Imagine for just a moment that Covid-19 doesn’t exist. Let’s return to the days when we used to throw dinner parties for friends and family at our homes. Now let’s look forward to the days when we will be hosting dinner parties again and imagine them as even more enjoyable.
Have you ever wondered how the French always seem to make entertaining seem so effortless, delicious, and elegant? As a frequent traveler to Provence, I have observed and acquired a few tips to share back home. My goal is to provide friendly and relaxed hospitality to my dinner guests.
The French have always been recognized for their ability to demonstrate simplicity when hosting a dinner party. But just how do they do it? The answer lies in this secret: the French understand the importance of avoiding complicated recipes, and rather, lean toward simple, fresh foods.
For example, they love to cook one-pot dishes that cook all day, such as a DAUBE (recipe to follow). Daubes are loaded with tender meats and vegetables, served in a single bowl for each person, and usually, are followed by a simple green salad, just some torn lettuce and a homemade vinaigrette.
Often the bread is served without a plate and is placed next to your dish on the tablecloth. Sometimes a dessert is served, but dinner may not include a dessert. We’ll talk about after-dinner cheeses later.
The simplicity of the meal allows hosts to do all the prep work before their guests arrive so they can actually spend quality time with their guests and enjoy themselves!
The French love serving their guests something special they’ve cooked up, accompanied by a dish they purchased at the local market or store.
They have a close relationship with their butcher (le boucher), their baker (la boulangerie or la patisserie), and of course, their wine expert (le vintner). Adding a locally prepared dish to the menu gives the guest an opportunity to experience some of the local specialties.
If you have already traveled to France, you might have experienced a taste of French bluntness. Personally, I am not offended and prefer this honest approach.
How does this relate to a dinner party? Well, French hosts will typically tell their guest or guests what they’d like them to bring, rather than waiting for the guests to ask if they may bring something.
They will be specific about what they need, while also making it easy for their guest to stop and buy something along the way. Please, no flowers! Flowers will most likely already be around the house and on the well-set table with linen napkins and a linen tablecloth.
What, No Dessert?
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see dessert after your dinner. Most likely you will be served an assortment of cheeses on a silver platter: some goat and cow, some stinky, some mild and tangy, and some hard and soft. But the selection will always be from a local vendor.
You see, cheese is the perfect ending to a dinner party. It’s the ideal choice for the health-conscious guest who doesn’t want a lot of sugar and enjoys a small piece of cheese, which can be quite filling.
Just follow these rules of thumb when serving cheese: always serve cheese at room temperature, use a separate knife for each cheese, and observe the way your host slices the cheese. Different shapes of cheese require different directions for cutting the cheese, ensuring each guest is served an attractive piece.
By following these four simple suggestions, you may actually look forward to entertaining again! We’re all ready to open our doors to our families and friends, as soon as we can safely do so. Bon appetite to all!
Boeuf en Daube
1 (750-milliliter) bottle red wine
2 bay leaves
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1(31/2 lb.) beef rump roast
4 TB olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 TB all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 (141/2- oz.) can chopped tomatoes in juice
1 Cup black olives, pitted
1TB capers, salt rinsed off
Zest of 1 orange
8 ounces of carrots, chopped into 2-inch pieces
5 ounces of mushrooms of your choice
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Combine wine, bay leaves, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Add roast and cover. Refrigerate in marinate overnight, turning as needed.
Heat 2 TB of olive oil in an oven-proof casserole. Add onions and garlic, and sauté gently for about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and mix well. Next, pour in all of the marinade slowly, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and orange zest. Bring to a simmer.
Heat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat remaining 2 TB of oil in a large skillet on high heat. Dust beef with flour and brown on all sides until sealed.
Transfer beef to casserole, deglaze skillet with some of the cooking liquid and pour into the casserole. Bring the casserole to a simmer, cover with lid, and place in oven. Bake for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, add carrots and mushrooms, continuing to cook for another hour. After final hour, add parsley, and adjust salt and pepper. Cut beef into thick slices and serve with carrots and mushrooms in cooked sauce.
Have you been a guest to French hosts? What did you notice about the way they entertain? What did you like in this manner of hosting a dinner party? Would you attempt to replicate the idea? Do you have a favorite French recipe? Have you tried daube? Please share your observations of French dinner parties!