If I love anything more in the summer time than the Fourth of July feasts and festivities, its that of the excitement and food of le Qartorze Juillet! A quick 10 days after our own American celebrations, July 14th marks the 225th anniversary of the “storming of the bastille” and the start of the French Revolution. Just as the Americans, the French fought for their freedom from the ruling monarchy and over a relatively short time, earned it. While we celebrate the day our freedom was signed and earned in America, the French celebrate the day they began their fight, honoring military and civilians alike that fought and fell for freedom. After the why of celebrations, comes the how and with what menu, because any French celebration is not a celebration at all without food and wine.
For those of you planning your parties (and I’m sure so many of you are), there is nothing like a slew of finger foods and snacks to adorn the table for a French festivity. Feel free to find recipes to make these dishes by hand, but the best thing about most of these items is that most store bought versions are the best. Start with a rillette or pate with a very fresh loaf of bread, primarily a baguette, sliced and served for spreading. A blend of Mediterranean olives (pitted or not) adorns the table with a cute toothpick within proximity. Flavored and varying shapes of saucisson, or salame, are sliced and left on the cutting board to enjoy in what once may have been the shape of the dried sausage.Jardinere mix or a fresh picked combo of cauliflower, carrots, pepperocini, and small onions offer a fresher alternative to the American pickle, while adding crunch in addition to the salty potato chips of the salt & vinegar variety. Cheeses NEVER come within proximity of the “apero” as it is saved for the after meal, yet before dessert moment.
Without question, my most favorite summer time savory dish is the spicy lamb “merguez” sausage. Inspired by Moroccan cuisine, this south of France staple is the epitome of street food. Skewer chopped up pieces or leave them whole for guests to enjoy and throw them on a hot grill until cooked through. A great, refreshing dipping sauce blends plain Greek yogurt, lime juice, and coriander, if the spice from the sausage gets too hot. Another amazing staple is the Pissaladiere, a simple southern France pizza slathered with onions, peppers, and anchovies. While that last ingredient may put most of you off (myself included), consider changing it up with another fish you favor, such as cod or salmon. For those of you still intrigued, check out my recipe on YouTube for a classic Pissaladiere:
While you assemble your food, don’t forget to take out the wine! This time of year just loves the Rose from Provence (no white zin people, that is not the same!). For all you men out there, a rose is by far not just a girly drink, but a full bodied, refreshing wine, lending many characteristics of an otherwise red wine with the fresh and light characters of a chardonnay or other white wine. I dare you to try it! If red is your poison, stick to a pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon variety, or perhaps a beaujolais nouveau. For whites, keep it cool with a sauvignon blanc. If you must serve beer, offer guests a Panache, which includes a splash of Sprite in a light, pilsner, hefewizen, or other smoother light brew. For the kids, fruit flavored waters all around! The French love their “sirop,” where just a splash offers a ton of flavor and a little sweetness to the boring water taste.
For desserts, ask guests to bring a treat they love. When you are invited anywhere in France, its customary to bring bread or a dessert, which is usually a delightful fruit tart or an assortment of choux (profiteroles) or macarons. Cakes, no matter what the size and shape, are reserved mostly for birthdays, and even then make a rare appearance.
So with your simple menu in place, your wine chilling, and the big screen ready to play the parade and fireworks down the Champs de Lysee and Tour Eiffel, toast to the French and their freedom! À votre santé!