The Seasonal Ingredients Daniel Boulud Loves To Use Every Summer - Exclusive

In restaurant DANIEL's three decades of existence, its chef-owner Daniel Boulud has always placed an emphasis on seasonal cooking. Tasting Table spoke to Boulud in an exclusive interview marking DANIEL's 30th anniversary, and the chef talked at length about his commitment to seasonality in the menu. "Because of seasonality, each season, there is a renewal of things that you are familiar with and there is a renewal of things you discover during each new season or a renewal of things you forgot and bring back," he said.

Our conversation occurred in early July as the last blush of spring transitioned into high summer. During this part of the year, Boulud loves using sorrel, a citrusy green that first appears on the menu in spring. This year, the chefs at DANIEL paired sorrel with softshell crab, another ingredient that peaks in the spring to early summer. As for peak summer ingredients, Boulud spoke enthusiastically about the way his restaurant uses redcurrants and cherries in inventive dishes. During our conversation, he discussed how he likes to use these warm-weather treats and how he approaches making new dishes with them every year.

Same ingredients, different dishes

Although seasonal ingredients follow more or less the same schedule every year (cherries will always be ripe in the summer, for example), Daniel Boulud combines them in different ways each year. "We will use sorrel every spring, but are we using it in a cold dish? In a hot dish? Are we using it with seafood? Are we using it with salmon, like a classic saumon à l'oseille?"

Redcurrants also reappear in different dishes every year. Per Boulud, "This time, we are using it with a trout and arugula and young radish ... That's also a dish that is unusual in this combination, but very fresh, very summery, early summer." If you want to try this ephemeral taste of summer, you'll have to act quickly: "We'll keep it for maybe a month or two." The same is true of softshell crab, of which Boulud said, "I have been cooking softshell for the last 40 years of my life in New York and always prepared the softshell in a very seasonal way, because the window of that particular ingredient is so short."

Perhaps Boulud's use of cherries best shows how he combines improvisation with tradition to create new seasonal dishes. "Canard aux cerises [duck with cherries] is a classic French. We love to dig into a classic application and give it a twist. For example, we are using it with squab right now with cherry, and that worked very well as well."

You can dine at DANIEL at its location on 60 E. 65th St. in Manhattan Tuesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.