As Julia Child once said, "In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport." However, to master a French meal in your home, you don't have to be competitive or serious — just passionate. When I host a French dinner party, I keep all of these things in mind (and channel my inner Julia Child).
When getting ready for a party like this, I want to be as prepared as possible so that most of the work is out of the way and all that is left to do is chat with my guests and enjoy a bottle of good wine. When planning a French-inspired meal, remember three things: wine, the classic color combination of blue and white, and butter. Each one of these elements will bring you to the South of France, where Julia herself once lived.
A party begins with an apéritif. Rich green olives and a buttery baguette make the perfect combination to start the evening. And after a long summer of spritzers, you may be looking for a sip that's a little heartier. Serve glasses of your favorite rosé wine.
When your guests sit, skip the salad — serve a baked egg, instead. These are easy to prepare ahead of time and a great way to kick off the meal. Nestled into fresh tomato sauce with herbs de provence, you will instantly be warmed and transported overseas. Another great thing to make is soup, because you can prepare it ahead of time and ladel into bowls when you are ready to dine. One soup that Julia Child was known for was her potato leek soup. I love the flavor and the color, I find that this cream colored soup adds to a beautiful place setting.
One of my favorite main courses to serve is traditional coq au vin, which is one of the most famous of all French chicken dishes. Julia was known for this dish, having featured it in her breakthrough cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Despite the many variations, what I love about this dish is the simplicity. Serve it with noodles, potatoes, and (of course) bread. Almost anything goes with classic coq au vin and it's a great heartwarming dish.
For dessert? Try this: roasted strawberries in French olive oil and sugar. Trust me: It is the most divine taste on its own and — especially when smothered on top of strawberry ice cream — it's a perfectly sweet way to cap off the evening.
Julia Child believed in practice, and greatly embraced her mishaps: "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." This remains one of my favorite Julia Child quotes and an important reminder for when I am cooking. It is not about the end result. It's about the experience in getting there and this dinner is a really fun way to try new things in the kitchen!