Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve feast in Paris

I was pretty stoked to be spending Christmas in Paris. Besides going up to San Francisco a handful of times, I have never spent Christmas outside of Los Angeles since I was three. So I have never suffered the brutal erratic winter weather of the Midwest or East Coast, have never had to pay for overpriced airline tickets and never had to stress out about holiday flying. But for Paris, I'd be willing to make a concession.

My sister's mother-in-law MTR was having us over for Christmas Eve dinner and I was curious to see how the Parisians celebrate the holidays. Surprisingly, very similar to the Americans. Christmas trees lined with presents, laughter, chatter, alcohol and food galore. The only thing missing was The Christmas Story playing on TBS in the background.

Like at any fancy French restaurant, MTR's Christmas Eve feast operates like a tasting menu. You'll start with a little bite sort of like an amuse bouche, Champagne and shellfish, pate and bread, then on to a seafood main course, the meat, a cheese plate and finally dessert. There were about 11 of us but being the renaissance woman that MTR is, she managed the whole night effortlessly from shucking oysters, carving lamb to making quiches and accomplishing this all in 4 inch heels.

The mini quiches were simple to make and your guests will appreciate that it's homemade, instead of that frozen platter from Costco. By the way, love the frozen version but there's a time and a place for that (and it's called a potluck).

Brown the lardons or bacon.

Place a couple pieces of lardon in each pastry cup and top with cream and shredded cheese.

Pop into the oven and voila! Tiny poppers of lardon and cheese.

Champagne of course; we always go for the pink champagne.

Fresh baguette is a staple in every French home.

Bulot steamed and seasoned with pepper
This is my dad's favorite which MTR prepares whenever we are over. I'm not exactly sure what kind of shellfish this is (it's hard to do any sort of research online with webpages in French and trying to navigate with a French keyboard) but it's a cross between an escargot and a cockle. The bulot was plump and a bit chewy (but not in a bad way). Definitely not for the faint of heart because you have to extract these little suckers with a toothpick.

Fresh oysters from Normandy.

MTR expertly shucking oysters. It really takes a real woMAN to shuck oysters as I saw my dad run away in fear of being asked to take on the task.

Fresh oysters, all you need is a little drizzle of lemon juice.

Smoked salmon

Wine from Bourgogne, one of my favorite regions for reds. Smooth like a Pinot Noir, very drinkable and went well with the subsequent meat courses.

A loaf of foie gras that was cut into slices. Very rich but went well with slices of toast.
After a string of starters, the main courses were served. Half at the table were pescetarians so there was a good mix of veggies and seafood with the meat.

Beet and avocado. Can't really comment on this because I didn't try it. How could I, when I was distracted by all that meat, potatoes and alcohol at the table? The vegetarians seemed to like it though.

A pile of haricot vert and roasted potatoes. Normally I veer from veggies but these were cooked in butter. Mmmm....

Big hunk of lamb simply seasoned with salt pepper and butter.

Simply served with a side of lamb jus.

White fish/bar baked with tomatoes and onions. Once again, not exactly sure if there is an American version of this fish but it's rather popular in France. Seabass perhaps?

Alas, the cheese course.
Clockwise from top right: Mont D'or (popular for Christmas), Camembert, goat cheese and Reblochon. The Mont D'or and Reblochon were on the milder and slightly sweeter side. The Camembert and goat cheese however were their stinky self so I avoided.

Salad was also served with the cheese course; a simple lettuce salad with shallot and balsamic vinaigrette. Interesting how salads were served with the cheese instead of as a starter.

Finally, we ended with a selection of ice cream from famous luxury ice cream store Berthillon, located on the Ile Saint-Louie.

Christmas cake with vanilla, framboise and chocolate ice cream. You had to ensure that you got all the layers in the same bite as the framboise by itself could be a bit sweet.

Casis and chestnut ice cream. Looked a kindda scary red dome but it was delicious. The chestnut ice cream in the center of the dome seemed to be spiked with liqueur. That would win my family over for sure.

I could get used to the Parisians' celebration of Christmas. A nicely thought out progression of courses that were rich, decadent and fit for special occasions. After it was all done, I felt stuffed, satisfied and a bit guilty, just like after Thanksgiving. Who needs to pay $150 for an amazing French tasting course (sorry Sona and Ortolan) when you have a MTR.


alicia in exile said...

Dude, it's MTB, not MTR. And aren't you supposed to be tending to your new, absolutely adorable niece instead of obsessing over your food blog?

stuffycheaks said...

dude, I was using the syllables of her name. Aren't you supposed to be feeding your kids instead of reading a food blog?

alicia in exile said...

double dude, if you were going by the syllables of her name, it would be mt! and i am feeding my kids, and reading your blog, and checking emails, and preparing spagetti vongole for dad all at the same time!