There's something missing from the just-released Fresh From The Market: Seasonal Cooking With Laurent Tourondel, but what exactly is it? According to the publisher's press release, the recipes are culled from Tourondel's “childhood in France, his early career as a globetrotting chef, and straight from the menu at BLT Market, his restaurant in New York City.” Seems pretty straightforward.
Ah yes, and then you remember that lawsuit that cropped up a few weeks ago between the author and his former BLT restaurant empire partner, who is suing the chef over highly classified information like adding spirits to a milkshake at a burger joint Tourondel parted ways with his eponymous restaurant chains earlier this year; BLT Market is the one entity that remained under Tourondel's proprietorship and he has since opened LT Burger. According to Business Week, lawyers for BLT Restaurant Group claim that “Tourondel used proprietary and confidential information in the creation, operation and promotion of LT Burger.”
Does that mean it's culinary espionage that we want to try those crispy Maryland soft-shell crabs with chili-garlic dressing, knowing full well that like those boozy milkshakes, they could be next on the list of purported stolen goods (the final cookbook copy would have likely been sent to the printer not long after the BLT breakup)? Or maybe it was the pan-seared sweetbreads with Madeira-braised morels and Calabro ricotta gnocchi. We've always thought sweetbreads were a suspicious lot.
No matter, as the book itself is a beauty, 300+ pages of apple-bourbon fizz cocktails, halibut with caramelized cauliflower and hazelnuts, homemade gnocchi with lamb sausage, Swiss chard and fennel buerre blanc and chestnut floating islands with honey mendiant (nuts and dried fruit steeped in honey). Fresh produce is the focus, so the book is organized by the seasons that are then subdivided into cocktails, appetizers, main courses, desserts, breakfast and special-occasion meals (a Thanksgiving menu, a Memorial Day barbecue).
To get into this book, you do need to be the kind of weekend cook interested in detailed instructions for making braised rabbit legs in Chablis with tarragon tagliatelle and Mousseron mushrooms — and then have the energy to find those farm-raised rabbits and wild mushrooms (Tourondel notes you can substitute oysters mushrooms if you must). He's also the type to tell you exactly which brand of crème fraîche you should use in a specific recipe (Vermont Butter and Cheese, though we think Sadie Kendall's version that you can readily find around here is pretty great, too).
When substitutions are offered, they are clearly done so with that executive chef's hesitation. “I strongly recommend that you make your own ice cream,” Tourondel says of a stunning banana split bomb glace with chocolate sauce after noting it is possible, but not desirable, to use store-bought ice cream. And then there's that “BLT, fried egg and cheese sandwich” recipe with Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese and (gasp) arugula. Your Honor, we have no further comment.