One of the joys of living in a small village is participating in meals with our friends and neighbors. French dinner parties (and lunches too) are a thing unto themselves. Sitting around a big table, sharing food, conversation, storytelling (and debates) is a time to be savored. Most dinners start about 7 PM and can go well past midnite. Food is eaten slowly with time in between courses to digest (and talk more!)
After a couple years of being invited to dinners with French friends, I decided it was time for me to throw one myself. It’s a bit complicated, there are rules spoken and unspoken, and I was nervous. But I approached it with the idea that I would do the best I could with good humor and hoped they would understand any faux pas!
There are many courses to a traditional dinner party. You start with apero. This means, drinks and nibblies. A simple apero would be wine and nuts. More elaborate aperos would feature kirs (white wine and cassis) and champagne. And more extensive nibblies- perhaps a plate of chorizo chiffonade, olives, small crackers, pates, cornichons, stuffed peppers, mussels. There is an aisle in the grocery store devoted to just apero!
Next comes the starter- or entree in France. This is usually some wonderful and arty looking small dish. Perhaps smoked salmon and avocado in a beautiful mold. Or a slice of fresh tomato tarte. Or a small dish of roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and mozzarella. Today I served a small cup of pasta with homemade pesto, tomato slice and parmesan.
Quick tip– pine nuts are so expensive that I have been substituting cashews for them in my pesto with great success. I can’t tell the difference and it is delicious.
Next is the main course. At most dinner parties this will be a meat or fish dish. I have several dishes that I think are dinner party worthy ( and some that have not been). Today I served a salmon with roasted cauliflower and roasted carrots. The salmon recipe is superb! HERE it is.
Next is salad. Nothing too fancy. Greens with vinaigrette- to clean the palate. Followed by the cheese course with a nice bread.
And finally the dessert. Wonderful chocolate dishes, fruit tartes, small cakes ( my absolute fave Fondant au Chocolate), sorbets and ice creams with a simple cookie. Creme brule, granitas, profiteroles. On and on and on……..
Oh but wait- it’s not really the last course. Still to come- coffee (or tea), chocolate and home made liqueurs. And more conversation! Or maybe impromptu music!