This might seem utterly impossible, but I saw It’s A Wonderful Life for the first time last week (and on the big screen at the IFC Center in Manhattan).

I know, I can’t believe it took me that long either. But, boy was it good. Laughter! Tears! Warm fuzzies!

Besides classic movies, nothing says holiday togetherness like food. And while I absolutely love cooking, and find it therapeutic after time on the road, there’s nothing like a dinner out — and trying dishes you’d never make at home.

That’s why I asked chefs from some of my favorite restaurants what they love to eat — and cook — this time of year. Bon Appétit!

The Main Event:

Roast Chicken

Alain Ducasse. (Photograph by Mikael Vojinovic)

“I grew up on a farm in the Southwest of France. My grandmother did all of the cooking at Christmas. One of the things we ate was a roast chicken and to this day, this is still a family tradition around the holidays.” – Alain Ducasse of Alain Ducasse, Benoit, Le Jules Verne, La Cour Jardin, and Adour

Braised Short Ribs
“My favorite holiday dish is braised short ribs. I make them every holiday and I love to add black truffles when I make them for New Year’s Eve to really make the dish stand out. I love short ribs because, like every slow-cooked meat, it can be prepared in advance. I don’t have to deal with the headache or stress of having friends over and being in the kitchen the whole time. During the holidays, I want to be able to spend time with my friends and family!” – Francois Payard of Francois Payard Bakery and FB Brasserie

Francois Payard. (Photograph courtesy Francois Payard)

Whole Spit-Roasted Lamb
“My family was legendary for throwing big parties. We celebrated birthdays and holidays in a grand way. The center of every holiday was and will always be a whole spit-roasted lamb. Any animal roasted on a spit is best eaten right off the spit. There’s no need for fine china or crystal. Between the dancing, eating and drinking, I would say we certainly know how to celebrate the holidays well!” – Michael Psilakis of Fishtag, Kefi, and MP Taverna

The Side Show:

Gambas al Ajillo, Sauteed shrimp with Garlic and Guindilla Pepper
“I love to make this dish around the holidays, not only because of the beautiful and astonishing taste but it is also very easy to make for a group of friends and family.” – José Andrés of Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Minibar, and The Bazaar
Get the Recipe >>

Wolfgang Puck. (Photograph by Amanda Marsalis)

Souffleed Spice Sweet Potatoes with nut and breadcrumb topping
“Sweet potato is one of my favorite holiday side dish ingredients. Everything about it from the golden orange color, the luscious texture, and the honey-like flavor, feels festive, making it a perfect companion for special-occasion roasts like turkey or ham.” – Wolfgang Puck of  Spago, CUT, and Chinois
This recipe (and scads of others) are available on Wolfgang Puck’s app, Live, Love, Eat

Smoked Salmon and Caviar Crêpe “Cake”
“Few dishes say ‘special occasion’ like smoked salmon and caviar. Whether for a black-tie New Year’s Eve dinner, an intimate holiday breakfast, or New Year’s Day brunch, this elegant ‘cake,’ composed of layers of crêpes, smoked salmon, and sour cream, ‘frosted’ on top with caviar, is a decadent reason to celebrate.” – Daniel Boulud of Daniel, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, and DB Bistro Moderne
Get the Recipe >>

The Curtain Call:

Baked Alaska

Alex Guarnaschelli. (Photograph by Bill Durgin)

“For the holidays, I love classic desserts. My favorite is Baked Alaska. I love the drama of ‘burning’ the exterior. The meringue, once caramelized on the outside, covers the ice creamy interior. Even though I know what’s inside, it always feels like a textural surprise.” – Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter and The Darby

Granola Cranberry Tart
“This dessert incorporates cranberries with the granola and sweeter ingredients to really capture the flavors of the season.” – Laurent Tourondel of Arlington Club, LT Burger, Brasserie Ruhlmann, and select BLT restaurants
Get the Recipe >>

Thomas Keller. (Photograph by Deborah Jones)

Buche de Noel
“Nothing signifies the holidays in a more celebratory and traditional way than seeing a Buche de Noel, or Yule Log, on a dinner table. This tradition hails from France where the cakes are often decorated to resemble forest scenes.” – Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Per Se

The Encore:

French Mashed Potato Pancakes or Crépes de Vonnas
“One of the most common kinds of leftovers from a holiday meal is mashed potatoes. Sometimes I’ll make extra just so I can use them the next day to prepare one of my favorite French country dishes: Crépes de Vonnas which are thin, flavorful, delicate, golden-brown pancakes made from a simple batter of flour, milk, crème fraîche, eggs, seasonings, and those potatoes. Prepare these pancakes for brunch on a holiday morning.” - Wolfgang Puck of  Spago, CUT, and Chinois

What do you love to cook and eat this time of year? Leave a comment and let me know!