Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

by Dominique Crenn, Karen Leibowitz


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The debut cookbook from the first female chef in America to earn two Michelin stars

Atelier Crenn is the debut cookbook of Dominique Crenn, the first female chef in America to be awarded two Michelin stars—and arguably the greatest female chef in the country. This gorgeous book traces Crenn’s rise from her childhood in France to her unprecedented success with her own restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. Crenn’s food is centered around organic, sustainable ingredients with an unusual, inventive, and always stunning presentation. To put it simply, Crenn’s dishes are works of art. Her recipes reflect her poetic nature with evocative names like “A Walk in the Forest,” “Birth,” and “The Sea.” Even the dishes that sound familiar, like Fish and Chips, or Broccoli and Beef Tartare, challenge the expected with their surprising components and her signature creative plating. This impressive and beautiful cookbook by a chef who is often the only woman to be mentioned in the same breath with other culinary giants is bound to captivate the food world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544444676
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/03/2015
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 187,175
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

DOMINIQUE CRENN is the first American woman chef to earn two Michelin stars. Raised in France, Chef Crenn opened her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. She has appeared on the Today show, Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, and Top Chef. 

Read an Excerpt



I HAVE ALWAYS connected deeply with my family's Breton roots, even though — or perhaps because — I was adopted as a baby. When I was growing up, my family spent every summer in Brittany, where my grandparents on both sides had farms, and those farms had personalities. The farm on my father's side felt quite masculine, partly because my uncle and aunt kept cows and pigs, which they would turn into charcuterie. On my mother's side, the farm felt as warm and maternal as my grandmother, who grew potatoes, raised chickens, and kept a garden for growing vegetables that she traded with other villagers. During the summers, I spent almost every day on my grandmother's farm. She used to bring lunch out to the fields and we'd all sit down in the dirt and eat together. It was hard, sweaty work, but I swear those were the best-tasting potatoes in the world.

Brittany is a very beautiful part of France, with a lot of impressive stone architecture from the Middle Ages, and my family has a very long ancestry there, reaching back centuries. There are even rumors that we have a royal bastard somewhere on my mother's side of the family tree. Maybe that explains why my grandmother always seemed like a queen to me, in her house where she ruled over everything with a benevolent touch. The rest of the year, I lived with my parents and brother outside Paris, but those summers in Brittany really shaped me, and maybe my love for restaurants really started there, when my parents were building their house, and we spent a month living in a hotel with a bar and café-pâtisserie. It was a family-owned place in Locronan, called Au Fer à Cheval, and everybody knew my brother and me as we ran all around that place, in and out of the kitchen, the magazine shop, and the café. And of course, I loved to visit the pâtisserie next door. They had the most amazing kouign-amann, which is a traditional Breton butter cake. I probably ate one every day.

In terms of food, Brittany is known for butter, apples, potatoes, buckwheat, and seafood (especially oysters) and those ingredients are still touchstones for me, though I love to incorporate other influences as well, particularly from Japanese and Spanish sources. As a chef and as a person, I work hard to achieve a balance between memories and dreams, tradition and innovation, family and community, past and present. The recipes in this book reflect this personal push and pull. Almost every dish at Atelier Crenn pays homage to Brittany, but never in a straightforward or traditional way. In some dishes, I gravitate toward the ingredients I ate as a child, but I pair them with new flavors that I have encountered as an adult; in others, I revisit classic dishes from a modern perspective, which I believe breathes new life into the traditions I love. Our signature dish, a spherical Kir Breton, epitomizes the core philosophy of Atelier Crenn. Let it serve as an introduction to this book, just as it introduces diners to the restaurant.

I believe that when I draw on the sights, sound, tastes, and memories of my childhood, even my wildest culinary ideas carry an emotional resonance for my guests. As I prepared to open Atelier Crenn, I wanted to create a signature dish that expressed both where I come from and where I am now. On a practical level, it made sense to introduce my restaurant — and by extension, myself — with a cocktail, which would be served as the first taste of the meal. From that initial thought, I immediately realized that I had to create my own version of Kir Breton.

Kir Breton is Brittany's regional variation on the Kir Royale. We grow a lot of apples in the north, so instead of mixing crème de cassis with champagne, we use hard apple cider, which produces a cocktail that's a little sweeter and less bubbly. I was reminded of the shot of peach champagne in a bowl I'd had once at El Celler de Can Roca, in Spain, but I wanted to make a sphere for the sake of its beauty and simplicity. I talked the idea over with my indispensable pastry chef, Juan Contreras, who suggested cocoa butter shells, and we decided to put the cider inside and keep the cassis flavor on top as a dollop of fruit reduction.

Ultimately, we created a Kir Breton that splits the difference between apéritif and amuse-bouche, and which offers a first bite that I believe truly captures the spirit of Atelier Crenn. It was the first thing on the menu, and it has never left: Every single diner who has ever eaten at my restaurant has been served my Kir Breton. The flavors of apple cider and crème de cassis taste like home to me, so I think of our Kir Breton as sending a little burst of old-fashioned hospitality and modern cooking to welcome my guests. And at this point, the dish has a new meaning for me, as a symbol of my beautifully collaborative friendship with Juan, who makes about fifty Kir Bretons every day, including a few filled with nonalcoholic apple cider for guests who don't drink.

Be sure to prepare your Kir Breton in a cool place to minimize breakage and remind your guests not to nibble! Our spherical cocktail must be taken as a single shot, which explodes like a jubilant welcome, reminiscent of my mother greeting guests with a glass of Kir Breton. | Serves 20 as an amuse

Kir Breton

One day before serving:

• If you are using alcoholic apple cider, simmer it in a saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes to evaporate the alcohol and promote proper freezing.

• Pour the cider into spherical ice cube trays and freeze overnight.

At least six hours before the Kir Breton will be served:

• TO TEMPER THE WHITE CHOCOLATE: Fill the bottom of a double boiler or a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. In the top of the double boiler or in a large metal bowl that fits snugly over the saucepan without touching the boiling water, combine the cocoa butter and white chocolate.

• Set the top of the double boiler or the large metal bowl on the pot and attach a cooking thermometer. Heat over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until it forms a smooth syrup (38°C/100°F to 43°C/110°F).

• Prick the cider balls with a sharp pin to use as a handle to hold them. Dip each ball into the white chocolate–cocoa syrup for 1 second and remove. Smooth over the spot where you pricked the ball with your finger, then immediately place it back in the mold (leaving the top off the mold) in the refrigerator. The shell will harden in the refrigerator while the cider melts, producing a spherical white chocolate shell around liquid apple cider. Reserve any unused chocolate-cocoa syrup for another use.

• TO PREPARE THE CRÈME DE CASSIS: Pour the crème de cassis into a medium bowl. Whisk the Ultra-Tex 3 into the crème de cassis. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and transfer to a small squeeze bottle. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.


• Transfer the spheres to porcelain Asian spoons and top each one with a pea-size dot of crème de cassis reduction. Advise your guests to eat the whole thing with their mouths closed around the sphere. (At Atelier Crenn, we serve our Kir Breton on small pedestals, which allows guests to pop them into their mouths in a single bite.)



A FEW YEARS before I left France, I took a trip with my parents through the southern part of the country and we stopped in Laguiole, where renowned chef Michel Bras has developed a truly beautiful style of cooking that had an enormous influence over a whole generation of chefs. At Michel Bras's eponymous restaurant, there is no division between the cuisine and the natural environment. It's a pure reflection: His food is Laguiole and Laguiole is his food.

According to the story I heard, one day in 1978, Bras was out running in the fields of Laguiole when he was struck with the inspiration for a dish that would translate the landscape onto the plate, from the crops to the flowers to the soil. He called his dish gargouillou, which is a traditional dish in southern France, but what Bras made was not just an update of an old recipe, but rather a reflection of his love for the land. In a way, it was like Impressionist painting: He was showing us his vision of what he saw, rather than a Realist portrait.

At the time that I visited Michel Bras, I was obsessed with Japanese and Vietnamese food and I didn't even know I wanted to be a chef, but I believe we can carry experiences inside us until we know what to do with them. Dinner at Michel Bras was one of those moments for me: It shaped my destiny. On an unconscious level, I understood and internalized the way Bras expresses himself through food, and I started to recognize my desire to do the same for myself.

Unlike Bras, I haven't stayed in one place my whole life, and I've always felt an internal tension between my instincts for home and for travel. Even as a child, I split my time between Versailles during the school year and Brittany during the summer and winter vacations. In my twenties, I committed myself to life as an expatriate, far from my family and my past, and for a few years I even lived in Indonesia, where I encountered customs and cuisines vastly different from those of my youth. These days, of course, I am rooted in both France and the United States, and wherever I go, I carry my memories of everything I loved in the place I've left behind. When I try to communicate my sense of the natural world through my cooking, it is not an expression of the landscape outside my kitchen window, but rather of my memories and my imagination. I'm very grateful to have spent so much of my childhood on my family's farms and I feel lucky that I get to live and cook in California, one of the most fertile environments in the world, but these days, my lifestyle does not allow me to cultivate the kind of vegetable garden I would like. Instead, I garden on the plate.

In this chapter, you will find recipes that celebrate the plant kingdom. Here, plants are not relegated to supporting roles relative to fish or meat, but are the star of the show, with all of the attention they deserve. For these dishes, I try to hone in on what is really special about each plant, both in terms of flavor and emotional impact, and find a way to honor that distinctive quality, like a gardener coaxing her crops from the ground with a combination of love, patience, and hard work.

Le Jardin is my vision of a garden. The dish resembles a real garden, with its earthy quinoa soil and its array of vegetables reaching toward the sun, but it is not meant to be a literal representation as much as an emotional evocation of the wonder and surprise elicited by a beautiful garden. I am not talking about perfectly manicured plantings or even Zen rock gardens, but rather the sort of garden that allows the wildness of nature to flourish within a gardener's design. When plating Le Jardin, we strike a compromise between spontaneity and structure. We allow a pea shoot to tumble casually onto a partially unspooled ribbon of pickled beet; we control the chaos with tweezers and a trained eye, but every plate is unique.

The ingredients in Le Jardin are constantly changing with the seasons and the years, because a garden yields up its true beauty with the passage of time. No matter the season, Le Jardin incorporates raw, cooked, and pickled components and juxtaposes a colorful spectrum of vegetables with edible flowers. The following recipe is a winter variation in which the pureed parsnip may be replaced with other seasonal vegetable purees, such as the fermented yellow squash and sake kasu puree in my summer squab dish (page 203). I also love incorporating seasonal ingredients such as peas or fava beans in the spring, tomatoes and avocados in the summer, or shelling beans in the fall. Whatever the season, Le Jardin should showcase the very best produce growing in local gardens at the moment it is served. | Serves 4

Le Jardin


At least 3 hours before serving:

• In a fine-mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa with cold water.

• In a small pot, bring 200 grams (scant 1 cup) water to a boil. Stir in the quinoa and a pinch of kosher salt. Cover and simmer over low heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer to remove excess water.

• TO DRY THE QUINOA IN A DEHYDRATOR: Place an acetate sheet in a dehydrator tray. Evenly spread the cooked quinoa across the acetate sheet. Transfer the tray to a dehydrator set to 60°C/140°F and dry the quinoa, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.

• TO DRY THE QUINOA IN THE OVEN: Preheat the oven to 60°C/140°F or the closest temperature available. Place an acetate sheet on a baking sheet. Evenly spread the cooked quinoa across the acetate sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and turn off the heat. Let the quinoa dry in the closed oven for 3 hours.

• In a frying pan with a cooking thermometer attached, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat to 160°C/320°F. Fry the dried quinoa for 30 seconds and remove with a wire skimmer. Spread the fried quinoa on a paper towel and let drain for about 5 minutes to remove excess oil. Season with a generous pinch of fine sea salt.

• Raise the heat under the frying pan to bring the temperature of the vegetable oil up to 190°C/375°F. Add the uncooked wild rice and fry until it puffs, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove the wild rice with a wire skimmer and spread it on a paper towel. Let drain for about 5 minutes to remove excess oil. Season with a generous pinch of fine sea salt.

• Store the quinoa and wild rice separately at room temperature in airtight containers until ready to serve.


At least 90 minutes before serving:

• Wash and peel the turnips, beets, and parsnips, discarding the stems and tips.

• Use a vegetable peeler or turning slicer to create 1-inch-wide ribbons from the center of the turnips and beets until you have 12 of each, ranging from 4 to 6 inches in length. Keep the turnip and beet piles separate and expect to lose more of the turnips to waste due to their shape.

• In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, coarse sea salt, and sugar.

• TO COOK THE TURNIPS AND BEETS SOUS VIDE: Transfer half the olive oil mixture to a vacuum bag, add the champagne vinegar and the turnip ribbons, seal the bag, and compress at 80%. Transfer the remaining olive oil mixture to another vacuum bag, add the raspberry vinegar and beet ribbons, seal the bag, and compress at 80%. Cook the turnips and beets sous vide in an immersion circulator set to 85°C/185°F until tender; remove the turnips after 45 minutes and the beets after 1 hour.

• TO COOK THE TURNIPS AND BEETS ON THE STOVETOP: Transfer half the olive oil mixture to a resealable plastic freezer bag, add the champagne vinegar and the turnip ribbons, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Transfer the remaining olive oil mixture to another resealable plastic freezer bag, add the raspberry vinegar and beet ribbons, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Fill a large pot three-quarters full with water and attach a cooking thermometer. Bring the water to 85°C/185°F over low heat and submerge both bags. Closely monitor the heat to maintain a consistent temperature and stir often. Remove the turnips after 45 minutes and the beets after 1 hour.

• Cut the peeled parsnip into small (1/4-inch) dice. In a medium saucepan, combine the parsnip and the milk and simmer over low heat until the parsnip is slightly overcooked and almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. Transfer the parsnip and any remaining liquid to a blender and puree until completely smooth. Season with fine sea salt.

• Gently clean the baby carrots and breakfast radishes with a damp towel and trim the greens to 1 inch in length.


40 grams (1 cup) seasonal edible flowers and pea shoots (optional)


Spoon the parsnip puree onto each plate in an asymmetric formation with 1 to 2 inches of space between dollops. Roll the turnip and beet ribbons into coils and position them in different orientations between the dollops of parsnip puree. Allow some rolls to partially unravel, if desired. Place the tiny carrots and breakfast radishes, with their greens pointing upward, on and between the dollops of parsnip puree. Carefully spoon the quinoa soil around the parsnip puree, turnip and beet ribbons, and tiny carrots and breakfast radishes to create the illusion that the soil is underneath (though it would, in fact, be too unstable as a foundation for the entire dish). Sprinkle the puffed wild rice on the quinoa soil and around the edges of the plate. Garnish with the seasonal edible flowers and pea shoots, if desired.


Excerpted from "Atelier Crenn"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Dominique Crenn.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Poetic Culinaria,
A Day in the Life of Atelier Crenn,
How to Use This Book,
About Our Recipes,
Kir Breton,
Le Jardin,
Carrot and Aloe,
Carrot Jerky with Orange Peel,
White Chocolate Salsify,
Onion Soup,
Grains and Seeds,
A Walk in the Forest,
Oyster Wheatgrass Coconut,
Fish and Chips,
Sea Urchin with Licorice,
Shima Aji with White Beets and Turnip Leaf Tempura,
The Sea,
Squid with Lardo,
Crab with Sunchoke,
Lobster Bisque,
Broccoli and Beef Tartare,
Beef Carpaccio,
Foie Gras with Winter Nuances,
Winter Squab,
Summer Squab,
Seckel Pear (Winter),
Honey (Spring),
The Sea (Summer),
Spiced Brioche (Autumn),
Mango-Douglas Fir Pâtes de Fruits,
Cedar Macarons,
Bonbons (with Mocha Filling or Praline Bourbon Filling),
Crème Fraîche Épaisse,
Cultured Butter,
Yogurt with Ground Nuts,
Fromage Blanc with Honeycomb,
Onion Broth,
Mushroom Broth,
Rutabaga-Grapefruit Broth,
Tomato Consommé,
Lobster Stock,
Poultry Consommé,
Ham Broth,
Stabilizer Syrup,
Buckwheat Flatbread,
Pâte Fermentée,
Pain de Seigle (Rye Bread),
Pain au Son (Spelt Bread),
Sustenance and Sustainability,
About the Author,

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