When you peek inside Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud's refrigerator in the test kitchen of his lauded Manhattan restaurant Daniel, you'll notice one thing immediately: It's heavy on fresh produce and simple ingredients.
But somewhere between the commonplace and diners' plates, those basics are transformed into gourmet greatness. In between a week chock-full of special dinners at Daniel and an upcoming weekend that will find the chef headlining several luxe culinary events at the annual Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest, the busy Boulud gave The Feast the lowdown on what's currently tucked inside his fridge.
Though he's well aware that some of us still think of the supermarket version of radishes, which can be bland and boring, Boulud says his are anything but. "The best ones are crunchy and taste of black or white peppercorns. Enjoyed with good salted butter or added to a salad or sandwich, they are a constant presence in the French kitchen."
A recent dinner at Daniel highlighted the cooking of Heinz Reibauer, a fellow Michelin-starred chef from restaurant Steirereck in Vienna, who brought along citrus from a legendary greenhouse in his hometown. "The Schonbrunn Palace hothouse has 400-plus years of history of raising the most beautiful exotic citrus, from calamansi [a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a kumquat] to Buddha’s hand and many other heirloom varieties."
Heat is not an element you typically find in traditional French cooking, other than perhaps the mild piment d’espelette, pepper from the Basque region of Southwestern France. "Yet the more I have had the chance to travel and open restaurants in different countries, the more my palate has adapted to like spicy flavors," Boulud explains. "And I enjoy working with them in the kitchen."
Romanesco and Cauliflower
"I’m about to head to California for Relais & Chateaux’s GourmetFest event, so I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a grouper bourride [a Provençal fish stew] that features multi-colored cauliflower and its green cousin, romanesco, which I will be serving at the festival."
Boulud plans to use fresh-from-the-farm eggs to whip up an aioli that'll top that traditional French fish stew.
Thanks to both its spicy and savory qualities, Boulud says the word he most associates with ginger is “warmth.” "From a simple tea to soups, stews, and even raw dishes, ginger is such a dynamic ingredient," he says.
Daniel's chef de cuisine Eddy LeRou co-authored Foraged Flavor along with Boulud's go-to forager Tama Matsuoka Wong, who regularly supplies the restaurant with foraged ingredients from Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and elsewhere. "Foraged ingredients play a significant role in the dishes at Daniel," he says. "Chickweed can be slightly bitter, but the smaller leaves have a fresher, tender taste. It's a wonderful garnish to a wide variety of dishes."
"I love using root vegetables in creamy veloutés or soups," says the chef who has made seasonal cooking his mission. "They have a balance of sweet and earthy qualities that works wonderfully during the colder months of the year."
"Whole-grain mustard, green herb oil, various vinaigrettes, anchovies, and really good butter—these are the essentials," he says. And as for the fridge itself? It's a Samsung French Door Fridge. "I’m a member of their Club des Chefs, which has a real focus on innovation and design—perfect for our test kitchen!" Boulud declares.
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