For the epilogue, Mr. Buford tracked them down to see how the mistreatment had affected their careers. Mr. Chern went on to open what Mr. Buford calls a “witty and anarchic” restaurant in Dijon. The female cook, though, gave up on restaurant kitchens and went into the fashion business. “Her cooking spirit had been crushed,” he writes.
“Dirt” is more explicit about the damage done by masculine aggression and volatility in the kitchen than “Heat,” published in 2006. In that book, Mr. Batali is seen acting coarsely, making sexual suggestions toward at least one female employee. The author’s tone, though, is nonjudgmental. I asked Mr. Buford if he regretted that now.
“I think I felt pretty confident in the weight of the observations,” he said. “A lot of the observations were not loaded in their presentation but loaded in their content. And I think that’s what works.”
The book, which for years remained one of the only pieces of journalism that showed the uglier side of Mr. Batali’s bacchanalian drive, caused a rift between the two men. “Mario hated it, and it took him a long time to get over it,” he said. “He described it as ‘standing naked in front of a mirror for 24 hours.’”
By 4:30, with Mr. Buford’s video guidance, I had successfully taken out all the chicken bones that seemed to matter. I’d spread the chicken out like an open paperback and covered it with parsley, mushrooms and bread. Mr. Buford showed me how to tie the bird into a neat bundle with a wrap-and-twist motion that I’ve seen butchers make but have never been able to copy.
“Now we poach them,” he said. The trick of this was to keep the stock between 150 and 160 degrees, well below boiling, barely hot enough to decorate the surface of the liquid with slow fingers of steam. The steady, moderate heat of the stock mimics the sous vide method. In fact, chicken breasts are now cooked sous vide with an immersion circulator at La Mère Brazier.
Mr. Buford prefers the older, low-tech method because he gets two delicious things out of one recipe: very tender chicken breasts and double-strength chicken stock. During the lockdown, he began taking it one step beyond, boning several chickens, poaching them and then cooking the stock a second time, with the carcasses. He called it “chicken squared.”