I Dream of Cooking with Ferran

Several weeks ago, I went to the premiere of a movie (that is soon to open at the Film Forum) called El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, about the life and times of cooking in the kitchen at El Bulli in northern Spain (in the Catalan province of Girona). El Bulli, and its maestro, Ferran Adrià, have been awarded the best restaurant in the world status five times (by the S. Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants" award) and as the 2010 "Chef of the Decade," respectively. After seeing the movie, remarkable in some ways as it was (sometimes repetitive in others), I decided that Adrià and I had nothing in common -- that his brilliance as an innovator in the orbit of molecular cuisine was truly part of his psyche and soul. It was a world that I dare not enter. That style of food, for me, sorely missed the swoon factor.  Never did it make me hunger.  Just curious.

Other chefs have also ventured there and have made big names for themselves -- Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz, and most spectacularly, Nathan Myhrvold (you must read this amazing article about him, written by the brilliant writer Jerry Adler -- in a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine.)  But an article in the New York Times Magazine two days ago, about the "real Ferran Adrià," in fact, did make me swoon, as did the simple recipes he shared.  According to Mark Bittman, the writer of the story, Ferran's "own preference (for food) lies in the realm of extremely simple fare." And it was surprising (if not heartening) to learn that Ferran's upcoming cookbook explores the realm of "cuisine simple" and "cuisine traditionelle" -- styles he warmly embraces and cooks for his staff. Ferran seems to love authenticity as much as the next guy, wavering between dishes that are radically simple (steamed mussels with garlic, parsley, flour!, and paprika) to others that have only three ingredients!  Those include the dishes of his favorite restaurants in the town of Roses (the next town over from El Bulli), that specialize in nothing more than "impeccable local shellfish, olive oil, (salt), and occasionally lemon. And like me, "he's in love with the transformation you can force on ingredients to make them change shape and form." I want to believe this reference was about simplicity and not the avant-garde cooking for which he has become known.

How I would love to go to Ferran's new "laboratorio" and create three-ingredient recipes side-by-side.  Or merely explore the realm of radical simplicity together. How could you not love a guy who grills bread, grates chocolate on top of it, then drizzles it with olive oil and salt?  Now that's my kind of cooking.

Bread With Chocolate and Olive Oil (From Ferran Adrià)

Time: 15 minutes

6 thick slices country-style bread (about 10 ounces total)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60 percent cocoa), coarsely grated. (A Microplane is not essential, but it helps.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

1. Heat the oven to 325. Put the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Spoon the chocolate over the toast in a thin, even layer. Drizzle the toast with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Serve.

Yield: 6 servings.