At the end of their workday on Christmas Eve, chefs unbutton their white jackets, hang up their toques, and with a sigh of relief, leave their sous-chefs in charge of the kitchen for a few days. No sooner do they get home than they're often thrust back into a kitchen—one that's small and staffed by amateur helpers, some with tiny hands and huge expectations. But even for the most sophisticated chefs, holiday cooking is not about wowing everyone with the latest ingredients and chicest techniques. It's about re-creating traditional holiday dishes—all those old standbys that affirm a family's shared history, the simple foods they've loved since childhood, those rib roasts and cookies that are always the same no matter how much everything else may change. We asked eight of our country's best chefs to share their favorite recipes and the memories that go with them.
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