As told to Sylvie Bigar
Photography by Doug Young | November 14, 2014 | Food & Drink
From a salmon tartare appetizer by Martha Brogie to Eric Miller's roast turkey entree and a Laurent Tourondel's pumpkin-based dessert, here are seven sumptuous holiday dishes from your favorite local toques.
Chef Jason Weiner made an Alsatian style roast suckling pig a Christmas tradition at Almond in Bridgehampton.
“In 2001, even though my experience of Christmas had been mostly takeout Chinese, I realized Christmas Eve was one of our busiest nights of the year. I thought about what would make it special and imagined featuring a suckling pig. Even though I was not well versed in the Christmas traditions, the pig became an Almond tradition to the point that it’s now almost a signature dish. I give it an Alsatian twist, with apples, cabbage, and crispy black pepper späetzle.
We work with the wonderful Pajama Program (pajamaprogram.org), so 10 percent of the proceeds go to provide PJs and books to children in need, which is a great thing to be able to do for Christmas.” 1 Ocean Road, Bridgehampton, 537-5665
Chef Christian Mir was inspired by his upbringing in France when creating his seasonal dishes at Stone Creek Inn.
I grew up in the Toulouse area where the holidays always meant gorgeous and decadent feasts. Today in Quogue, I still make my own duck confit with local Long Island ducks. But cooking fish and seafood has also stayed with me, and the Mediterranean cuisine of Southern France remains an all-time favorite.
I love working with the ingredients of each season, so in December, it’s perfect to pick a nicely plump pumpkin, cut its top open, and carve the inside. Then I fill up the pumpkin ‘bowl’ with lobster fricassee in which I mixed meaty chunks of lobster with an array of vegetable ‘confetti’—butternut squash and green and yellow zucchinis. I add the lightest of light butter sauces—I am from France after all—and because it’s the holidays, slices of wonderfully pungent black Burgundy truffles, which actually hail from Northern Italy.
My egg custard resembles a savory crème brulée and that, too, gets served back in the eggshell for a neat and natural presentation. As a delicious flourish, I crest the egg with caviar or mushrooms.” 405 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue, 653-6770
LT Burger chef Laurent Tourondel uses flavorful, seasonal pumpkin in a milk shake dessert.
“When I first arrived in the United States, the pumpkin was a revelation! In France, we used butternut squash in a soup and that was the end of it. Here, during the holidays—and especially in the Hamptons—pumpkin is everywhere. Dotting the fields, sheltered in the pies, and now—why not?—blended in a milk shake.
At LT Burger, the shakes have become signature dishes. There’s Gone Bananas, Death by Oreo, and even one called Healthy, but during the autumn and early winter, it’s all about the pumpkin pie shake. I always feel a hint of magic in the air at this time of year and perhaps in this dish. The magic dust lies in the special mix of spices: cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger, to name a few. To me, those are the precise flavors of the American holidays. You can also use them on French toast drizzled with sugar, just before you sauté the bread. The spices have a way of caramelizing the whole thing.
Another genius American invention is the graham cracker. It tastes good in everything, but I love to add it to whipped cream to bring out sweet and nutty accents.” 62 Main St., Sag Harbor, 899-4646
Art of Eating’s Cheryl Stair combines sweet and white potatoes in a rich gratin dish.
“I love using white and sweet potatoes together. The colors match well and the flavors, though compatible, are distinctive enough to give this gratin a delicious identity. It’s almost like an Arnold Palmer—two separate ingredients combined together to create a new sensation. We slice the potatoes as thin as possible and layer them with pine nuts and a custardy crème infused with basil, jalapeño, and red onion to bring depth and intensity. We bake the gratin and let it cool before we cut it in small triangles so that the different layers are all visible.
I grew up in an Italian-American family on the North Fork, and one of my dearest childhood memories is sitting at our holiday table. We would start with a full Italian meal and continue with a full American meal. The whole thing lasted five hours or more!” 267-2411
Glögg and salmon tartare are two traditional Swedish holiday items chef Mathias Brogie serves at c/o The Maidstone in East Hampton.
“There is nothing more romantic than a Swedish Christmas Eve when the table is laden with dozens of small plates. There you can find all the seafood dishes we adore: herring prepared many ways, gravlax, egg salad, red beets, and, of course, salmon tartare.
This recipe is very easy to make provided you have the best wild-caught salmon available. With the fish, I mix mustard cream, roasted juniper berries for a hint of northern forest, and crumbled toasted pumpernickel bread for added texture. I serve it with grilled lemon to counter the fish’s sweetness. In Sweden, salmon is ubiquitous, and everyone loves it!
To keep with the Swedish traditions, we also make glögg, a traditional red wine aperitif simmered with a mix of spices and a bit of sugar. At the end, a dash of Swedish vodka wakes up the whole thing. What we call the start of the glögg season in Sweden takes place on the first Sunday of Advent.” 207 Main St., East Hampton, 324-5006
Bay Kitchen Bar chef Eric Miller uses French techniques to enhance a traditional holiday turkey.
“Born and raised on Long Island, I am thrilled to be back cooking on a marina at Bay Kitchen Bar. We are surrounded by water, so, of course, fish and seafood come naturally to us, but also the kind of foods that are indigenous to the East End. And for the holidays, turkey is my favorite ingredient. I remember huge family dinners with my grandmother dressed to the nines, where my mom’s fabulous roasted turkey was the star of the night.
Even though the restaurant will be closed on Christmas, we are always available for catering, and one of my favorite recipes is the braised turkey ballotine (French for bale) made with an organic Heritage bird. We debone it, lay it flat, pound it, and then stuff it with hot and sweet sausage, dried cherries, and winter vegetables. It’s then braised for three hours, osso-buco style, in red wine mixed with a rich poultry stock and a touch of port. Just before serving, we slice this long roll delicately and place some on the plate, letting the stuffing shine with all its ingredients. A rich, herbaceous jus brings the final touch.
I have been applying this classic French technique to local fare for some time, with small chicken or poussin, but the turkey is what I prefer for the holidays.” 39 Gann Road, East Hampton, 329-3663
Pastry chef Rachel Cronemeyer combines the flavors of chocolate, espresso, and dulce de leche for this over-the-top winter dessert at Nick & Toni’s.
“What better way to concentrate and showcase different flavors than to present them vertically in a glass? Invented in 1994 by pastry genius Philippe Conticini, desserts in a glass, or verrines, have seduced the world.
Here, our treat is made of mostly chocolate with dabs of espresso crémeux and dulce de leche. I marry the tastes as in a puzzle but also the textures and the temperatures with crunchy cocoa nibs and caramelized phyllo. The addition of ice cream, at the last minute, adds a layer of creamy cold. The dessert, a generous portion for one, is assembled just before it is served.” 136 N. Main St., East Hampton, 324-3550