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Ask A Boston Chef: Compiling The Perfect Holiday Menu

December 4, 2013 6:00 AM

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(Credit: LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images)

(Credit: LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Known for decadent French dishes like duck and lamb as well as an extensive wine list, fresh seafood selections and a great ambiance is Bistro du Midi. Robert Sisca, who is the Executive Chef and Partner of Bistro du Midi, prides himself on bringing the recipes and style of dining to the Boston area with a seasonal menu using only the best ingredients. This Johnson & Wales culinary grad knows the importance home cooks put on themselves during the holidays from making the menu to preparing the meal, and has given some insight into how to do it well.

Chef Robert Sisca (Photo from Bistro Du Midi/Facebook)

(Photo credit: Chef Robert Sisca)

Executive Chef/Partner Robert Sisca
Bistro du Midi
272 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 426-7878
www.bistrodumidi.com

Executive Chef and Partner Robert Sisca of Bistro du Midi in the Back Bay always keeps three very basic principles and tips in mind when designing a menu for the upcoming holidays. He believes in keeping family recipes alive and reminds us to make sure to consider who is dining at the table during the holidays and their preferences or even dietary restrictions. He also suggests spicing things up a bit. Why not try a new version of an old favorite to bring new life to the holiday dinner table and make it a more memorable meal. Check out his three tips and even a delicious side dish recipe idea below.

Staying True To Family Traditions

“Menus at home can be similar to menus at the restaurant. If there are signature dishes that are tried and true, guests will be expecting them. At the restaurant, I could never take the Bouillabiaae du Midi or the Roasted Monkfish (with Grilled & Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, Capers, Olive Oil) off the menu or there would be an uproar. At home, my family has always maintained the Italian tradition of serving lasagna as a middle course in a holiday meal. While I have experimented with making various types through the years (white lasagna, vegetable, etc), it is one dish that simply has to be incorporated.”

Accommodating Allergies/Dietary Restrictions/Preferences

“As a host, you always have to take the tastes of your guests into account when menu planning. This includes allergies, dietary restrictions and even dislikes. For example, when I entertain, I generally like to offer a variety of antipasti including items like hand-carved meats, artisan cheese, stuffed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, olives, fried artichokes and Italian-style dips like bagna cauda or caponata. If I know a guest has a gluten sensitivity, I will add rice crackers or gluten-free bread to the lineup and will use gluten-free breadcrumbs in my stuffed mushrooms. If a guest is a vegetarian, I will make sure there are plenty of roasted red peppers, artichokes and dips on hand. If I know a guest hates mushrooms, I will be sure not to incorporate that ingredient into a dish. You never want guests to feel like they have to go without or make sacrifices, especially during a celebration.”

Related: Boston’s Best Vegetarian Burgers

Adding A Dish To The Lineup Using A Holiday Staple, But In A Different Form

“Holiday menus generally include certain dishes such as a protein as the focal point, bountiful side dishes in an array of potatoes, vegetables and pasta and desserts which are often in the form of pies for the holidays. Last year, I decided to stray from the usual mashed or roasted potatoes and introduced Gratin Dauphinois to our meal. It is a regional French dish that is made with layered thinly sliced potatoes, crème fraiche and gruyere and baked until browned and crispy. It is decadent and comforting when the temperatures begin to drop and my family has requested that this be on the menu this year. As a home cook, trust your intuition and know when to take a culinary leap of faith every now and then.”

Cooking

(Credit: LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Recipe for Robert’s Potatoes

  • 11 lbs Yukon Gold
  • 2 cups Cream
  • 10-1/2 cups Milk
  • 7 tbsp Shallots
  • 5-1/2 tbsp Garlic
  • 1-1/2 tbsp Thyme
  • 3/4 cups Gruyerre
  • 1/4 tbsp Butter

Peel the potatoes and put them in water. Slice shallots, garlic and chopped thyme. Sweat aromatics in butter and then add cream. Slice the potatoes on a mandolin thin, but not too thin (do not soak in water after sliced). Combine potatoes with milk and cream and season and taste. After reaching desired flavor, put it in a buttered hotel pan and cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Bake at 325F for 1 hour.  Remove cover and caramelize in oven or in salamander.

Related: Boston’s Best Places For Edible Holiday Gifts

Michelle Levine is a creative energetic, young professional that is passionate about everything Boston has to offer. She loves to attend local events, dine out, and cook and wants to share her findings with you. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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