Three-Course French Dinner

Our handsome birthday guest at the head of the table. (No, he didn’t drink three bottles of wine. He’s actually in training for a half-ironman. Most everyone else at the table was extra thirsty).

Three weeks ago today, I hosted an early spring dinner to celebrate our second son’s 34th birthday. He’s engaged to be married in the south of France this coming September, so I chose a French-inspired menu. I’ve also been engaged with Thomas Keller lately, so there’s that, too.

I bought bunches of tulips at the market and simply cut off about 5 inched in one fell swoop from each bunch and then stuck the whole lot of them into a polished silver cup. I never seem to have enough time to get fussy with the flowers.

We often celebrate birthday dinners at home. This one took place a week and a half early. He and his fiance were traveling to Boston, MA, for Easter and to celebrate the birthday proper with his twin sister, and we were traveling south back down to St. Petersburg, FL, for the Easter holiday. As we all move along our lives’ paths, it can be challenging to get together, yet I’m always up for putting effort into making it happen.

The Gougères and the Lemon Tart.
Professional photo of Bibb Lettuce Salad.
My plated Bibb Lettuce Salads ready to be served.
My chickens readty to be brined, then refrigerated, before roasting. It was a multiple step process.
Professional image of Lemon Tart.
My lemon tart plated and ready to serve. I added fresh berries, a sprig or two of mint, and one chocolate truffle to each plate.

I decided on a three-course menu and a straightforward appetizer: Gougères, Bibb Lettuce Salad, Roast Chicken, and Lemon Tart. I first made gougeres in France at a French cooking school in Burgundy called The Cook’s Atelier. I’ll never forget it; it was heaven. If you are any bit of a francophile, check out their website, or better yet, book an experience; I would love to go back. Here is the link to click: The Cook’s Atelier. While there, I purchased the cookbook, an olive wood salt keeper, which I keep on my kitchen countertop and use multiple times a day, and the kitchen shears, which make breaking down a whole chicken much easier and more enjoyable. While I sometimes might instead want to buy a new dress, I never regret investing in education or cooking tools.

I bought this cookbook while in Burgundy, and can’t believe I brought it all the way home. I guess cookbooks to me are necessities, as it is a hefty volume.
I love this salt cellar. It sits on my counter next to my range and I use it multiple times a day. My daughter often moves it to the table at mealtime. It has since lost the small wooden spoon, no matter, we simple pinch with our fingers.
When I bought these kitchen shears years ago while in France I thought they were ridiculously expensive. They have proved their weight in gold. I often carry them with me when I travel to cook in other kitchens.
You can see my Kitchen Shears here as I used them to help cut the chicken inot serving pieces. They are indispensable for me when breaking down a bird, cooked or uncooked. I know that sounds a little crass, sorry non-meat eaters.

The three-course menu can be found on Goop, and you can click here for your printable versions of the recipes: 3 Classic Recipes from Chef Thomas Keller. I’ve also been doing his MasterClass online; Thomas Keller is my celebrity crush.

The brining solution was beautiful. I always take care in choosing ingredients, even those you don’t inherently see in the finished dish.
All of that chickend required two large stock pots. As it was still cold outside I was able to cool the stock down a bit before putting the birds in by carefully carring the post outside.
The refridgerator had to be re-orgnaized a bit to hold the poultry for air-chilling. Oh! and it was fun trussing them. 🙂
The vegetables waiting to be brushed with clarified butter. Aren’t they beautiful?
Almost ready to roast!

Okay, so now for the effort part. Preparing and serving dinner for eight guests is a bit of work, especially when you do it alone. First, plan the menu and write it down, listing all ingredients. You can then check your pantry and cross off items when you know your staples are stocked. Shop early. I bought five whole birds at the market on Friday, confirming with the butcher that they would be good for Tuesday. I also brined the birds; this required large bins for refrigerating five birds in brining liquid and reconfiguring the refrigerator space; it was a thing! You might wonder why I bought five birds for eight people; that is a reasonable question. I like to have enough on hand if we have extra guests, which often happens in a large family, and I want to have leftovers for the next day because when I cook, I frequently can’t eat what I prepare once I sit down at the table. It’s fun to relive the menu the day after. On the day of the party I roasted only four birds, saving one to roast the day after as I ran out of oven space, and also personal get up and go energy.

I buy the best eggs I can get my hands on, and they are not white. After boiling I soaked them in a white vinegar solution to remove color from the shell.
I also used a clean green scrubbie and gently rubbed them before coloring them.
I had a blue egg, my dinner neigbor had violet.

As it was close to Easter I also colored eggs, placing one organic hard-boiled, colored egg at each place. Before coloring I had to strip them down from their brown shells so that they could absorb my dye. After boiling and cooling I soaked them in a white vinegar solution and scrubbed them a bit with a new green scrubbie. If you watch MasterClass you will learn that Chef Keller uses those green scrubbies to clean vegetables, it’s pretty genius.

We have a family egg game where you tap you go around the table and tap your neighbor, trying not to break the ends of your egg. The object is to not crack your egg, but to crack your neighbors egg. As you have two ends you have a few opportunities at play, and the owner of the least cracked egg when all other eggs are cracked at both ends wins a small prize. I had a dark chocolate bunny set aside as the prize, and it went to a good home.

I wore a washable Black dress, a blue denim apron while prepping, hair pulled back, and in keeping with my French theme black and white Chanel flats.
The pretty bow barette in my hair was a Christmas gift from my daughter Sarah. (should eye or shouldn’t eye, I think often about lifting those eyelids up).

It was a festive evening, even on a Tuesday. I believe we need to make these kinds of things happen as this world just keeps on turning, and getting together always gives us reason to celebrate and create memories.

Sweet endings, sweet memories.

Every day dress, three-course French dinner.

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  1. Yum! I want to make gourges (sp?) and what was your salad dressing?

  2. So beautiful! Wow! It was great to see you at the BC.

    • Hi! Thank you, great to see you as well. You gave me a little confidence push, thank you. 🙂

  3. Several years ago I cooked for a restaurant in Clarence Center called L’Atelier, and made Thomas Keller’s quiche five days a week. Incredible crust and custard. The perfect recipe–you must try it. He is a genius!

    • Oh! I will definitely give it a go, thank you!

    • Oh, thank you for the link to the olive wood salt spoon!

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