Last Christmas I received a copy of Thomas Keller’s “ad hoc at home.” Then for the next 8 months, I thoroughly enjoyed staring at it. How are the recipes, you ask? I have no idea. I have never tried any of them, despite the fact that it has a permanent seat on the cookbook holder on my kitchen counter. The truth of the matter is that it’s a very intimidating book. It has recipes for things like, “mushroom conserva.” What the heck, is a conserva? I don’t know. And to make it even better, the ingredient list calls for 1 teaspoon of piment d’Espelette. Oh..well.. let me just grab that at Publix?! However, I decided this week, that I would not let this book intimidate me any longer. So, I made not one, but TWO ad hoc at home recipes. First, I made a delicious tomato-basil marmalade. And then, I didn’t have anything to put it on. So I made biscuits! And although originally an afterthought, the biscuits were every bit as tasty as the tomato marmalade. In fact, they were awesome. I started by chopping up some fennel, onions and garlic and caramelized them in a pot in the oven. Then, I added vinegar and brown sugar and let that cook down. Then, feeling very Julia Child-like, I took it out of the oven and stuck my face in the pot to take a big whiff. Although this seemed like an awesome idea at the time, it was not. The hot vinegar fumes caused me to cough and sputter in a most unattractive and unJulia-like manner. After the sniffing incident, I pureed the mixture in the blender and poured in back in the pot and added the tomatoes. Then, I roasted it again for another hour. Finally, I put it in a jar with lots of basil and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, I made the biscuits, following Keller’s recipe, but modifying, since I do not own a food processor. I sifted my dry ingredients. Then, I chopped up the butter and cut it into the flour using a pastry cutter. When, the butter chunks were pea-sized, I added the buttermilk. Then, I patted the dough out and cut out the biscuits. And baked them. Tomato Marmalade Adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home 1/2 cup fennel, roughly chopped 1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped 1 clove of garlic, sliced 1 Tbs. vegetable oil 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 4-5 tomatoes, seeded and chopped, but not peeled 6-8 fresh basil leaves Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the fennel, onion, garlic, vegetable oil and salt in an oven-safe sauce pan. Roast, stirring every 15 minutes, in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until vegetables soften and turn brown around the edges. Stir in the vinegar and sugar and roast for another 20 minutes or until half of the liquid is absorbed. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth. (This step is unnecessary if you prefer a chunkier marmalade.) Pour back in the pot and add the tomatoes. Roast for another 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Taste the marmalade. If it is still too vinegary, continue cooking until marmalade has a rich, sweet, tomato-ey flavor. Spoon into a jar, placing basil leaves throughout. Cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Remove the basil before serving. The marmalade will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Buttermilk Biscuits Adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home 2 cups cake flour 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 Tbs., plus 1 tsp. kosher salt 1 Tbs. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus extra for brushing 2 to 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted for brushing Sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Sprinkle the butter cubes on top. Use a pastry cutter or fork to work the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are about the size of small peas. Then, make a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold the buttermilk into the flour/butter mixture, just until the flour is all incorporated and the mixture forms a ball. Dump the dough out onto a floured counter top and knead for about 1 minute. Pat into a rectangle about 3/4 in thick. Cut biscuits with a cutter or knife and place on a baking sheet. (You can keep pushing the remaining dough together and cutting out more until you have used all of the dough.) Brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk and bake for 8 minutes on 475. Then, rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Take the biscuits out of the oven, brush with remaining butter and serve warm.