From creamy chicken liver pâté to classic cheese fondue, here are elegant French hors d'oeuvres.
Food & Wine
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Rillettes is a rustic pâté made from meat that's been poached in its own fat, then shredded and stored in some of that fat. Writer Oliver Strand makes pork rillettes in a slow cooker; the recipe works equally well prepared on the stovetop over low heat. The quick pickle of dried apricots is an ingenious sweet-tart accompaniment to the rich meat.
Fromage fort is the ultimate way of using leftover cheese. Jacques Pépin's father used to combine pieces of Camembert, Brie, Swiss, blue cheese and goat cheese together with his mother's leek broth, some white wine and crushed garlic. These ingredients marinated in a cold cellar for a week to a week-and-a-half (he liked it really strong). Now Pépin's wife, Gloria, makes a milder version in a food processor that takes only seconds. It is delicious with crackers or melted onto toasts. It also freezes well.
Marcia Kiesel's pâté makes an elegant holiday gift presented in a pretty porcelain ramekin with crackers or crispy wafers, like Margaret's Artisan Flatbread. The buttery, earthy pâté can be spread on crostini, stuffed into Cognac-poached prunes, or even shaped into small balls and deep-fried with sage leaves.
Brandade de Morue au Gratin (Whipped Salt Cod Gratin)
The Provençal dish known as brandade de morue is a great example of how to elevate modest ingredients like salt cod and potatoes—in this case, by whipping them with milk, olive oil and garlic until luxuriously silky. Jacques Pépin's extra step of serving the dish au gratin (browned, with cheese on top) makes it that much more delicious.
Chef Ryan Hardy makes his luxurious fondue with two kinds of Swiss cheese (Emmentaler and Gruyère) and two kinds of spirits (white wine and Kirsch), all traditional ingredients. Some of the dipping items are also classic, like cubes of crusty bread and pickles, but some are unconventional, like slices of Hardy's salami and other hearty house-cured charcuterie, which are all wonderful with the winey fondue.
Reblochon Tarts with Bacon and Fingerling Potatoes
With a golden layer of puff pastry topped by caramelized onions, soft potatoes, bacon and tangy Reblochon cheese, this tart is lighter than the sum of its parts, making for a satisfying fall dish that’s great any time of day. The Reblochon, a washed-rind cheese from France, can be replaced with a robust Taleggio from northern Italy or the smooth French soft-ripened cow’s-milk cheese Saint-André.
Anchoïade, a Provençal puree of anchovies, garlic and olive oil, is often slathered on grilled bread or served as a dip. Use any combination of crudités—from thin shavings of spicy black radish to florets of broccoli romanesco, a relative of broccoli and cauliflower.
William Abitbol sources a special variety of small Provençal artichoke known as artichaut poivrade (also called just poivrade) for this simple dish, but regular baby artichokes are just as delicious here. The artichokes are infused with flavor from their aromatic poaching liquid, a mixture of lemon, herbs and olive oil.
This stunning recipe calls for a head of Boston lettuce per person, resulting in a soup with pure, intense flavors that is then poured over a delicate custard. It's a riff on petits pois à la française, the classic French dish of peas, lettuce and spring onions braised in butter and chicken stock.
Fresh beans make a beautiful crudité platter, but they can also be chopped and mixed together for a lovely late-summer salad, simply dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, Champagne vinegar and chopped herbs such as tarragon and chives.
For Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm, make-ahead recipes are key for holiday entertaining. The night before the party, Jamie spreads a creamy chive-flecked smoked salmon mixture (based on a béchamel, or white sauce, often used in a classic croque-monsieur) between cocktail-size slices of bread. He cooks the sandwiches right before guests arrive. Alison serves the sandwiches with small, disposable wooden forks so guests can keep their hands grease-free.