The 5 Ingredients of a Fab French Soirée

french hero

Take cultured convo, gooey cheese, bread, olive oil and wine, and what have you got? The ingredients for a sophisticated soiree chez toi! Well, almost. Follow our 5 simple steps to host a ridiculously chic French soirée.

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The French own chic. It seems innate almost, intrinsic to their life philosophy. Being stylish comes with the taking of breath. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Breathless. For us lesser mortals, appearing en-vogue takes a touch more effort. But keeping it simple can pay off.

We’re combining our francophilia with our love of fine food and wine to bring you five simple steps to a super-easy French evening. Invite all your friends. After all, as that famous man proved, you don’t need much to feed a multitude.

Bring on the romance.

A Bout de Souffle or Breathless – released in 1960, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. A must-see for French inspiration. Images sourced L to R: imdb.com, nycdauphine.com and kinecritical.blogspot.com.

  1. PAIN or bread

This recipe for blue cheese bread straws from French chef Tom Saaristo is so delish! Sure, you can own this whole soirée gig with a couple of designer breads, cheeses, meats, and dipping oils, but adding in your own personally prepped bread sticks. That wins the brownie points.

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From L to R: Adelshoffen Beer Tin Sign by French Advert, available online at Zanui, Bleu Cheese Bread Straws (secondcitysoiree.com) and brie v camembert (popsugar.com).

Bleu Cheese Bread Straws

You need:
130g sharp blue cheese (1/2 cup packed)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (separate) plain flour
3 tbsps cornstarch
2½ tbsps unsalted butter, softened
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp poppy seeds

The how:
In a food processor, combine blue cheese, flour, cornstarch, butter, salt and pepper and pulse until dough just comes together. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into an 8cm disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line tray with baking paper. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to a rectangle about 30mm thick. Sprinkle poppy seeds over dough and press in lightly. Cut dough into strips and transfer to baking sheet. Twist the ends in opposite directions to make spirals.
Bake the cheese straws for about 15 mins, or until crisp and brown. Allow to cool before serving.

From L to R: melted camembert with herbs + bread (thelondoner.me), Du Chat Noir Tin Sign by French Advert, available online at Zanui, and all of the cheeses ever (s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com)

  1. FROMAGE or cheese

Cheese has its own food group in France. It’s a staple. (And so is coffee.) We need to relocate. We feel in France we will (finally) be understood. We love the fusion of berries and brie in this recipe.

Brie + Raspberry Canapés

You need:
20 x filo pastry cups
225g brie,* rind removed and diced
½ cup seedless raspberry preserve
550g fresh raspberries
Black sesame seeds
Fresh oregano leaves

The how:
Pre-heat oven to 180°. Line tray with baking paper. Arrange pastry cups on prepared tray. Add a teaspoon of diced brie to each and top with 1/4 teaspoon raspberry preserve. Bake 7 to 9 minutes.
Before serving, add a fresh raspberry to each, sprinkle lightly with black sesame seeds and add an oregano leaf.

From L to R: Brie and Raspberry Canapés (tomsaaristo.com) and Picon Tin Sign by French Advert, available online at Zanui.

*Or camembert – but the difference between the two cheese is outlined here for you!

  1. POISSON or fish

Everybody needs a little protein with their wine. (Except possibly the vegetarians – don’t fish them. Also, possibly try to secure one rennet-free cheese for these peeps. You don’t know what rennet is? Might be best not to ask! 🙂 )

From L to R: Lance Parfum Canvas Print by Vintage Fair, available online at Zanui and Salmon Crostinis (yummly.com)

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Tomato/red onion relish
2 tomatoes (medium, diced)
½ purple onion (finely chopped)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Cream cheese filling
225g cream cheese (softened)
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp capers (finely minced)
1 tsp dill (paste)

Crostini
1 baguette (white)
Olive oil
275g cold-smoked salmon (thinly sliced)

The how:
In a medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, red onion, salt and pepper. Stand for at least 15 minutes to marinate.
In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon juice, capers + dill paste and mix until well combined.
Slice baguette thinly and drizzle with olive oil. Pre-heat your skillet and toast the bread slices on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Spread cream cheese filling over your toasted bread then top with tomato/red onion relish and smoked salmon!!

From L to R: olives spiced with chili, cheese and herbs (theviewfromgreatisland.com) and Paris, France Anderson Design Travel Print Art by Americanflat, available online at Zanui

  1. OLIVES or… olives! (that translation is slightly unnecessary perhaps…)

We’re travelling to the South of France for this one… Imagine. You’re a little salty after a day’s travail, throat parched, but not wanting to spoil your dinner… What better choice than the olive? Humble yet entrenched with history. The olive tree symbolises hope, beauty, peace and fertility. It was favoured by the likes of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Picasso.

Food for the soul. Yum.

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From L to R: Marinated Olives w/ Garlic, Thyme + Rosemary (http://gourmandeinthekitchen.com) and olive tapenade on rustic baguettes, another French fave.

Marinated Olives w/ Garlic, Thyme + Rosemary

You need:
2 cups assorted olives, large and small, green and black (opt for high quality + unpitted)
Olive oil
Crushed garlic (to taste)
A few sprigs thyme
A few sprigs rosemary
Zest of ½ lemon

The how:
Heat the oil in the pan and add all ingredients. Add olives once the garlic has turned golden and the herb have released their perfumes! Set aside to marinade!
Keep any excess oil for dipping bread.

From L to R: Wines Of France Tin Sign by French Advert, available online at Zanui, a decadent way to display your French rose-coloured bubbles (bridesofadelaide.com.au) and deep rich throaty French reds (galahealthblog.com).

  1. VIN or wine

The world is positively spoilt for choice when it comes to French wines and if you’re anything like us almost anything grape-ish tastes delicious. (At least we’re honest!) But being a helpful bunch, we don’t want to leave you at the last. So here are our wine recommendations according to palette:

Like a dry or fruity white wine? Opt for a Riesling, Sylvaner or a Gewurtztraminer from Alsace and imbue a vibe of the Vosges mountain air.

A lover of the bubbles? Champagne from the Champagne region is your bottle. Krug is reportedly the schizz, and also Mumm, Bollinger and Heidsieck! And, of course, Moët & Chandon.

Into something with serious body? The Cahors area produces some of the richest and darkest red wines in France, mostly Malbecs. (Yum!!!)

With a hint of spring in the air, we’re looking to take it outside. Images sourced L to R: frenchbydesign.blogspot.com.au, flickr.com, and snippetandink.com

Rosé more your bag? Anjou Rosé from the Loire Valley or Côteaux d’Aix from Provence are perfect serving with seafood…

Looking for something red and high end? Saint Estèphe, Margaux, Saint Julien and Pauillac might pique your palette. But expect to feel their prestige in your hip pocket.

Like it white and full of price? Look to the smaller regions within Bourgogne or Burgundy for finer specimens like Pernand Vergelesse and Aloxe Corton chardys…

There you have it. Bon appétit and bonne chance! This being French… we could get used to it. 🙂 So, are you going to try this at home?

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.