For almost one hundred years, the locals of St.-Pierre-de-Chandieu, my small hometown outside Lyon, met daily at the roadside Café Boulud, the petit café and not-quite restaurant that my great-grandparents, grandparents, and later my parents took pride in tending on their family farm. It was the rendezvous point for generations of townsfolk. It was the place people went to begin and finish a day, to toast births and marriages and to mourn losses. It was where love affairs started and, of course, where some ended. It was warm, welcoming, and a vital part of village life. And, it was a memory I always carried with me.
From the time I was an apprentice, a fourteen-year-old living away from home, I dreamed of creating a restaurant that would capture the warmth and conviviality of my family's café. Thirty years later, I opened my own Café Boulud in New York City, the city that is today as much my home as St.-Pierre-de-Chandieu was when I was a child.
Café Boulud opened at the perfect moment in my life, at the time when I could truly say, "I am a French-American chef." The opening of Café Boulud, my thirtieth anniversary in the kitchen, and the midpoint in my French-American career share a date. Since I have now cooked in America for as long as I cooked in France, it was the ideal moment to pay tribute to the cuisine I grew up with, the kitchens I trained in, and the foods I've come to know and love in America, all of which Café Boulud and the Café Boulud Cookbook celebrate.
Just as I do at the Café, I have arranged the recipes in this book according to the four muses that have inspired my cooking: La Tradition, the classic, full-bodied foods of France; La Saison, the bounty of the market; Le Voyage, the foods of lands near and far; and Le Potager, vegetarian dishes that extol the goodness of the garden.
At Café Boulud, the menu is presented in four columns La Tradition, La Saison, Le Voyage, and Le Potager and we encourage people to move from column to column according to their cravings. I urge you to do the same: Please, choose recipes from each of the sections. There are no rules you can plan an all-Tradition meal, or skip around, choosing, for example, a starter from Le Voyage, a main course from La Saison, and a dessert from any of the sections.
Similarly, I hope you'll feel free to pick and choose components within a recipe. I've presented the recipes just as I would serve them to you if you were my guest at Café Boulud. So, for instance, the recipe for Peppered Arctic Char includes the parsnip mousseline that we serve under the fish and the soft shallots, cooked in red wine and port, that we serve over it. I've given you the recipe for the complete dish so that you can understand the spirit of my cooking, the way I create a dish and the way it would be presented at the Café. At home, you may not want to make the dish in its entirety, or you may want to serve your favorite mashed potatoes with the peppered char. By all means, do it! I want you to have fun with these recipes, to use them often, to make them your own.
Following the sections dedicated to La Tradition, La Saison, Le Voyage, and Le Potager, you'll find a short chapter of basic preparations pastry crusts and creams as well as simple stocks and condiments that we use often in the kitchen; a glossary of terms, techniques, and ingredients that you can turn to if you have a question about how we do certain things at the Café; a short batterie de cuisine, including pots, pans, and a few gadgets that make cooking more efficient and more pleasurable; and, finally, a source guide, a list of trusted suppliers who will send you the same ingredients I use at Café Boulud.
To create this collection, I have chosen the recipes that hold the dearest memories for me, the ones most tied to my culinary life in France and America, and the ones most enjoyed at Café Boulud. All of the recipes have been tested so that they will work as well in your kitchen as they do in mine, and all are offered to you with the hope that when you share this food with your family and friends, it will bring you as much satisfaction, indeed, as much joy, as it has brought me over the years.
Daniel Boulud, New York, 1999 (Continues...)