Nothing compares to the holidays. Gathering the family together, cooking, baking, and creating traditions are what the season’s all about. The Christmas meal is something to be celebrated. Why not go with a theme for the main event this year? The French do Christmas dinner right with elevated comfort foods and detailed desserts. We’ve gathered a menu for a very French Noel, and it surely will not disappoint.
Coq au Vin is a traditional dish full of flavor. It’s one of those simmer-for-hours delights that gets better with every minute on the stove. Ideally you’ll have this going while guests arrive to maximize entree anticipation. The smell is just that good. Bonus: It’s the perfect excuse to stock up on red wine!
The ideal French side dish? So many to choose from, but whipped potatoes serve as a creamy, cheesy backdrop to the sumptuous chicken in your Coq au Vin. Aligot (as they’re called) can be easily made while the meat simmers.
To finish the Frenchy feast, go all the way with a Buche de Noel, better known as a Yule log. This complex treat is the perfect way to get the kids involved and keep little hands busy, not to mention a delectable end to a meal.
- 1 bottle (750ml) Pinot Noir
- 5 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus 2 Tbs. finely chopped parsley
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 leek (cut lengthwise)
- 6 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 1/4 lb. whole chicken legs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. small button mushrooms
- 3/4 lb. shallots, halved
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- Preheat an oven to 350°F.
- In a large saucepan over high heat, boil the wine until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Place the parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs and bay leaf against the cut side of the halved leek and tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.
- In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Set the pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown the chicken, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
- Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- Reduce the heat to medium and melt the butter. Add the garlic, tomato paste and flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the reduced wine and the broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Add the bacon, chicken, mushroom mixture, carrots and bouquet garni. Cover, transfer to the oven and bake until the chicken is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate. Skim the fat off the sauce, set the pot over medium-high heat and simmer until the sauce is thickened, 12 to 15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Discard the bouquet garni. Return the chicken to the pot. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
- 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (about 4-6)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1-1½ cups whole milk
- 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
- Ground black pepper
- Peel, rinse, and chop the potatoes into ½-1 inch chunks. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan or pot, and cover with water, salting lightly. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer over medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender and easily break apart when poked with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Wipe out the pan for later use.
- Add the butter, garlic, and salt to the potatoes in the food processor. Pulse until the butter is melted and incorporated into the potatoes, about 10 brief pulses. Add 1 cup of the milk through the feed tube and continue to process until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 20 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Return the potato mixture to the now empty saucepan and set over medium heat. Mix in the cheeses until completely melted and incorporated, stirring frequently. The mixture will be thick and elastic. If the mixture is too thick or difficult to stir, add the remaining ½ cup of milk a little bit at a time until the texture is loose and creamy. Adjust seasonings as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
For the cakes:
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the assembly:
- Caramel Cream
- Cornstarch or confectioners’ sugar, for surface
- 1 pound rolled fondant
- Best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
- Sugared White Pine Needles, for serving (optional)
- Milk-Chocolate Pine Cones, for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make the cakes: Line two 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly coat with spray. Beat egg yolks with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Beat egg whites in a clean mixer bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Raise speed to medium-high; slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
- Fold yolks into egg-white mixture using a rubber spatula, being careful not to deflate whites. Sift cocoa and flour over top; gently fold to combine. Pour into prepared sheets, and gently smooth tops using an offset spatula.
- Bake until cakes spring back when touched, 9 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line 2 wire racks with parchment paper, and lightly coat with spray. Remove cakes from oven, and immediately turn out each onto a prepared rack. Peel parchment from cakes. Let stand until cooled completely.
- Assemble the cakes: Place 2 clean kitchen towels on work surface, and transfer each cake (with parchment) to a towel. Divide caramel cream evenly between cakes. Spread, using an offset spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges.
- Tightly roll 1 cake into a log, starting with a short end, removing parchment as you work. Tightly wrap log in kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining cake. Transfer wrapped logs, seam side down, to a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
- Unwrap each log. Lightly dust work surface with cornstarch or confectioners’ sugar. Roll out half the fondant to 1/4-inch thickness. Place an 8-by-12-inch food-safe wood-grain texture mat on fondant, and press hard, using a rolling pin, to make an indentation. Gently remove mat, and generously rub fondant with cocoa. Brush off excess cocoa.
- Drape 1 cake log with fondant sheet. Shape fondant to fit log using your hands, and trim ends and cut away excess with a paring knife or a pizza cutter. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with remaining fondant, cocoa, and cake log. Serve with sugared white pine needles and milk-chocolate pinecones if desired.