They say you never forget your first loves. And I certainly will never forget Paris. It was the first place my foot ever stepped on European soil, and it stole my heart. Paris, however, wasn’t love at first. In fact, I only fell in love with the city because of a chance meeting with an eclair. You see, I arrived in the city of light all by my lonesome when my traveling companion cancelled last-minute. I was completely alone in a foreign place, and I wasn’t certain how I would get by, that is, until I was walking along the streets of Montmartre and stumbled upon a bakery with the most gorgeous eclairs I had ever seen.
As a little girl, my mom would get me eclairs as a special treat and they always held a special place in my heart. Even though they aren’t local to where I grew up, the eclairs made me feel like a little piece of home was staring back at me through that Parisian window. I immediately bought three—even eating one of the airy pastries filled with the lightest vanilla cream and topped with decadent dark chocolate while standing at the counter. I couldn’t help but giggle like a child on Christmas morning. I’m fairly certain the shop owner thought I was mad, but I didn’t care. The spell was cast. Paris had welcomed me in with my childhood pastries and I was forever smitten.
Fast forward to now and I still daydream of being there. When I can’t make the trip to France, I invite some of my favorite people over and pretend that we are there, through the magic of flavors. By preparing a few French dishes, pouring a fitting cocktail, putting on a little music, and adding just a touch of flair to the table, we have a meal that is fitting of any French bistro.
This is just one of the many French dinner parties you could throw, as the menus are endless, but it’s a great way to bring a little France to the table. Have a wonderful time, and Bon Appetit!
It certainly wasn’t easy choosing just a few dishes to serve, but after some great thought, I came to the conclusion that these flavors play so well together. Plus, three of the four items can be made mostly in advance, which means more time with guests and less time at the stove. This is always a crucial deciding factor for me when planning a menu as I don’t want to miss a minute of the party.
Our “Bon Appetit, Mes Amis” Menu:
Aperitif: French 75
Entree: French Onion Soup
Plat Principal: Chicken Paillard
Dessert: Chestnut Pear Tatin
Food Gift: Red Wine Chocolate Truffles
French 75: Easy to make on-the-spot when guests arrive, this bright and bubbly cocktail will set the tone for the entire evening.
French Onion Soup: It’s hard to argue with a classic, especially one as comforting and hearty as this. I serve it as a starter course as the soup can be made ahead of time, and simply reheated (the flavors taste even better the next day), and the croutons can be toasted in advance. As guests are seated, pop the cheese-covered bowls in the oven for a few minutes for a lovely first course.
Chicken Paillard: Since the chicken doesn’t take long to saute before placing in the oven, this is a fast main course that your guests will love. I like to have everything laid out and ready to go before dinner begins, so it is easy to bread and fry the cutlets. Lemon is crucial in this dish, so be sure to have some sliced and ready for serving.
Chestnut Pear Tatin: Though this can be a main course in itself, I have opted for it to end the evening. The chestnuts, cheese, walnuts, and pears remind me of a lovely cheese platter all wrapped up in pastry. I prepare the tatin right up until you return it to the oven right-side up, and then do this last step minutes before serving the final course.
I find that classic and simple style are all you need to pull a beautiful French dinner party together. Linen tablecloths adorned with beautiful fresh fruit and lit by glowing candles are enough to set a gorgeous scene. Here, we opted for a light grey linen cloth with white plates and mismatched silver flatware. We then added some of the leftover pears from the Chestnut Pear Tatin for a lovely pop of color. Just take whatever you have on hand and make it your own to create something beautiful.
How can you not love the playful and soulful sounds of French music? You don’t have to understand one single word to feel it, and it makes for the best cooking and hosting music. I’ve compiled a few favorites to get you on your way to creating your very own soundtrack to a memorable French meal.
No party is complete without a little something sweet to take home, and this one ends with a golden box filled with a Red Wine Chocolate Truffle from Maggie’s cookbook, Food Gift Love. I mean, what better way to end a French dinner party than with wine and chocolate? Plus, these adorable little treats are simple to make and wrap, and can be done ahead of time, so all you have to do is place them on the table before anyone arrives. Maggie found the adorable gold hexagon boxes here.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now focused on opening her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: Recipes That Revamped My Pantry & Made Me Love Me, At Last, will be published by Roost Books/Penguin Random House in 2019. Her first cookbook, Food Gift Love, features more than 100 food gift recipes to make, wrap, and share and is available wherever you find favorite cookbooks.