Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pioneer Woman v. Thomas Keller

In this Slate article, Jennifer Reese pits two cooks offering folksy homestyle recipes against one another: the Oklahoma populist Ree Drummond, aka Pioneer Woman, and elite restaurateur Thomas Keller. Drummond buys Reddi-wip; Keller makes his own salad croutons from home-baked brioche. Reese cooks a dinner of fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, salad and pineapple upside-down cake from each of their cookbooks.

Since Keller's Ad Hoc at Home is my current coffee table book, I was interested in the results of this little cookoff. Predictably, Keller's recipes take more work but yield food a thousand times better. Unfortunately, Reese is the only one who notices; her husband and kids are oblivious. Her son says Keller's garlicky mashed potatoes taste "weird," favoring Pioneer Woman's spuds made with cream cheese. Fried chicken is fried chicken, says the boneheaded husband, who actually prefers the saccharine stickiness of canned pineapple to Keller's fresh-fruit version. Reese concludes that Keller's is the superior book, but the one she needs is the one that helps her put a "good enough" dinner on the table.

I say: Why bother cooking if you're only going for good enough? Frying chicken and baking biscuits is a mess whatever shortcuts you take, so instead of settling for Drummond's chicken that tastes like KFC, you might as well go out and get a bucket for $9.99. Thomas Keller's fried chicken may be my next cooking experiment.

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