Christmas dinner in France is a big deal. For the second year in a row, we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a great Christmas dinner in France with our family.
Perhaps it is their love of food, their gastronomic prowess, both… whatever it is, the French take great pride in their meals, and Christmas is no exception. Christmas dinner might be the most important dinner of the whole year for the French, perhaps as important as Thanksgiving is to us Americans. The menus are carefully planned in advance, and everything is thoughtfully prepared.
Our meal lasted about 9 hours from start to finish… including small breaks. We arrived at about 1:30 pm, or 13 heures 30, to start with champagne and finger foods, known as “l’apéritif”: prunes wrapped in bacon, puff pastry escargot (snails) mini croque-monsieur, boudin blanc, and other puff pastry deliciousness… Is your mouth watering yet?
After that, the kids opened their gifts, and we sat down “à table.”
The first course of our meal was like a “buffet of the sea.” It included oysters, smoked salmon and shrimp.
The second course was a frisée salad with pine nuts, avocado, confit d’oignon and homemade foie gras. Yes… people here make their own foie gras. It’s actually quite amazing to think that most of the things that I ate were homemade. (sorry no pic… I got carried away and ate it too fast… it was that good!)
After salad, we had to take a break. It was time for the “trou normand” which is a sorbet with a “eau de vie” a digestif (alcohol) that helps digestion, so you can continue eating the remaining courses. Our “trou normand” consisted of a pear sorbet with pear alcohol. It was, like everything else, delicious.
The next course was a “gigot d’agneau,” lamb, with a gratin dauphinois (a type of potato casserole with butter, crème fraiche, whole milk and potatoes grown in Enzo’s great-grandfather’s summer home in Auvergne) and cèpes, which are a type of mushroom that Enzo’s great-grandfather handpicked in the mountains (seriously I can’t make up this stuff if I tried.)
After that we had another trou normand, (more sorbet and liquor to aid digestion)
After that, it was my favorite part of any meal, the fromage (cheese) platter. Every year, I cry looking at the cheese aisles and cheese prices in France, because in NYC they cost triple the price. Luckily, I get to eat my heart out during the holidays.
After cheese, it’s time for espresso and dessert. This year there were three desserts: a traditional bûche de Noël, a homemade nougat vanilla ice cream, and a thé lu cookie cake (homemade, but no cooking required, just fridge time.)
After dessert, it was time for little “mignardises” (which according to Wikipedia are “small assorted desserts”) chocolates, chestnuts, etc.
Finally, it was time for fruit, clementines (in season) and usually come from Spain. When the clementines finally finished, it was time to start wrapping up.
We had a great day, filled with amazing food, beautiful gifts and happy memories. The best of all was by far watching Enzo spend time with his French family, especially his great-grandfather, Papy Mario. After all, that is what the holidays are all about, family and creating amazing memories.