How to Host a French-Style Dinner Party

Food is love. Cooking for your friends and family is an act of love (showing off your culinary prowess is just a perk). We’ve all been known to go a little overboard...the meticulous menu planning, the hours of cooking (“Must. Make. Everything. From Scratch!”), answering the door in a dirty apron and pajamas, and sweating it out in the kitchen while your guests mingle in the dining room. Do it the way the French do, and your next dinner party will show the love without taking years off your life.

The French are famous for their cooking, and French women are famous for making entertaining look easy. Dinner parties in France are impromptu, elegant, and seemingly absent of the frenzied effort of an American dinner party. How do they do it?

Dorie Greenspan, an American chef living in Paris, describes her first time hosting a dinner party for French friends in an Epicurious article titled “When French Women Bake.”

She made everything from scratch including a dark chocolate cake layered with a fresh raspberry and chocolate ganache. When she revealed that she made the cake herself, her friend said, "Why'd you do it? I mean, it's great, but cakes like this are the reason pastry shops were invented."

Dorie discovered that “in Paris, stores are filled with high-quality ready-to-pretend-they're-your-own products — and French women have no compunctions about using them…only pros or not-so-very-assured hostesses make everything haute and from scratch.”

Take a cue from the French. Gourmet meals made at home can be a balance between things made from scratch and things made with “high-quality ready-to-pretend-they’re-your-own products”.

Kerry Saretsky, creator of the French-American food blog, says that, “French food often looks complicated to us but compound butters are a way to make things easy. The most traditional is the beurre maitre d'hotel which is full of parsley and lemon. I have that on steak at my local bistro in New York and it's fantastic adding new both richness and freshness to the meat.”

Finishing butter ideas

    • Traditional French radishes with butter and sea salt are c'est magnifique with Sea Salt & Black Pepper Butter. It’s simple. Just wash and trim fresh radishes. Serve with butter and sea salt on the side.
    • Rub Premium Black Truffle Butter under the skin of chicken before roasting.
    • For a beautiful and simple side dish, roast whatever vegetables you have on hand and toss with Tuscan Herb Butter while they’re still warm.
    • Try grilled fish topped with Lemon Garlic Herb Butter for those impromptu, alfresco get-togethers.
    • Roasted meat is divine when finished with any savory compound butter. No fancy sauces required.

For a simple dessert, make crepes ahead of time and store in the freezer. When ready to use, defrost and put under the broiler with sweet compound butter and a sprinkling of sugar. Fold and serve with creme fraiche, ice cream, or whipped cream.

At Epicurean Butter, we love how compound butter makes gourmet entertaining easier. Keep it on hand for times when friends drop by and you want to throw something together, and for times when you want to elevate your dinner party menu without elevating your stress level.

As Dorie says, “I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that les Françaises don't know anything we don't already know. The big difference is, they actually do what we all know is smart: They keep it simple…” Now if we could just figure out how French women don’t get fat...

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