Chef Daniel Boulud opened his restaurant Daniel in New York City in 1993, and in the past 20 years it’s become a culinary landmark, with three Michelin stars and a reputation for the finest French cuisine. This month, Daniel releases his eighth cookbook, an homage to his eponymous restaurant and his culinary roots, Daniel: My French Cuisine.
The book begins in the restaurant kitchen (though the distinction between work and home is slight, as the chef lives just 20 feet above the restaurant). Daniel shares recipes for his best dishes from Restaurant Daniel, the same ones prepared by his team; he spares no detail from the lengthy processes, but also encourages you to try individual components, such as the protein or vegetable garnish, if you’re feeling daunted. The dishes include vivid and awe-inspiring takes on traditional combinations, such as Magret of Duck with Rhubarb Variations; Red Snapper “En Croute de Sel” with Harissa and Pistachio Butter; and a Chocolate-Coffee Bar with Mascarpone Whipped Cream for dessert.
In the following sections of the book, Daniel explores iconic French dishes with acclaimed food writer Bill Buford, who writes about their origins and often painstaking preparations. From Pot-au-Feu to Canard a la Presse, you can join their hilarious adventure to recreate historical masterpieces. Finally, Daniel gives us an insight into how he cooks at home with four casual, seasonal menus from his favorite French regions. Interspersed, he shares essays on culinary subjects from bread and cheese to truffles.
In honor of the book’s release, we asked Daniel all about Daniel: My French Cuisine, how his French roots and philosophies influence his cooking, and what he’s making tonight. Read on for his answers and a sample recipe below! And be sure to stop by our Columbus Circle store in New York City on October 15 — the book’s official launch date! — to meet Daniel and get him to sign a copy of your book.
What made you decide to write this cookbook now, after 20 years of running Restaurant Daniel? What was your inspiration?
This is book number eight and I love to write cookbooks! My previous cookbooks have been very at-home friendly and straightforward. But after 20 years of cooking at Daniel, I wanted to really showcase the place and the food that makes the restaurant what it is — seasonal cooking with the bounty of American ingredients. Then, of course, I had fun with exploring food topics in the essay section and the iconic dishes in collaboration with writer, friend and “wannabe chef” Bill Buford. Living above the restaurant, my home cooking is not too far from my restaurant kitchen life, so I included recipes that I like to make at home on Sundays.
You’ve said the dishes at Restaurant Daniel always have a connection to the past. How do you honor classic cuisine while still innovating?
When you look at the book there are many references to French classic dishes, technique and taste, but prepared with local and ethnic ingredients. French cuisine has such a deep rooted history, and I grew up in a region that specifically cultivated some of the greatest food (and wine) techniques and traditions. I still believe French cuisine is the blueprint for many other fine cuisines and so while we have evolved in our kitchens, taking influences from travel and locality, adapting to local taste and using local product and interpreting classic dishes differently, at the core French cooking, is soulful and timeless.
How did growing up in France influence your approach to food?
I grew up on a farm where seasonality of ingredients was in my DNA — the idea of “farm to table” was something I lived and that my grandmother and mother cooked every day, so that idea of market-driven cuisine has been a core focus my entire career. Being from Lyon, the epicenter of French culinary innovation, gave me a strong pride early by witnessing the power of the chef’s make-up.
What philosophies of French cooking do you swear by in your restaurants?
I had the chance to learn from some very classic chefs and also very creative ones, such as Michel Guérard, who pioneered diet “cuisine minceur,” and it gave me the sense of tradition and lightness in the approach to my cooking. My cuisine is contemporary French classic technique and a creative approach to using seasonal and local ingredients. For me, the most important thing is, through valued relationships with great suppliers, using the finest ingredients. From there, creativity and inspiration come in many forms: from a trip I may have taken recently where I discovered a new flavor, to reading classic French cookbooks or merging ideas with my team.
Tell us about a typical day in your life at Restaurant Daniel.
10 AM: I come down from my apartment and work in my office skybox (overlooks the kitchen at DANIEL)
12 PM: Tour the New York City restaurants
3 PM: Meet at the corporate office and discuss global property updates
5 PM: Back at DANIEL for pre-shift meeting
6 PM: Service at DANIEL and trip to one or two restaurants if I can
10 PM: Head downtown to DBGB Kitchen and Bar for late night
Some of the dishes at Restaurant Daniel are very complex; how did you adapt them for the home cook?
I went into writing the cookbook with the intention there would be a bit of the aspirational. Many of the recipes have compartmentalized components and so it is very realistic to think the home cook can adapt and just use certain parts, like the sauce or the meat preparation or vegetable garnish, without composing the entire dish. Of course, there is also the At Home section of the book, with the more straightforward recipes, and I have seven previous cookbooks for reference too!
You’ve mastered not just the cooking but also the presentation of food. Any presentation tips that people can try at home?
Presentation is subjective but key to opening your eyes, appetite and mood. In the presentation of a dish, you want to lay the contrast of color, texture, taste, temperature and seasoning. Take the Langoustine and Uni Chaud-Froid (page 21) — it has crunchiness, brininess, crunchiness, and the idea is to represent the true flavor of the sea.
How did you decide to partner with Bill Buford for the essays in the book? What was your goal in making “iconic” dishes?
For four years Bill has been cooking and exploring French cuisine in Lyon. I wanted to cook with him as a French chef from Lyon and asked him to join me for two weeks in New York. The goal was a trip down memory lane in France and to go back in time, exploring the history of French food.
What were some of the most memorable moments from cooking together?
We had a blast sharing the same station in the kitchen. We cooked the same dish side by side and competed to see who did it better. Every dish was an adventure, and Bill’s writing captures the experience perfectly. The Tête De Veau was quite epic to make and build. The Chartreuse kind of blew Bill’s mind!
What are some of your personal favorite traditional French dishes to make and eat?
I am a big fan of cooking one-pot meals — there is nothing as comforting in the fall or winter than a braised dish of meat and vegetables simmering together long and slow till they melt in your mouth. I had done a cookbook entirely dedicated to the subject called BRAISE, featuring dishes like Veal Shoulder Forestière au Riesling and Pork Butt with Hazelnuts, Golden Raisins and Jerusalem Artichokes. Every dish I love has a sole reason to be cooked in that particular season and is the perfect match to a great wine.
Any go-to dishes for entertaining? What about foolproof entertaining tips — secret ingredients, techniques, etc.?
For me, the biggest tip is to have dinner ready before guests arrive which likely means cold appetizers (or something that just needs a quick last finish in heat) and for the main, a braise or roast is ideal because so much you can do ahead of time — they are great for groups and always crowd pleasers. For dessert, a cake or tart or, for fun, a sundae!
What’s for dinner tonight?
To start, saffron-mussel soup, roast chicken with porcini, potato, onion and garlic jus, and a fig tart with cinnamon ice cream.
Wild Mushroom Tarte Flambee
Makes 6 Tartes (serves 6-12)
13/4 cups 00 pasta flour
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon colza oil
1 cup fromage blanc
½ cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon colza oil
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound hen of the woods or other wild mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces, washed and patted dry
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ bunch oregano leaves
½ bunch chives, thinly sliced
For the Dough:
In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, milk, salt, and oil. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. If needed, add 1 tablespoon warm water to help the dough come together into a solid mass.
Continue to knead the dough on medium speed until smooth, about 8 minutes.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
Divide the dough into 6 portions.
Using a pasta machine, roll each portion, decreasing the thickness after each pass, into long, very thin 5-inch-wide sheets (setting #1 on most machines). You will need to do this in several batches.
Trim the sheets into approximately 10- to 12-inch lengths.
Transfer to a tray in between layers of parchment paper and refrigerate (or freeze until needed).
For the Topping:
In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the fromage blanc, crème fraîche, flour, oil, egg yolk, and nutmeg until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper and keep chilled.
Brown the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat.
Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain onto a paper towel–lined plate.
If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom of the oven; otherwise, an upside-down baking sheet can be substituted.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Place a sheet of dough on a lightly floured pizza peel.
Spread the cream topping in a thin layer over the dough, making sure it is evenly distributed. Leave a ¼-inch border around the edge of the dough.
Sprinkle one-sixth of the onion, mushrooms, oregano, and chives evenly over the cream topping.
Repeat to make all 6 tartes.
Slide the flambées, one at a time, onto the pizza stone and bake until crispy on the bottom and lightly browned on top.
Slice and serve immediately.
Recipe from Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud. Copyright © 2013 by Daniel Boulud. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.