There is no doubt the French have an eye for fine foods,…
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There is no doubt the French have an eye for fine foods, and Christmas time, like in many cultures is time to indulge in all the finest delicacies. Traditionally in France, the feast begins the night before on Christmas Eve. Following midnight mass families and friends gather together to share in this culinary delight called Le Reveillon de Noël, a feast that lasts into the early hours of the morning filled with an opulent array of mouth-watering dishes.
Apéritif is the starting point for this gastronomic journey, with champagne or sparkling wine flowing and scrumptious bite-sized dishes like amuse-bouche, small puff pastries filled with cured meats and the tastiest of fine French cheeses.
Moving to appetizers there is no surprise that seafood is a popular choice, with so much of the country surrounded by abundant coastlines. Smoked salmon with small toasts, cream cheese, lemon and chives. Oysters poached in red wine, oven-roasted or simply raw with a squeeze of lemon. If it’s not seafood on the menu, you could expect Foie Gras, the French specialty, fattened duck or goose liver. A rich and buttery pâté slathered on a slice of crusty fresh baguette.
The main event is traditionally a meat dish, usually a roasted fowl, either turkey, guinea fowl or pheasant. Rubber with shallot sage butter and stuffed with a sweet chestnut filling.
The courses continue with fresh salads and of course the cheese platter. Cheese choices are endless in France and can vary greatly dependant on the region you are dining. In the north, in Normandy or Brittany, you could expect Camembert or Livarot. And in the south in the Pyrènèes you might expect a selection of sheep’s milk cheese like Etorki or Onetik.
Dessert is certainly not taken lightly on this annual feast, with many options to tempt those tastebuds, even if your stomach is splitting at the seams. There is often 13 dessert options! As the tradition goes there must be 13 desserts to represent Jesus and his 12 apostles at the Last Supper, all served at once, each guest must have at least a small bite of each dessert. The classic is the Bûche de Noël, a rich chocolate genoise cake layered with whipped buttercream and shaped into a Yule log. Other classics include madeleines, macarons, cinnamon palmiers, candied chestnuts, the unique almond paste candy- calissons or the famous croquembouche.
And after the final plate has been cleared from the table in the early hours of the morning perhaps you might be lucky enough to see the soft snow falling outside the window before drift into satisfied and fulfilled slumber. With a nation so passionate about food, you can expect another gourmet food adventure when you awake the next day. Joyeux Noël- Merry Christmas!