I don’t know why but every time I think of French cuisine, the song Be Our Guest from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast pops in my head. Perhaps it’s because the story takes place in France and Luimere (voiced by the late, great Jerry Orbach) who sings the song is my favorite character. Nonetheless while I was preparing for this dinner party, I was singing the song for a week.

Last weekend my dinner club (perhaps the best type of club there is) had our second gathering of culinary minds and this time we grappled French cuisine. I rarely dabble in French cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat it. Bistro du Coin in Dupont is one of my favorite places to dine, but I usually stick to Latino, Italian, and Southern cuisine. I am sure to many in the culinary world that makes me inferior… c’est le vie.

This time I took on appetizers and settled on making a verrine. Verrines are a layered appetizer or dessert served in small, clear glass (or in this case clear, plastic cups). They are relatively easy to make and you get to play with color and flavor. Of course I couldn’t make it too easy on myself and decided to make my own cheese, fromage blanc. I quickly learned that fromage blanc is very easy to make thanks to this great video. If you want to impress your friends, this is the way to go.

Verrine d’avocat, fromage blanc et le saumon
Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup vidalia onions, diced
1 cup homemade fromage blanc
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
6 oz smoked salmon, sliced
1 tomato, seeds removed and diced
salt
olive oil

Directions:
Slice avocados and add to food processor with lemon juice. Blend to a smooth puree. Add garlic and onions, pulse a few times to mix.

Add 1/2 cup of the parsley to the fromage blanc and mix well.

Layer the verrines starting with the avocado puree, fromage blanc, and smoke salmon pieces. Top with tomatoes and remaining parsley. Drizzle a little olive oil and a pinch a salt for extra flavor. Serves 8-12.

If you have cheese leftover, add desired flavor and serve with crackers. I added salt, pepper, and drizzled the cheese with olive oil.

The main course was provided by our hosts, Katelin and Andy. It was a very, very yummy Coq au vin minus the leeks. I added the egg noddles after the photo was taken.

The hosts also made vegetables au gratin made with greens from their CSA.

And Ben made potatoes dauphinoise…there were no leftovers. It was too good to not include the recipe.

Ingredients:
3 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and placed in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from browning
3-4 cloves garlic
17½ fluid ounces double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Slice the potatoes into thin slices, about 1/8 in thick or about 8 slices per inch.

Mince the garlic and add to the bowl with the potatoes. Butter your bowl before adding seasoned potatoes. You can season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the cream over the potatoes and mix well again. Press the potato down with the back of a spoon or your hands so it forms a solid layer. The cream should come to just below the top layer of potato (top up with more double cream if necessary)

Place the potatoes in the oven and bake for 1-1½ hours, or until the potatoes are completely tender. (If the cream looks like it’s splitting, your oven is too hot, so turn it down a bit.)

Season the top with additional pepper if desired and fresh herbs like thyme.

And no french meal is complete with lots of red wine (and a mustache).

Food for Thought:
-Not pictured: The awesome cheese plate that Steve brought for “dessert” (very French) and the asparagus with homemade hollandaise sauce that Anissa made. I was distracted by taking pictures of this little guy:
-I added onions to the avocado puree for crunch.
-It was easier to roll the cheese into a disc and place on top of the avocado to prevent it from seeping up.
-Unfortunately, the cups I got were too wide. I would recommend using a tall shot glass to make these.
-For those making the homemade fromage blanc: If you don’t want to keep buying cheese cloth because you don’t use it often, it can be washed with hot water and stored.
-For the potatoes, place them in a bowl after peeling not slicing. You want to keep all that starch on the individual slice.
-“Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious. Don’t believe me, ask the dishes.” -Lumiere

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