Monday, February 11, 2008

Un dîner théâtral

I just realized that today is the one-year anniversary of my Theatrical French Dinner Party--the one for which I dressed up as La Dame aux Camélias. The wonderful thing about this party is that not only did the guests have to dress as characters from French plays, all the foods made punning references to French drama. I had a great time helping plan, cook, and serve this menu, so I thought I'd share it with you all today.

This is a picture of our beautiful table right before the guests arrived. My host family had gone to the Comédie Française gift shop and bought all kinds of decorations, place cards, etc. Oh, and the little purple ribbon tying each napkin is actually a Ségolène Royal campaign bracelet. My hosts were pretty big Socialists (which is rare among people who live in the ritzy 16th Arrondissement)!


Hors d'oeuvre: Les Champignons farcis de Maître Pathelin (Maître Pathelin's Stuffed Mushrooms). Farci, meaning "stuffed," is related to the word "farce," the theatre genre. (So called because farcical plays are stuffed full of slapstick and jokes.) And La Farce de Maître Pathelin is one of the oldest French plays in existence. The mushrooms were stuffed with garlic and roasted. We also served radishes, olives and fruit punch with the hors d'oeuvres.

Salad: Les Carottes de Gogo et Didi (Gogo and Didi's Carrots). While Waiting for Godot, the two tramps eat a carrot--though this recipe is much nicer than hobo food. The original recipe flavored the carrots with cumin and orange, but I insisted on adding a pinch of tarragon to the mix, because Gogo's full name is "Estragon," which means "tarragon" in French! Served with frisée lettuce and good French bread.

Main course: Le Dindon de Feydeau (Feydeau's Turkey). The famous playwright Georges Feydeau wrote a farce called Le Dindon, which in this case means something like "the fool" or "the butt of the joke." But it also means "turkey"! This was a vapor-cooked turkey breast, served with sauce vierge (an uncooked sauce/garnish of chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, and herbs) as well as steamed zucchini.

Wine: A red Côtes de Bergerac--that is, from Cyrano's home region. I joked that his nose needed to be so big in order to fully smell all the delicious aromas of this wine.

Other beverages: Water, which we called l'eau d'Ondine (she is a water sprite in a Giraudoux play), as well as coffee and tea after dinner.

Dessert: La Tarte Amandine de Ragueneau (Ragueneau's Almond Tart). In Cyrano de Bergerac, Ragueneau is a pastry chef who dreams of being a poet, and he composes a doggerel verse about how to make almond tarts. We didn't follow Ragueneau's recipe, though--we made an even fancier version, consisting of a homemade crust, a thick layer of almond cream, a thin layer of dark chocolate, topped with poached pear slices. Yum! The hit of the evening.

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