Bonjour! Pour notre dîner de famille, nous avons préparé un menu français.
Yup–that’s what 4 years of French classes at Diamond Bar High School got me. Monsieur Kirkeby would’ve been so proud. Although I can’t be 100% sure that it’s grammatically correct :)
Our most recent monthly Family Dinner adventures swept us away to a French Bistro theme. They’re dishes that were meant for casual dining although I’ve also heard bistro cuisine referred to as “glamorous comfort food”. However you define it – it’s délicieux!
We like to have a plentiful selection of items to nosh on for our Sunday Family Dinners but as they were only 10 of us that night, we had to make some concessions. The biggest challenge was trying to narrow down which dishes we’d prepare…. Poulet Rôti? Steak Tartare? Salade Frisée aux Lardons? Escargots?
So much good food, so little time!
As always, we started off with some adult beverages. Although this time around, I opted not to prepare any mixed cocktails and served chilled sparkling vin from the Loire Valley in central France and a Côtes du Rhône.
While we prepped, we nibbled on an Abbaye de Belloc which is a French sheep’s milk frommage that we picked up earlier that day from Center Street Cheese Shop.
Next, we had a hearty Soupe à l’oignon - French Onion Soup.
French Onion Soup is rather nostalgic for me. The first “fancy dining” memory I have is eating French Onion Soup with my parents at a restaurant in Minnesota. I couldn’t have been more than a few years old but the fact that none of my siblings were there makes me believe that I must have crashed one of their very few “date meals”.
There was a Salade Niçoise overflowing with goodies like olive oil preserved tuna, haricot verts, olives, eggs, and grape tomatoes. My sister took the lead on this and adapted Tyler Florence’s version that can be found here. It was incredibly satisfying and could have been a meal in itself–but we’re gluttons.
I can’t imagine a bistro themed menu without some version of mussels. Our sister prepared her Moules with lots of wine, leeks, celery and fresh herbs. She used P.E.I. mussels that were so plump and were sweet and tender. They took on a creamy texture that was out of this world.
And then our deep carnivore side took over and we threw down some serious Steak Frites. We opted to go with simply seasoned grilled steaks (ribeyes and T-bones) and then topped them with an herb butter I had made with tarragon, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
To go with the Moules and Steaks, we put our niece, Nini, to work with double frying our Frites. You first fry the potatoes at a lower heat to cook them through to a translucent stage. Then, you crank up the heat and fry them up again so that become crisp and perfectly golden.
This Potato Monster totally approves.
As for dessert, we had an apple Tarte Tatin with ice cream and it was a FLOP!
So for those of you who ask if we never mess up on any dishes — you better believe it! And this Tarte Tatin was a prime example of how you can follow a recipe word for word and still have a disaster. My caramel didn’t set, the puff pastry was a soggy mess…I was SO bummed! It didn’t look terribly bad but trust me, looks can be deceiving.
But I survived and will live to make more desserts. Plus there was still lots of vin left so we commiserated with booze like all honest cooks do.
Despite my failed dessert, it was a fantastic meal! And like I said, with so many other Bistro classics that we didn’t have the time (or enough room in our stomach) to make, there may be a Part Deux to come!
In the meanwhile, fix yourself up the delightful Salade Niçoise that our seester made. You’ll adore it–especially with some baguette and a crisp white wine.
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
½ pound petit new potatoes, scrubbed and cleaned
1/4 pound haricots verts, trimmed
10 to 12 ounces canned or jarred Italian tuna packed in olive oil
8 ounces mesclun, washed and dried
½ pint grape tomatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise
6 ounces pitted Niçoise olives
Prepare the vinaigrette. Place the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon and olive oil in a small jar. Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper into the jar before tightly securing the lid back on. Shake the jar vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed. Set aside.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Stir in a few pinches of salt before adding in the potatoes. Depending on the size of your potatoes, cut them into halves or quarters before adding them into the water. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 8-10 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Toss the warm potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to coat lightly.
Add the haricots verts to the same pot of boiling water. Blanch the haricots verts for 1-2 minutes and then drain them into a colander. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Shocking the haricots verts will stop the cooking process to stock and allow them to maintain their bright color. Drain them and set aside.
Drain the olive oil from the tuna and use a fork to flake the fish into large pieces. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
Arrange the mesclun on to a large platter. Arrange the dressed potatoes, haricot verts, tomatoes, eggs and olives over the top of the greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve.