Entertaining Francophiles without Fear

A Wedge of Comté Cheese

My friend Doug wrote and told me he was having a dinner party tomorrow night. He and his partner, Steve, are hosting “shameless Francophiles.”

“Whenever we cook dinner for each other it is always a five-course affair,” Doug wrote. “and we each pull out the silver and salt cellars and the good china and linen napkins, the whole shebang!”

He added that one of the friends, a photographer, recently came back from Paris, brandishing dozens of pictures of cakes from pastry-shop windows all over the city.

So when Doug told me that he was going to make my Chicken with Curry and Comté recipe, my first thought was what many home cooks think when it’s their turn to host inveterate foodies and Francophiles:

Is this truly the right recipe?

Fortunately, Doug has made this before, and loves it, so he’s confident about his choice. (I always recommend giving a new dish a trial run before serving it to guests—unless your guests are super-close friends who won’t care if dinner brings a misstep or two).

The Meadows of the Franche-Comté region

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that yes, this could be a perfect dish to serve Francophiles. Why?

1. It features one of the best-selling cheese in France: Comté. This is France’s Gruyère, and has much in common with Switzerland’s famed cheese, though I find the French version tastes richer, deeper, and uncommonly more wild (I think of a mountain  meadow buzzing and chirping and alive with sweet grass smells everytime I taste a hunk of it).

If your guests have traveled a lot to France, they’re going to smell and taste France in this dish. And they’ll love you for it.

2. It’s based on a classic French recipe, Chicken Florentine, and classic French always makes Francophiles smile.

3. But it also brings a few new twists: The combo of curry to Comté (a pairing I discovered when traveling there). Foodies love updates.

4. It’s easy enough to make. Never over-reach when you’re entertaining—no one has a good time when the host is stressed out.

5. It’s relatively inexpensive, so you can lard the meal with other things Francophiles love: beautiful cured meats and olives for an appetizer, good wine (I’m thinking a crisp white Burgundy here), a fine dessert. And since Doug lives in Seattle, he can probably do what many French home cooks would do: Go to a top pastry shop and pick up something wonderful.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and invite some pals over this weekend. I have.

Here’s the recipe for Chicken with Curry and Comté. Serve it with Any-Night Baked Rice.

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