Having your own French dinner party is a fun way to entertain. It can be as simple as preparing a couple of French dishes, or structuring the meal with a parade of courses, as the French do. Throw in some good French wine, and you've got a fête.
More about that menu later. But for a really fun French affair, ask your guests to dress French!
This is what our US friends did 12 years ago, when they threw us a going away party for our move to France. They planned a wonderful meal, and asked the guests to 'dress French'. Ron was quite dashing in his beret and fake mustache, baguette tucked under his arm. My friend Sandi did the French maid thing, and she did it well, as you see below.
Now for the menu for your authentic French party. Start with very light apéros, as there will be a big meal ahead. Radishes with a little dish of sea salt for dipping are traditional. You might add some good olives.
The first course, confusingly called the entrée in French, might be a composed salad or a soup. (My rule is, I serve meat as an entrée or for le plat, but not both. This is not a French rule, however). If you serve a soup, serve it smooth and puréed, as the French almost always do.
Since hot weather has not arrived yet, one of the fabulous French slow cooked stews would be a welcome main course. Coq au vin or Boeuf Bourguigon, for example, can both be made ahead and popped into the freezer. Serve either with a side of pasta if you like, but no vegetable is necessary with this course unless you didn't serve any vegtables in your entrée. By the way, the French would never serve stews like this on top of pasta or rice, as we would. The starch goes on the side.
A meal would not be French without a cheese course, bien sûr. You can serve a plateau de fromage (assortment of cheeses), or try a special recipe, ideas are here.
For dessert, a classic French mousse is always a crowd pleaser, recipe below. Bon appetit!
A final note: I have never managed to put together a good playlist of French tunes for a party. Dear readers, do you have any suggestions? Please share your favorite French singers.
So how do you 'dress French'? From parties we've given or attended here over the years, here are some ideas from our good friends:
You could be a chic Parisian hat chic, like my friend Susan.
Or you could be The King and Queen of France, like John and Joan.
Like Gerard, you could be a dashing French flâneur......Or you could pretend to be the Tour de France winner, like Monty.Maybe, like Henri, you'll be a French chef.Like Jean-Marie, you could be a French matador.Or simply sport the Eiffel Tower, like Ali.Like Dee, you could just come as a French wine lover.You could pose as a wealthy yacht owner from the Côte d'Azur, like Frank.Or do the medieval thing. That's Joan at right as La Comptesse, and me at left as her chamber maid, with French peasants Monty and Ali.RECIPE: Chocolate Mousse The Way the French Do ItYou may see recipes for chocolate mousse with heavy cream, but the French keep it light and airy with just egg whites (uncooked, so use pasteurized eggs if you're worried). The classic recipe is found on the back of a French package of Nestle's cooking chocolate. It's truly the best, and it couldn't be easier. It's better if you make it one day ahead.Dorie Greenspan adapted the Nestle recipe for the Anglos. She calls for bittersweet chocolate. I find, however, that French dessert chocolate is even a bit sweeter than what we call 'semi-sweet', so I use semi-sweet chocolate when I'm in the States. The choice is yours.
- 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
- 3 large eggs (preferably organic), separated, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
Melt chocolate in medium metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add egg yolks to melted chocolate and whisk until smooth. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and pinch of salt in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, beating constantly until whites are glossy and medium-firm peaks form. Using silicone or rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of beaten whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Gently fold remaining whites into chocolate mixture just until incorporated (do not overmix or mixture may deflate).
Divide mousse among 4 bowls. Cover and chill until set, about 4 hours. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Garnish with whipped cream.
In the COMMENTS: Debbie (of A French Opportunity), Julie (of Traveling Through), Natalia, Mary-James (of Mary James en Provence), Christine (of Pen at the Ready) and Marilyn (of Marilyn du Jour) all have their own dinner party stories, don't miss them!