Trois, Justin Timberlake's favorite bistro-as-counter, and Trois Mec, the swank restaurant disguised as a Raffallo's pizza joint, before he ran all those pop-ups, even before Bastide, he cooked at L'Orangerie — and published a cookbook.
No, not "LudoBites," the one before that, "Crave," which was published way back in 2005. Before the recession, before neo food trucks and pop-ups and restaurants that required online ticketing systems.
To celebrate that 10-year anniversary, "Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses," originally published by ReganBooks, was recently republished — this time not by Judith Regan, but self-published (through Blurb) by Lefebvre, his business partner and wife, Krissy Lefebvre, and Lucy Lean, who also shot many of the new photographs.
After some delay, the book is finally available on Amazon as a limited edition. This is useful information for many reasons, not least of which being that the famous photo of Lefebvre, shirtless, hauling two giant salmon from the surf, is back — as the cover photo for the first part of the book, "The Education of a French Chef."
It is not too late to buy your friends cookbooks; you have, for example, six whole months before Bastille Day.
That photograph got a lot of attention. In fact the first paragraph of the cookbook review of the book in this publication, written by then-food editor Leslie Brenner, reads: "He's the guy your girlfriends warned you about. Look at him, emerging from the surf like a chef-Adonis, kelp fairly dangling from his biceps. He caught those big fish with his bare hands!" Right.
In the 10 years since the original edition came out, Lefebvre has gotten more tattoos — but he's also gotten a lot more cooking done, notably at his own first two restaurants, both of which have opened in the last few years.
For this edition, many of his previous recipes have been reshot and often replated to make them more accessible to all of us who did not train, as Lefebvre did, with legendary French chef Marc Meneau.
There have been some other changes, mostly minor and mostly reorganization, such as moving all the jellies and vinegars and such to a Basic Recipe section. The paper is better quality. The cover is different — less GQ, more French street art.
And then there are all the recipes, which date to Lefebvre's time at L'Orangerie circa 2005. So you won't be getting Ludo's famous omelet — you'll have to go to Petit Trois like the rest of us — or his fried chicken. But you will get lovely stuff like chicken etouffee in dried verbena and curry leaves, sweetbreads with ginger, warm waffles with chestnut cream, fried candied milk with green cardamom and his version of tortilla de patata, the classic Spanish potato omelet, which recipe is below.
Here the potatoes are sliced thinly, pressed into a charlotte mold, then cooked in a water bath. It's actually pretty simple for a Ludo recipe, with only six ingredients, including the salt and pepper. But you can always throw some seared foie gras on it, if you want to get all fancy, now that the stuff's legal. Ludo would doubtless approve.
POTATO CAKE WITH ONIONS
From: "Crave: Feast of the Five Senses," by Ludo Lefebvre. This recipe has not been tested in The Times Test Kitchen.
3 Maui onions, or Vidalia or other sweet onions (about 1 pound)
1 cup clarified butter
11 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 7 pounds), peeled
1 teaspoon freshly ground mace
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 3-quart charlotte mold (8x4½). Using a mandoline, cut the onions into 1/16-inch-thin slices. Set the onions aside. Place the Clarified Butter in a large metal bowl. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water to keep the butter melted. Using a mandoline, cut the potatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Toss the potato slices with the Clarified Butter to coat. Season the potato mixture to taste with fleur de sel and pepper.
2. Arrange enough potato slices over the bottom of the charlotte mold, overlapping slightly and in concentric circles, to create one layer. Sprinkle some of the onion slices over the potatoes. Sprinkle a pinch of the mace over the onions in the mold. Press the layers to compact. Repeat layering all of the potato and onion slices, sprinkling each layer with mace, alternating the direction of the circles to increase the stability of the cake, and creating about 20 layers total. Cover with aluminum foil.
3. Place the charlotte mold in a roasting pan. Fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the mold. Bake until a skewer can be inserted into the center of the potatoes without resistance, adding more hot water to the roasting pan as needed, about 4 hours. Cool atop the stove for 15 minutes. Remove the foil. Place a platter atop the mold. Using oven mitts, invert the mold onto the platter. Remove the mold and serve.