Chef’s Day Off

Daniel Boulud

Dream Weekend: To be able to leave Friday and come back Monday – but that’s only happened twice. Saturday Rules: I like to see people I don’t see at work during the week. Affairs to Remember: Once a year, I do a big fondue party for about 30 people, 15 of whom are the greatest chefs in New York: Charlie Palmer, Alfred Portale, Jean-Georges, Gray Kunz, and on and on like that.

Each recipe serves six.

Salad Meridionale


2 large bunches basil, leaves only, washed

1/2 clove garlic, peeled and germ removed

1 teaspoon pine nuts, very lightly toasted

1 teaspoon finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 Japanese eggplant, peeled, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1 sprig thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound green beans or haricots verts, ends trimmed

1 small zucchini, cut into 11/2-by-1/2-inch sticks

18 large shrimp (12-14 size), peeled and deveined

1 small jar piquillo peppers, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips

5 tomatoes, seeded and cut into eighths

6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 small celery heart including leaves, stalks thinly sliced on the bias

1/2 English cucumber, unpeeled, cut into thin 2-inch-long sticks

1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch lengthwise slices

1/2 pound mesclun mix, washed and dried

1/4-pound wedge ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced

12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Small bunch chives, finely sliced

Pesto: Plunge the basil into a pot of boiling salted water, and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain the leaves, run under cold water to cool, and then drain thoroughly.

Place the blanched basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, and oil in a food processor, and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to cover.

Lemon vinaigrette: Whisk the lemon juice and oil together in a small bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Salad: Warm the oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, sprig of thyme, and crushed garlic, and cook until the eggplant is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove the thyme and garlic, and set the eggplant aside on a large sheet pan to cool.

Bring a medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil. Plunge the green beans into the water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander, and immediately run them under very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside on the sheet pan. Repeat with the zucchini, reducing the cooking time to 2 minutes.

Bring another medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the shrimp, and simmer (do not boil) for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Set the remaining vegetables on the sheet pan with the cooked vegetables, sprinkle with half the vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a large serving platter with a little pesto, and arrange the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, zucchini, radish, celery, and cucumber around the perimeter of the platter. Drizzle a little more pesto over the vegetables. Toss the mesclun greens in a bowl with the remaining vinaigrette, and mound the mesclun in the center of the platter. Place the shrimp, cheese, and olives around the mesclun greens. Sprinkle with chives and a little more pesto. Serve the salad with separate bowls of hard-boiled quail eggs, pesto, and sea salt.

Alain Ducasse

Dream Weekend: Rien faire. Doing nothing. When there are no guests at the Bastide de Moustiers, my inn in Provence, I go there and invite friends. It’s my country house – which is why I originally bought it. Chef Shopping: I love going to flea markets – now I have enough antiques to furnish another hotel. I try not to go somewhere where I’ll bump into my clients.

John Dory Provençal

3 John Dory, about 11/2 to 13/4 pounds each (black bass or grouper can be substituted)

20 baby fennel

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

31/2 cups chicken stock

3 sprigs dried fennel

1 bunch basil (half left whole, half finely chopped)

3 tomatoes, sliced into rounds

1 lemon, thinly sliced

4 ounces olive-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, halved

30 pitted olives

5 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Clean the fish without removing the head. Trim each fennel to just above the bulb, and wash. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan, add baby fennel, and season with a little salt and pepper. Add about half of the chicken stock, and cook gently until the stock has reduced.

Put the sprigs of dried fennel on a large oiled baking dish, and scatter the unchopped basil over them. Lay the tomato slices on top, alternating with slices of lemon. Season the John Dory inside and outside with salt and pepper, and place on the bed of vegetables. Pour the remaining chicken stock over the fish, and bake for about 15 minutes, basting with the pan juices regularly. Remove the fish and vegetables to a warm platter, and cover with foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan, add to a saucepan, and reduce slightly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives. Return the sauce to a boil; add the cooked fennel, butter, and a little olive oil. Add the remaining chopped basil.

Just before serving, delicately remove the fish’s skin. Coat each fillet with the sauce, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Green Asparagus With Parmesan Shavings

36 green asparagus

1/4 cup coarse salt

Coarse sea salt and coarse-ground black pepper

1 shallot, minced

3 tablespoons aged red-wine vinegar

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

11/2-ounce block Parmesan

Peel the asparagus. Divide into 3 equal bundles and tie with string. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the coarse salt. Place the asparagus bundles in the boiling water, and cook for about 5 minutes, depending on thickness – the asparagus should remain firm. Drain the spears in a colander, and immediately run them under very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and place on a cloth.

Prepare the vinaigrette in a salad bowl starting with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the shallot and wine vinegar to the bowl, then stir in the oil until combined. Shave the Parmesan, using a mandoline or a potato peeler, and season.

Reheat the asparagus for a few seconds in boiling water. Strain and place on a kitchen towel. Divide the asparagus among 6 plates, drizzle with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the Parmesan shavings and a little coarse-ground black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Geoffrey Zakarian

Dream Weekend: I love weekends in the city in the summer. Because it’s quiet, you can see any movie, and you can walk into any restaurant without reservations. Secret Weapon: There’s a lot to a pantry. You can make a lot of stuff if you do a great job stocking it. The perfect oils, Spanish canned tuna, and canned mackerel. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with prepared food – I don’t have to prove to my friends I can cook. Saturday Rules: You don’t want to talk shop. You just don’t. Though eventually, you end up talking about it anyway.

Spicy African Chicken

2 4-pound chickens, each cut into 6 to 8 pieces

1/2 cup Perks Peri-Peri African Heat sauce (available at Stop and Shop and Food Emporium)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 lime

1 small handful of mint

1 small handful of cilantro

Optional: French bread and butter

In a large oven-to-table baking dish, toss the chicken in the Peri-Peri sauce and pepper until it’s coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator, place directly into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until done, basting occasionally with the marinade in the pan. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken just before serving, and sprinkle with mint and cilantro. Serve in the baking dish, along with buttered, grilled French bread and tomato-and-watermelon salad (recipe below).

Heirloom-Tomato-and-Watermelon Salad

6 to 8 ripe heirloom tomatoes, varying in size, at room temperature

1 small to medium yellow watermelon (about the size of a cantaloupe)

1 small to medium red watermelon (about the size of a cantaloupe)

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cracked coriander seed

Malden sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh

1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped Italian parsley

Cut the tomatoes into chunks of varying sizes (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches long). Core watermelons, and chop into cubes of varying sizes (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches).

Combine tomatoes, watermelon, oil, coriander, and salt and pepper in a large bowl, and gently toss, taking care not to bruise the fruit.

Sprinkle with fresh dill and parsley, and serve immediately.

Tom Colicchio

Dream Weekend: I love working in the kitchen at home and asking people to join in and help. You know, grab a knife and chop something. And just really enjoy the table. And usually it involves a few bottles of wine. Affairs to Remember: My hot-pepper party. There’s a farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket who has just the most incredible peppers. Roasted hot peppers, puréed hot peppers. Braised short ribs with hot peppers, roasted striped bass with hot peppers. And I had to have starch to cool everything off: mashed potatoes, polenta, pasta, and bread. Dress Code: On a weekend, especially on a Sunday afternoon, if you have to put a jacket on and go somewhere, that’s horrible.

Bruschetta of Clam Ragout With Pancetta

6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (or other unsmoked bacon), cut into 1/2 inch-by-2-inch strips

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4 roasted tomato halves, coarsely chopped (sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil can be substituted)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 dozen Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed

4 cups mustard greens, shredded

3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 loaf peasant bread (or other non-sourdough crusty bread), sliced 3/4-inch thick

Place the pancetta in a pot large enough to hold the clams. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of fat. Increase the heat to medium, and add the garlic and shallot. Sauté until fragrant (about 2 minutes), stirring occasionally; then add the roasted tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the wine, and allow it to reduce until the pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes.

Add the clams and about 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Once opened, remove the clam shells from the pan with a slotted spoon or metal tongs, discarding the shells. Add the clams back into the tomato mixture, and stir in the greens. Cook until the greens are just wilted, about 3 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, brush or drizzle slices of bread with olive oil, and grill or brown them in the oven. Apportion the ragout onto the toasted or grilled bread using a slotted spoon, top with pancetta, and drizzle with oil. Serve immediately.

Cyril Renaud

Dream Weekend: We take a boat off Jones Beach in the evening to fish – you can see the sun going down under New York City. Affairs to Remember: Once, we re-created La Grande Bouffe, that movie where people spend a weekend eating and drinking themselves to death. The Creative Chef: After I left La Caravelle, I started painting. Now I’m also doing sculpture – sometimes I melt the metal on the barbecue in the backyard.

Marinated Roasted Rack of Lamb

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bunch fresh lemon thyme, leaves finely chopped

1 bunch silver thyme, leaves finely chopped

3 racks of lamb, French-cut (ask your butcher to do this)

Mix together the mustard, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl, and stir in the lemon and silver thyme until combined. Place the racks of lamb in a roasting pan, and, using a brush, coat the lamb with the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours), brushing regularly with marinade.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Heat a little oil in a heavy-bottomed nonstick sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Pan-sear racks of lamb, one at a time, on all sides.

Place the racks in the roasting pan, brush with remaining marinade, and roast in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, brushing with the marinade several times to create a dark coating, until the internal temperature reads 120 to 125 degrees (for medium rare). Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with grilled zucchini and fresh corn with baby basil (recipe below).

Grilled Zucchini and Fresh Corn With Baby Basil

6 small zucchini and yellow squash

Fleur de sel and white pepper

Kernels from 18 very fresh bi-color ears of corn

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch fresh baby basil

2 teaspoons butter

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then make several shallow slashes in each cut side. Season with salt and pepper, and coat all over with olive oil. Barely cook the zucchini on a hot grill pan (do not allow them to get soft). Slice into 1/2-inch chunks.

Bring 3 tablespoons of water to a boil in a saucepan, and whip in the butter until emulsified. Add the corn, and heat gently (do not bring to a boil; you want the kernels crunchy and barely cooked). Stir in the baby basil, fleur de sel, and pepper. Add the zucchini to the corn, and heat briefly.

Place the salad on a platter, and serve immediately with the lamb.

Tom Valenti

Dream Weekend: Fishing on the Beaverkill – sometimes we’ll find some wild watercress. We cook in the afternoon, and get back on the river toward dusk. Partying Smart: It’s all about front-loading. Sometimes we put a turkey on the grill. When we come back in three hours, it’s done. Traveling Rations: We bring cheeses, chopped liver, whitefish salad: They remind us that we do indeed have to return to New York at the end of the weekend.

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Strawberry Purée

1 and 1/2 cups cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk (milk can be substituted)

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

1 cup crème fraîche

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

Strawberry purée:

1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled (raspberries, peaches, or blueberries can be substituted)

1 tablespoon sugar or to taste

1 teaspoon lemon juice or to taste

Panna cotta: Pour the cream, milk, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla bean into a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the crème fraîche. Scrape the vanilla bean to remove remaining seeds. Pour the cream mixture through a strainer and add the gelatin to the hot mixture, stirring until it has dissolved.

Pour evenly into 6 molds or martini glasses, or into a 1-quart souffle dish. Chill to set for at least 3 hours.

Strawberry purée: Put two thirds of the strawberries in a food processor, and purée until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, purée again, and, depending on the ripeness of the fruit, adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste. Strain though a fine sieve to remove seeds (optional).

Unmold panna cotta onto a plate, and pour about 2 tablespoons purée around each serving. Garnish with remaining strawberries.

Chef’s Day Off