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All You Need To Know For Holiday Meals


If the rain has kept you from food shopping and planning for the holidays, don't worry. We've got Chef Bernard Guillas in studio to talk about last minute recipes, stress-free holiday dinners, and New Year's cocktails.

If the rain has kept you from food shopping and planning for the holidays, don't worry. We've got Chef Bernard Guillas in studio to talk about last minute recipes, stress-free holiday dinners, and New Year's cocktails.


Chef Bernard Guillas is executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh you're listening to These Days on KPBS. A time for tradition, a time for something new. A time for elegance, and a time to simply enjoy being with friends and family. Holiday entertaining covers a lot of ground. But my guest, Chef Bernard, says with the proper planning issue even inexperienced hosts can pull off a festive event and a beautiful meal. Now, with time running short, it's time for a little advice to make your Christmas eve pot luck, your Christmas dinner or your new year's eve party something to remember and enjoy. I'd like to welcome Chef Bernard Guillas, he's the executive chef of the [CHECK] Ron Oliver are the authors of the book flying pans, two chefs one world. Chef Bernard, welcome.

BERNARD: Always a pleasure to be here, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you're invited our listeners are invited to call in with your questions, about holiday snacks, dinners, desserts, drinks, any questions or comments about holiday entertaining. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. When we first sat down, Chef Bernard, we were just exchanging some ideas about how bad the weather was yesterday, and then the days before that. And I'm guessing some San Diegans might be a little behind when it comes to getting in when they need for the holiday dinner of so now that we're getting down to the wire, and we've gotta do this, what's your best advice for staying organized in the planning process.

BERNARD: Well, I have heard a lot of my friends saying oh, my God, time is running out. For a chef, it's like, are you kidding? We've got all the time in the world left over. The bottom line is, you need to keep it simple. So prepare a really elegant, easy to prepare dinner. So the best thing is, I think about anything you can put in the oven, so for example, a am ha, a rib roast, a rack of lamb, filet min I don't know, the whole filet that you can roast in the salmon, lobster, scallops and prawns. So the best thing to do is this, you need to write a menu today, as we speak right now, except when you're driving of course. But make this mental note. So make and write your dinner. Keep it simple and in season. So what I mean by that is you need to look at where can I shop, what is the area where I will be able to find a farmer's market, food store such as, I don't know, Whole Foods, Trader's, a flower shop right around the corner so you can do it all at once. One thing you should do, keep a cooler in the back of your car, if you have a little ice in it, you'll be able to be on the shopping spree for, 2, 3, hours and all your protein will stay very, very fresh. The other thing I would recommend is if you know a great cheese shop, for example, just go there and do a wonderful cheese selection.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you know, that's such really basic advice. But so many people just don't, like, take the time to make a list and plan things out. And they make all these trips, unneeded trips. Do you do that when you're planning a menu? Do you write these things out so you know exactly what you need?

BERNARD: Are you kidding? I'm the worst. Because being a chef, it's like being one of those, I would say, a gold shopper. You're going to go look for jewelry. I just look around, say I want this one, I want this one, I want this one. And that's what I do. But I'm a chef. That's normal. Of it makes a lot of people crazy, they go, okay, Bernard, so you're doing a party tonight, did you make the menu? No. But you should really take my advice, make a list now, so like this, you'll be all set, ready to go.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are there some ways people can cut down on time if they're in a time crunch? Is it bad to use, let's say, like, ready made puff pastry or maybe prechopped vegetables?

BERNARD: No, not at all. I think what I would recommend though is when it comes to puff pastry, get the pep ridge farm. This is one of the best in the market. You want to thaw it out in advance. What I mean by that is, don't thaw it out in the microwave. Leave it outside. So when you buy it, put it in the cooler or it will start to defrost. Three hours later, it's defrosted. You can use it immediately, or if you put it in your freezer, defrost it over night in your refrigerator. When it comes to cut vegetable, I'm not really advise about it, because I think we can all cut our own vegetable. But if you're really in a crunch, the one you can buy that are really easy to use, sugar peas, peeled sweet potatoes or squash, for example. Green beans. But the rest I would do it myself. It's really easy to do. The thing that I told is this. I will, if tomorrow is Christmas, I will see what I can prebake today. What about if we do a twice baked sweet potatoes or twice baked potatoes? You can really prepare it, make it a mash, and put it into a casserole dish. Isn't that cool in.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's wonderful, yeah.

BERNARD: And you don't have to run. One thing I like to do in my house, buy nice jumbo asparagus. You peel asparagus, put it in the refrigerator. When you need it, put it in the pan, a little bit of water, a little bit of butter, and salt and pepper, you cover it, put the stove on, and then within three minutes they will be cooked al dente. So it's super easy to do.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's wonderful, now, just to stay on these premade things for a moment, are there any premade items people should avoid.

BERNARD: Well, this is the thing for me, is that a lot of people buy pie crusts. Pie crusts are so easy to do. It's sugar, flour, eggs, and you're pretty much done. And butter, of. So the thing with premade is that I do not know how much salt and sugar you have in the preparation. And how bad it? If you buy premade items, and then you have that party at your house, and it doesn't come out right.


BERNARD: It reflects on who you are as a chef. And it's not -- or a cook. It's not good. It's much better to just do simple recipe. Upon do recipe that you know how to do. Do not create another special recipe for that night not knowing if it's gonna come out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, so many people do. . They just have special holiday recipes that maybe they've gotten somewhere during the year. And then they're gonna try it out tonight or tomorrow night. And so you would say no. Just do something you know how to do.

BERNARD: Look, a am ha, a Turkey, Turkey for me, I love Turkey because it's part of a tradition in France. But you do lobster tale, you do a pot roast. It's really easy to do. Rack of lamb are so easy. You just have to seer it, put it in the oven, and then 50 minutes later, 375, boom, it's ready. Let it rest, slice it, yummy. You make a little, I don't know, mint jelly, with green tea, for example. Something super easy to do and it will be so much fun.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Chef Bernard is here to answer your holiday cooking and entertaining questions, our number, 1-888-895-5727. 1-888-895-KPBS. Chef Bernard, you just said something about a tradition, a traditional meal at Christmas time or new year's. How do you make a tradition? How does a meal become a tradition?

BERNARD: Well, it starts in my opinion when you're a kid. And then you spend time with grandma, and then it goes to -- into your brothers and sisters are gathering together, and we look forward, for example, at my sister' home in Brittany, she does Turkey. And she puts the stuffing inside the Turkey breast. So she's able to really keep all that beautiful moisture. And with the legs she confit with a little bit of fat. But when it's all done, you take the Turkey legs, then you set it aside and all the fat disappears. Then you're able to make fantastic salad with it. And it's a tradition. And she raised her Turkeys. So the turkey the night before, and turkey the day after. Ooh, la la. And it's a party. I gotta tell you, it's wonderful.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you also suggest that maybe a pot luck isn't a bad idea for Christmas eve.

BERNARD: Are you kidding me? I love pot luck. But there is one thing you should do when you did a pot luck. If it's at your home, cook the protein. You do not want to have somebody cooking a Turkey or roast or stuffing and travel 20 miles away in the back of their car. There is a trouble that can happen, which is, you know, the temperatures went up or down, and now is it good? Is it say? And it is not safe. The best is, you do the protein, and everybody brings the rest of the accoutrements. So you could c the appetizers, and have somebody bring a smoked salmon or cheese platter. And somebody does the side, somebody does the sweets. But don't forget, everybody that you invite should bring maybe a special bottle of wine or special nonalcoholic beverage as well. So it really becomes a journey as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So don't come just with the string beans?

BERNARD: Yeah, hello. Bring me some Vino.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you have some very interesting ideas for the holidays. You do a soup shooter. What is that?

BERNARD: Well, a soup shooter, yes. I do a little lobster bisque, and I put it in a shooter glass, and I put some whipped cream, and when it starts to just be thick, I'll pour it just right on top of it, and put a lot bit of fennel pollen on top. And it looks like cappuccino. And they go, what is this? And when you tell them cappuccino, they go is that coffee? No, it's lobster bisque. So you can do those type of things. But I gotta tell you, the other stuff I love to do, what about a shrimp and do a lollipop? You take the shrimp, you curve it around a slice of an dewy, and you secure it through, and it looks like lollipop. Then and there you just saute it for one and a half minute on each side , everything is cooked, it's super easy to do, and it's very sexy. And what about if you stuff some mushrooms with a little bit of blue cheese, mango and caramelized onion. Vegetarian. Lovely.


BERNARD: Then you do, maybe like a cheese platter with artisan cheeses but you can also stuff some little cherry tomatoes, they still are good right now. I just had some the other day. And what about if you stuff it with a little bit of crap meat? But one thing that I love, checker board. You can make a checker board of caviar and smoked salmon. So you take a slice of white bread, let's say, ooh la la, then you toast it, and you put a little bit of butter, you put your smoked salmon on top, cut the edges off, cut it into four little squares, do exactly the same thing with your caviar, and now you have red and black. And you put it on the platter, and it looks like a checker board. And all your friends will go, oh, my God. How did you come up with that? Well, I was listening to NPR. It was on These Days. Come on, people.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Listening to Chef Bernard giving us wonderful advice on holiday entertaining, cooking, dining drinking, if you'd like his advice on a specific matter or you'd like to make a comment. The number is 1-888-895-5727. I'd like to ask you as a chef, it always amazes me how people who are surrounded with such marvelous food are able to pace themselves in a way so that they can enjoy the appetizers, and inn joy the main meal. Do you have any tips for people how to do that? Not just eat up all the appetizers but they don't have any stomach left for any other food.

BERNARD: It's a dinner. It is not a competition. What I mean by that is, the host's responsibility should be the pace of the dinner. And what I mean by that is that, for example, the reception's at 7 o'clock. Everybody comes at serve o'clock. Don't put all the appetizers out in one shot. What you want to do is you have a little cheese, for example, and if somebody's gathering, it's a gathering. And then after that is correct you bring something else from the kitchen, everybody's like, oh, wow. They really think that you've been working for crazy for like three days. But you are organized, so you bring one more, then you bring one more. And make sure that the proteins are different. Maybe a meat to start, then you should have a vegetarian, and you should have some fish and some salmon. So smoked salmon, shrimp, cheeses and pate, and that's it. But if you have all those, and they're coming in small little packages, you will not be full. Do not have a lot of bread out. We are -- we have a tendency to go crazy for bread. Don't do that. Then when you do your menu, start with something really like in your first course.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Bring them out in waves. I love that.

BERNARD: And it does not have to be all plated either. It can be done family style. You think my family in France, my sister is gonna be plating every for 35 people? She would kill me. She would say Bernard, it's not your restaurant. It's coming in platters, baby. And it comes in platters, and it's a gathering that we share, it's a night where you share with your friends and family the bounty of the table. So it's really fantastic.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I know that you don't like the idea of premade pie crust, but you do have some great ideas for phyllo dough. Tell us about that.

BERNARD: Oh, the thing with phyllo is this, you need to be sure that you get a good quality phyllo, and make sure you look at the expiration date. If it says it expires within a month, forget about it.


BERNARD: Because it's gonna be really difficult to work with. If it says it expires in a year, that's beautiful. When you thaw it out, the same thing, you don't thaw it in a microwave. It has to be thawed outside. And when you spread it, you inn fold it on the table. And what you want to do is you want to put a wet paper towel on top of it. Actually, not wet, a damp paper towel. I'm sorry. If it's wet, it means it really will destroy the phyllo. Then after that, you have to make sure that you have melted butter, then you just mix nicely the packages or [CHECK] for example, and what's great about it is you can prepare it the day before, and as soon as you put a nice top of butter on it, it will bake really nicely. [CHECK] maybe 134 goat cheese and sun dried figs a little bit of herbs, that will be fantastic, you can do should grew year, some ham and some mustards, for example. But what about if we do something that's gonna be more like a baklava? And then you bring the nuts and the honey and the spices, and that baklava can be done two days ahead for new year's eve.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And there's something so elegant about phyllo dough too, it has a lovely taste to it, and as you say, it can go with savory and sweet.

BERNARD: And what's cool about it, it comes directly out of the oven, and it goes directly to you. And it's just nice and crunchy. And began, it's the perception that you've been working for day trying to make that dish, and you just pop it in the oven, basically. And do not forget to use the beautiful fruits that are in season, persimmons, apples and pares that you can incorporate into your holiday season.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're right. Because we think of the holidays as so associated with sweets, especially when it comes to children. But you advise that this is a really good time to introduce kids to vegetables, new vegetables, maybe.

BERNARD: Well, you know, the kids, this is the deal. What do they like? They like something that's gonna be sweet, right? Sweet, they do salt, and then they go yummy. What do we do with that? What about if you put some candies pecans or walnuts on the side with fruits and berries? But you have to use like a butter lettuce. Because it's not bitter, it's very neutral. Suddenly I'm gonna eat my salad because it has all the goodies in it. Then some veggies like candied beets. Candy cane is a little candy, right? So now you have beats issue it's like oh, try it, and the kids are trying it, and it's like, oh, that's cool because it's a little sweet. If you have time and you can cut your veggies, you do should carrots and zucchinis and all type of colors, kids love colors am so they'll go for it. Even if they have only a quarter cup, trust me, it's a win. Cauliflowers that you can whip in your mashed potatoes. Or baked sweet potatoes, mascarpone and maple syrup, those are great, and it really brings a good balance to the menu.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Chef Bernard is my guest, taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Jacqueline is calling from the elfin forest. Good morning, Jacqueline, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, Maureen, good morning, chef.

BERNARD: Bonjour.

NEW SPEAKER: I have a question about dessert. Every year I make a traditional yule log. And this year I'm going to two different -- I'm sorry. Christmas eve and Christmas day. I'm doing two different parties and I'm used to bring a yule log on both. And instead of the traditional mocha butter cream, I was wondering if you could recommend an alternative.

BERNARD: Well, the [check] hammam berg is really the way to do it, because you will be really be able to keep that beautiful silkiness on the [CHECK but what you can do is you can change the flavors. So for example do a hundred percent chocolate. What I mean by that is use a 72 percent cocoa, maybe a cary bow or one of your favorite chocolate. But if you do that now, you can tell that you can do a little wine pairing it, and in the center of the bouche, what I would do is I would use some griyote, which is like a cured cherries. If you don't have that, you can use some of the sun dried foot, reduce it with a little bit of port wine, for example. And this will be the surprise. And the other one you can just do, I don't know, coffee. Of and bring some coffee beans in it, and maybe some different chocolate chip. But you can make the gen because differently. You can make one gen s away, because the other gonna be chocoholic. And the other one will be [CHECK] and it will make it very, very different. And also what you can do is try to design them a little bit different of so for example, if you have the you'll log with the two part, two little branches on one side, what about if you make four? And make it really small. And use a little bit different garnishes. And trust me, they will go oh, my God, she should open a pastry shop. Or work for Bernard tomorrow.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you Jacqueline. Thank you for the call. What about wine pairing with that? I mean, I know that champagne goes with everything, so we see a lot of champagne around the holidays. What other kinds of wines and alcohol would you recommend?

BERNARD: All right. So first of all, the way that I like to have my party, I would start with a very light champagne to start, maybe like a Prosecco or something like this. Or you can also do some little cocktails. And a champagne cocktail would be great so you take the best antioxidant, which is pomegranate, for example, very good for you, and you balance it where something that's gonna be not that good, but it tastes so good. Which is bubbles. So you take one pomegranate and cut it in calf, [CHECK] they are dancing in the glass. It's really cool of it's really different of if you don't want to go that route. And say, maybe give me two things I can mix up and it's gonna be really cool, buy, I don't know, like a little Gran Marnier, and a little bit of orange juice, you mix it together and put it -- or there is an alcohol called hypnotic. You can find it everywhere, it's a blue liqueur, made from France, and it's orange based. It's like a black curacao with an attitude. And you put it into the glass, and you put your bubbles and it's like, wow, it's nice and blue, it's gorgeous.


BERNARD: So you can really have a lot of fun doing so. So this will be for your reception. Then after that, I would go into something more structured. I would start maybe with a light Sauvignon blanc for my first course. Then maybe go for a Viognier or Chardonnay. I'm not really crazy about Chardonnays, because a lot of Chardonnays have a lot of hook, and it's not really easy to do the right pairing of but with the right food, it's really good. And when can comes do wine, your preference has a lot to do with it, which is the best wine. So make sure that you have something you really love. Then I would migrate to a rosé, then I would go to a Pinot noir, then I would go to a big red. And you may say, man, that's a lot of booze. But you don't have to do that, it's just ideas. So rack of lamb with a Shiraz, or a Cabernet Sauvignon would be just wonderful, with filet min I don't know. And we do not like to have any meat, and we want to go with fish, well, you can stay white or add the rosé carry through, or do a light Pinot noir with your salad for example. And for desert, the tradition is to finish with a little sparkling rosé, that's something that in my house, that's what I do. That's my tradition. But remember, this is where you create your own tradition. And you can have, also, a hundred percent vegetarian menu. Of we do that all the time these days of and it's really wonderful. I was telling my girlfriend yesterday that when I woke up this good morning, I just went wow, I ate only veggies yesterday all day. And you know what? I felt so good. So it's good to really mix up that diet.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, you have taken us from the appetizers to the sparkling rosé, and I want to thank you so much. We are out of time, as I amazingly.

BERNARD: Already?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why, I know of it's just amazing. Chef Bernard Guillas is the executive chef of the Marine room in La Jolla. And his book is flying pans, two chefs, one world. Merry Christmas, happy holidays. Thank you so much.

BERNARD: Thank you so much, and by the way, if nobody wants to cook, just come to the Marine room, I'll be cooking for you. Of that's it. Happy holidays.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wonderful. And from everyone on These Days, please have a safe and happy holiday. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.

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