No trip to France would be complete without a degustation of its fabulous gastronomy – it is, after all, the home of haute cuisine. There’s no better time to sample some delicious French fare than Christmas, when delicacies from the skies, the seas and the fields all crowd the dinner table.
The gastronomic highlight of the holiday season in France is le Réveillon, the long dinner held on Christmas Eve. Although menus vary depending on the region, here are a few of the dishes that you might find at a French Christmas feast.
Although popular all year round, oysters are a mainstay of the holiday season in France. They can be eaten fresh and raw or cooked with Champagne Sabayon, but should always be accompanied by a glass of bubbly, or another dry sparkling wine. Another popular dish is foie gras, the sumptuously creamy duck liver dish. Although some stay away from the starter because of its unethical production methods, it is still frequently found on réveillon tables. Sweet wines – such as a Sauterne or a sweet Coteaux du Layon – are a perfect match for this rich starter.
On to the main course: while we may be accustomed to a turkey as the focal point of our Christmas dinner, you may find much more variety at a French réveillon. Lobster is a luxurious treat for revellers, often accompanied by other shellfish, such as king prawns and crabs. Game is another popular choice – wandering around local markets at Christmas time will demonstrate how many different choices there are for dinner tables: goose, quail, pheasant, wild boar and deer, to name just a few. A popular seasonal meat is capon, or castrated rooster. Of course, no French meal would be considered complete without a glass of wine; full bodied Burgundies and Bordeaux are sure to go down a treat.
If you’re still peckish (now that seems unlikely!) there are numerous puddings to choose from – literally, in Province, where they serve up 13 different desserts. These represent Jesus and his twelve disciples, and often contain dried fruits and figs. Other regions will simply supply a traditional and scrumptious Bûche de Noël. This chocolate log is usually a Swiss roll filled (and smothered) with rich butter cream.
If you’re visiting France this Christmas season – whether snuggled in a ski chalet or ensconced in a city hotel – make sure that you indulge in le Réveillon in true French style. Bon Appétit!