With the holidays upon us, there’s nothing quite like having a hearty meal with your family gathered around the table. Food — make that excellent food — is essential to every gathering with friends and family, and there’s nobody who knows that better than award-winning French chef and author Daniel Boulud.
And needless to say, Boulud, who opened his new eatery earlier this year, Café Boulud The Bahamas, within Baha Mar resort just outside of Nassau, has a trick or two to making every holiday meal special.
If you happen to be one of the lucky guests that the Bouluds will have over for dinner this holiday season, expect nothing short of a feast from the chef of New York’s two-Michelin-star Daniel.
“My wife is already telling me, let’s get ready for the Christmas party,” Boulud, who was just voted best restaurateur in the world by Les Grandes Tables du Monde, said. “We have a party at home with friends. So I’m going to do my favorite thing, which is my mother’s pumpkin — stuffed pumpkin with cheese, bread, mushroom, onions, bacon, and cream inside. So it’s almost like a cheese soup.” Boulud always serves plenty of vegetables to go with the main dishes. He prepares a root vegetable gratin with celery, rutabaga, turnips, potatoes, and cheese. Winter soup prepared with celery, chestnut, and apple is also a staple on his family’s table.
Another go-to food for the holidays in the Boulud household is oysters.
“Oysters are very special for me because when I grew up, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we [would] buy a bushel of oysters, a whole box, and we [would] eat that for a whole week,” explained the Lyon-native.
If you’re not an oyster person, though, you can always include another seafood option as an appetizer on your table, such as lobster, shrimp, caviar, or smoked fish, he recommended.
“And usually, because I was born and raised on a farm, we [would] raise a beautiful turkey and have it for the holiday, and that was also a big celebration,” Boulud continued.
So, what is his secret to cooking turkey to tender perfection?
“What’s most important when you do a bird — chicken or turkey — is to do a light brine. So imagine seawater, and you create a brine that tastes like seawater. Brine is basically boiled water with salt, and you let it cool down,” Boulud added.
Then you can take it one step further and add spices in, such as cinnamon, cracked pepper, star anise, and coriander. If you’re preparing a chicken, Boulud recommends leaving it in the brine for about 45 minutes, and if it’s a turkey, no more than two hours.
“So brine first, and then cook it slowly,” he said.
Dessert is also essential. For Christmas, the Bouluds have not one but three Yule logs—one with chocolate, another one with chestnut, vanilla, and orange zest, and the third one with caramelized nuts.
Finally, if you’re looking to start a new family tradition this year, may we suggest you follow in the footsteps of the Boulud clan?
“One of the days, we always do a cheese fondue. And that’s the best because that’s so convivial and so fun. There’s not much cooking to do. And the house smells like cheese all over.”
Hungry yet? Yes, us too.
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