A White Christmas in France
Christmas in France. Family traditions. At my mother-in-law’s home in the French countryside. A fire going at all times. Papillotes (wrapped chocolates from Lyon) in bowls around the house, eaten from morning to night, before, after and in between meals. My brother-in-law on the piano and mother-in-law in the kitchen (with me as Sous Chef, but of course). Slippers in front of the fireplace. Clementines left for Le Père Noël (Santa Claus). Our nephews and niece running around – excited for Santa to come, and then excited about all that he left behind.
Christmas eve meal: prawns; mâche salad with crab and avocado, and a spicy mayonnaise dressing; scallops gratin in cream, served in their shells; generous cheese platter; clementines; orangettes (candied orange rind dipped in dark chocolate) and truffles. Midnight mass at the impressive Chartres cathedral. Home at 2am – time for dessert, the first of several bûches de Noël! Christmas day saw foie gras, quail, chestnuts, squash gratin, more cheese, a new round of chocolates and an ice cream bûche de Noël. The days following Christmas saw smoked salmon and blinis, oysters, escargots, more foie gras, always more cheese and my mother-in-law’s famous gratinée (onion soup).
And always, before all these tempting gourmandises, we take long brisk walks around the village, breathe in the crisp, fresh air and work up a new appetite.
Back inside, and all around the fire we go. Hot chocolate and brioche with salted butter caramel. Tea and chocolates. Boardgames, Trivial Pursuit and endless rounds of laughter and Taboo.
And let’s not forget the obligatory fondue. Not the traditional Swiss moitié-moitié as we are used to back home in Switzerland, but my belle-mère’s recipe, which starts by rubbing the fondue pot with lots of garlic. Then four fromages: Beaufort, Comté, Appenzell, Emmental; plus white wine, pepper, (too much) kirsch and… her no longer secret touch: butter.
I hope everyone had a fun, fabulous and extra sweet holiday with family and friends!
The festivities continue for us in New York City to ring in the new year with my family. Where will you be at midnight on December 31st, 2010? Wishing everyone a very happy new year! Bonne année!