Cookbook Review: The Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson

My rating: 4 stars

Balthazar is my favourite restaurant in NYC and I had to buy the cookbook on my last visit (also available online).

Balthazar is a French Bistro in New York’s Soho, so its traditional French with a bit of a cool edge. Here are some happy snaps! Note: identities obscured to protect the glutinous.

Balthazar Soho

Balthazar interior

Balthazar fois gras mousse – delicious!

Balthazar scrambled eggs in puff pastry

Balthazar goat cheese and caramelized onion tart

I love love love the book itself. Its in a beautiful red cloth hardcover, has thick high quality glossy paper, and all the text is in gorgeous bistro style font. I want to eat the book.

The photos evoke the whole NYC downtown vibe. I love every recipe in this book. Fellow Aussie Robert Hughes has written the foreword to this book so clearly the menu has an Antipodean attraction.  It’s basically every classic French bistro dish you ever wanted to eat. Favourites are: Chicken Liver Mousse, Onion Soup Gratinee, Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions, Steak Frites, Duck Confit, Creme Brulee, French Apple Tart… OMG droool…. The whole menu of the restaurant including the sides and the mor-ish pomme frites are laid out in these beautiful pages.

But query whether Keith McNally gave up all his secrets…. Also how do these short ribs compare with Paula Deen’s simple bbq recipe from the last post?

Braised Short Ribs by Balthazar cookbook – serves 6

6 beef short ribs (5-7 pounds) (2.5-3.1kgs) 4 shallots, peeled and sliced ¼ thick
2 sprigs rosemary 5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 sprigs thyme 3 tbls tomato paste
1 bay leaf 3 tbls all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 celery stalk halved ½ cup ruby port
3 tsps salt 4 cups full bodied red wine eg cabernet sauvignon
2 tsps coarsely ground black pepper 6 cups Veal Stock
3 tbls vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pcs
1 medium onion, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325F (162.7C)

Bind each rib with cotton kitchen twine. Place the rosemary, thyme and bayleaf between the 2 celery halves and bind with kitchen twine.

I’ve never tied up any meat before and was going to use dental floss (sterile, strong … why not?!) but then I realised all of mine was minted.  There are also no instruction as to tie meat so I kind of took a guess and used a “blanket stitch” if you know what I mean…

Season the short ribs with 2 tsps of salt and the pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over a high flame until it smokes. In two batches, brown the short ribs well on both side, about 3 minutes per side, pouring off all but 3 tbls of oil between batches. Remove the ribs and set aside when done.

Lower the flame to medium and add the carrots, onion, shallots and garlic to the pot. Saute for 5 mins until the onion is soft and light brown. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Add the port, red wine, and the celery-herb bundle. Raise the flame to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third – about 20  minutes.

Return the ribs to the pot (they will stack in two layers).  Add the stock and the remaining 1 tsp of salt, if the stock doesn’t cover the ribs by at least 1 inch, add water up to that level. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and transfer to the pre-heated oven and cook for 3 hours. Visit pot occasionally and stir the ribs, bringing the ones on the bottom up to the top. They’re done when the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.

Transfer the ribs to a large platter and remove the strings. Skim any fat from the surface of the sauce, and then strain through a sieve into a medium saucepan. Discard solids.  Over a medium heat, bring the sauce to a strong simmer and reduce the liquid until slightly less than half (4 cups) remains, about 1 hour.

Return the ribs to the pot, simmer for 10 minutes to reheat and serve.

The ribs turned out pretty darn delicious and melted in the mouth. The red wine flavour really comes through so make sure you use a quality drop to cook with.  I liked these better than Paula Deen’s ribs but I still love the fact that hers are so easy and quick to make.  This recipe is a bit more epic.

This is a great book but be warned, the ingredients are plentiful and expensive.  The recipes are not for the beginner but if you are a French food fan I am sure you will find a way.  The production quality of the book is outstanding. Very high quality glossy paper, beautiful design, gorgeous photos. I love this book and hope you do too!


Always shop around. I bought my copy at the restaurant. At time of post I also found good prices at:

  • fishpond (click image)

The Balthazar Cookbook

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One comment

  • Momo
    July 16, 2011 - 7:47 am | Permalink

    Don’t you think it is a bit salty?

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