How Daniel Boulud Creates Harmonious Dishes - Exclusive

You don't get to the rarefied place in the food industry where Daniel Boulud resides — James Beard Awards, Michelin stars, a thriving international restaurant group — without being a master of flavor. At the chef's New York City flagship, DANIEL, the menu constantly changes based on the seasons, meaning that the restaurant rarely, if ever, serves the exact same dish for longer than a few months. Yet even with constant experimentation, each dish at the restaurant features a suite of flavors that complement each other beautifully. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table marking DANIEL's 30th anniversary, Boulud explained his approach to creating delicious, balanced dishes with seasonal ingredients.

For Boulud, factoring every attribute of the ingredients he's working with into consideration when building a dish is key — that's the only way to make the components of the recipe make sense together. As he put it, you must pay attention to "Layering of seasoning. Seasoning is very important. Texture is very important — taste, harmony. Contrast is very important in the dish because it creates surprise, but harmony, as well, is important because then, nothing really clashes. There are certain things that help keep things in harmony." To demonstrate his theories about culinary harmony to us, Boulud broke down a seasonal squab and cherry dish on DANIEL's early summer menu.

Harmony is one part tradition, one part balance of flavor

One way to make sure your dishes are harmonious is to look for ingredients that are traditionally paired together. These old flavor combinations work for a reason, and they can inspire new creations. This idea shows up twice in Daniel Boulud's squab dish: first, it's loosely based on an old traditional recipe. "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." The dish's inclusion of collard greens is also a nod to classic flavors. "When you do your turkey for Christmas, collard greens are always good, or with pork or anything ... With the squab, it's wonderful."

In addition, using specific ingredients and spices in multiple ways can help tie a dish together. The seasoning crust on the squab, which contains amaranth flakes and freeze-dried cherries, echoes the flavors of the amaranth leaf salad and cherry-vinegar sauce that are also on the plate. Since amaranth and cherry are present in both components, the dish feels like a unified whole rather than an assemblage of random parts. It's also important to not overwhelm the dish by making any individual part too intense; Boulud noted that the sauce served with the squab was quite delicate.