The Make-Ahead French Summer Dinner Party

Summer menu, clockwise from top: French Green Lentil Salad, White Bean-Tarragon Salad, Panko-Breaded Oven-Baked Chicken, Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese.

I have been entertaining a lot lately, with more gatherings to come. Seems like everyone decided to come to town within the same week, and I love it.

One of my favorite ways to entertain in summer is to put out about three or four French salads, plus a main dish (such as grilled or roasted fish, chicken, or meat). I love the fact that most of the salads can be assembled in advance, with just a few flourishes to add at the end.

The salads chapter of The Bonne Femme Cookbook offers 30 salads, most of which are well-suited for entertaining in this style. At left, is the menu I served the other night.

With salads, assemble all sturdy ingredients and refrigerate. Bring to cool room temperature before serving, and add anything that can wilt (fresh herbs, tender greens) at the last minute.

So that I’m not trying to entertain guests while also flipping through the cookbook to remember what last-minute flourishes need adding, I label each salad with sticker listing the final ingredients I need to toss in before serving. For example:

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Above: With the French Green Lentil, Leek, and Endive Salad (page 51), I add the leeks and herbs at the last minute and toss before serving.

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Above: With the Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese (page 49), I toss the ingredients together, put it in a pretty bowl, and top with the blue cheese just before serving. Otherwise, the blue cheese gets stained by the beets. Note that in this case, I did not include greens (called for in the recipe), because the other two salads offered greens. The salad is great without them.

Find the recipe here.

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Above: With the Tarragon-White Bean Salad (page 52), the beans, shallots, black olives, and dressing were all assembled in advance. The greens and tarragon came just before serving. Toss; put in a pretty bowl.

I also put together Panko-Breaded Oven-Baked Chicken (page 182) in advance, breading the chicken and letting it sit on waxed paper in the refrigerator before transferring to the greased pan to bake it. I popped it in the oven about 1/2 hour after my guests arrived–it only takes about 15 minutes to bake.

In French fashion, the apéritifs and appetizer part of the meal was incredibly simple. (See my treatise on the French appetizer hour).

Enjoy!

 

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6 comments to The Make-Ahead French Summer Dinner Party

  • Greg

    this is a great post – would love to see this for each season – and dessert?
    unfortunately, I always nose around for dessert when I arrive for a party – something simple?

    • Wini

      You are so funny! Nosing around for dessert upon arriving at a party. But I get it!

      This night, because temps had been in the 100’s, my dessert was a wonderful lemon sorbet bought locally from an artisanal ice-cream maker. I poured a little bit of very chilled Vodka over it. This “very adult” sundae is known as a Colonel in France, and is a popular AND EASY summer dessert. Find a picture of it here:

      You’ll have to scroll down and click on Coupe Colonnel to see it–but it’s a lovely dessert.

  • Wini: wouldn’t you like to come here and help me entertain??? These salads look just fantastic. Love how organized you are with the labels! Ok, I will try this and let you know!!!

  • Greg

    I would like to have more people over but farm life keeps me busy – ideas like this really help. Fall – Winter – Spring ???

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