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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Noël in France: Typical Christmas Meal

It's that time of year again, I almost can't believe it myself.. as I look back through photos it will officially be my 4th Christmas in Europe.  First was in a tiny town in the Eastern side of Germany, then the consecutive three were here in Lyon with Bri's family.

I realized, however, I never actually detailed a typical Christmas meal!  So here goes from decadent 'apéritif' to the intense dessert.

First Course: Champagne + Petit Fours
Often a high quality champagne, well chilled, served in Crystal flutes.  A typical french meal offers heated up appetizers, often snack sized bits, hot dogs rolled in some puff pastry.  Some snails stuffed into puff shells and baked until tender.  Christmas time marks a very 'fishy' time, while there is often some puff pastry snacks, there is also a fish egg tapenade spread over toasts.

I am personally not a super fan of the egg-tapenade, but it starts a great meal... plus the champagne (in a true French family) is usually a good quality.

Now at this point we are starting to get hungry, so the best part comes next-

Second Course: Huitres and Champagne
To cleanse the taste buds and to prepare for the evening, we usually have a basket of raw oysters after apéro.  Another bottle of champagne is usually popped open at this point, and *SLURP* goes the oysters.

Raw, we slurp them down with a 'shallot, red wine vinegar sauce' or simply a squeeze of fresh lemon.  I never loved oysters until accompagnied with a chilled champagne, and now I couldn't live without my shooters.

Of course... at this point we get a bit full, but allez! we continue.

Third Course: Sauternes, Foie Gras and Saumon Fumé
So about 3 cups into bubbly, stomach's getting tight, but next is the best.  Some toasted brioche toasts, butter smeared and melted with foie gras.

Now, for some in the States, foie gras is horrible.  Yes it's true that the poor birds are force-fed.. but it's equally true that Foie Gras is one of the most amazing things that I have ever tasted.

For those who avoid 'cruelty' we have some saumon fumé or smoked salmon, a little lemon zested and some buttered toast... simplicity!

Fourth Course: Main Dish
From this point we take a small break, usually a 15 minute digestion break before the main dish is presented.  Normally this is a roasted turkey, a game animal... My favorite Christmas dinner was a slow roasted wild pig in a red wine reduction.  Normally served with some time of a purée, it's difficult to get through the 4th course.. only to get to..

Fifth Course: Fruits, Cheese and Nuts
To help with digestion, usually a bowl of fruits and nuts (fresh) are accompagnied with the cheese platter.  A typical French Christmas cheese is the Mont d'Or, as well as the Petit Basque.

Usually we continue from our switch to red wine, and the cups of wine are in the 10s.

We try to eat a little bit of all the cheese... of course some just give up at this point.

Sixth Course: La Bûche de Noël
Finally, after shoving our mouths full of deliciousness, we get to the typical 'Bûche de Noël', the log-shaped cake covered in chocolate ganache.  I usually can only handle a small piece at this point.  It's very rich and often comes in different flavors.

Seventh and FINAL Course: Digestif and Papilottes
In France, during Christmas, all the grocery stores stock up on these chocolates called, papilottes, very rich chocolates individually wrapped with inspirational messages.  Around 12am we finish stuffing our face, and then out pops the chocolate and strong alcohol to help digest.  A verre of Whiskey, Mar or any alcohol will do.. and then..


You can imagine.  Here is me after dinner last year, no joke, I literally sprawled on the couch and couldn't move.

Then, wake up, open gifts and at 1PM the next day dig in for LUNCH.  That's right, we repeat all of this the next day.

Then one week later.

That's why the average French person gains between 2-4 pounds in a week between the 25th of December and the 1st of January.

Bon Appetit!


1 comment:

  1. last pic : hilarious!

    Nice job. You paint a pretty accurate picture of what a French christmas eve dinner looks like.

    Merry Xmas!



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