Our group of friends has a rotating dinner party, with a different theme and different host each month. This month’s theme was French Picnic, chosen by our pal Nicole who is a professionally trained and amazingly talented pastry chef. Nicole made a huge selection of desserts, and the guests brought the rest.
Chels and I got together to prepare our contributions to this potluck. Both drawing inspiration from our own trips to France, we planned a selection of delicious foods that could easily be put together in an afternoon. We’ll share our ideas with you in case you’re planning on hosting your own French Picnic. The two recipes we’ll feature here are very simple and very French – one amuse and one salade.
First, the amuse bouche. The tiny one-bite app whose intent is to get you excited to eat more delicious food. I sliced radishes 1/3″ thick, and piped an equal mixture of goat cheese and unsalted butter on top. I know. Normally I am strongly anti-unsalted butter. But hear me out: if you use unsalted butter, then you can add your own fancy salt later.
After letting the goat cheese and butter come to room temperature, I threw them in the bowl of my stand mixer and whipped the mixture. I used a star piping tip for cuteness. Cuteness is important. Top these with fresh chopped chives and fleur de sel and eat eight and fool yourself into thinking that they’re healthy because they’re half vegetable.
For the salad, Chels made twenty individual servings of salade niçoise. They were amazingly beautiful and healthy and tasty. We would have used canned tuna to top the salad, but Chelsea’s foodie husband insisted on the real thing. The components to this classic French dish are listed below:
- green beans
- niçoise olives
- hard-boiled eggs
- radish slices
- cooked potato (we chose baby yukon gold)
- tuna (fresh or canned – we chose fresh!)
With help from our friend (and content editor) Jenn, we picked the lettuce and green beans from the backyard, and walked to the farmstand for the rest of the produce.
On our way back from Youngstock’s, we took a quick break to be spectators at my neighborhood’s annual Chicken Race. Yeah. I live in a weird neighborhood.
Chels cooked the green beans and baby yukon gold potatoes in the same pot. (Someone had suggested even doing the eggs in the same pot at the same time! So efficient! Sounds more German than French.) She let both cool before adding to the salad. We had cooked the eggs earlier in the day and were letting them get nice and cool in an ice bath while we made our market trip. Chelsea was a one-man assembly line while she put together twenty individual salads in simple reusable dollar-store bowls. I seared the tuna on the stove top and Chels crafted a perfect dressing. I’ll give her the keyboard for a minute so she can tell you how she made it.
salade niçoise dressing:
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white balsamic
- 4 TBS dijon mustard
- 2 TBS honey
- 1 TBS lemon juice
- 1 TBS oregano
- 1 TBS thyme
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
Even though we had already satisfied our potluck quota of one dish per attendee, we couldn’t stop there. Sometimes we don’t know when to stop. We’re working on it.
Chelsea had received some authentic foie gras from a friend who lives in Paris, and so her husband Anthony created a very cute crostini app with the foie gras, fig jam, and a slice of fig on top. Yay for husbands who like to take part in culinary creations! Chels and I lucked out in that department.
Next on the menu: fresh baked bread with a salmon spread. Mmmm. I had been wanting to attempt French bread from scratch for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I figured that even if I failed miserably, we have plenty of other back up dishes. Plus, if you’re planning on spending an afternoon in the kitchen anyway, then you may as well make some bread. I plan on writing a separate post, completely dedicated to baking a French baguette from scratch, because holy cow was it delicious. And it’s not that hard guys. I mean, it can’t be ready in an instant, but the hands-on time is so low and the ingredients are so cheap. Give it a try!
Ever use your grocery store wine bag as a baguette carrier? Neither had I.
My neighbor had just come over to sell me a huge, fresh Copper River salmon. After we filleted it, I cooked the spine section – sorry if that grosses you out – to get every last bit of delicious salmon meat out of that bad boy. Some went to the (very lucky) cat, but most found its home in a creamy salmon dip that we served with sliced baguettes. For this dip, I didn’t use a recipe, and neither should you. Salmon, yogurt, mayo, spices, lemon juice, herbs. I added a bit of hot sauce and cayenne, but not really enough to make it spicy. Just enough to keep it interesting.
The final item we made that afternoon, a savory tarte tatin, featured the headlining stars of summer: tomatoes. It was challenging but not unachievable; the Impressiveness to Effort Required ratio was in an acceptable range. Find the full recipe here.
Other party attendees made awesome contributions, and the host herself made super impressive desserts and still found time to turn her backyard into a beautiful private outdoor restaurant. Nicole’s tiny individual creme brulee spoons were the highlight of the party (maybe also the highlight of my day/life). Perhaps a guest post is in order?