Typical French Christmas?

(20 Posts)
eslteacher Mon 17-Oct-11 19:24:12


So I've been living in France for a while now, but have always spent Christmas in the UK. This year for the first time, I'll be staying in France...and DP (French) and I will be hosting his (French) parents at our place.

My understanding of the typical menu for a French Christmas day feast, as far as I've got out of DP and various other French friends, is as follows

- champagne (bien sur)
[- is another particular drink often served on Christmas day?]

- smoked salmon
- foie gras
- oysters

- chapon [though have heard mixed opinions on this. Is turkey or chapon more common?]
- legume: ?? [no idea if there is anything particularly traditional in the vegetable category]

[- ?? again I have no idea if there is a typical French dessert for Christmas day]

If anyone could help me fill in the blanks above, or correct me on any false assumptions that would be great. Also, I understand that Christmas Eve dinner is often just as important if not more as Christmas Day dinner - any views on this? Is it more appropriate to serve the big hoopla on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day? And if so, what do you serve on Christmas day?

Am keen to get things right, as last year we all had a very English Christmas at my parents' place in the UK, so this year I want to prove to DP's parents myself that the English girl can actually pull off a French Christmas without resorting back to all the English stuff. (Though that said, I will be insisting on crackers and mince pies because it's just not Christmas without them).

Also, I know that DP's mum will be very keen to get involved in all the cooking and preparation as she is just that sort of person. And she cooked all DP's Xmas dinners before I came along. But I know I am going to have some control issues since DP and I will be the official hosts and I am on this whole prove-myself mission. If there are any suggestions as to how to split the preparation they would also be gratefully received, bearing in mind we will all be staying in the same house and sharing the same kitchen (and typically inadequate French oven) over the Christmas period.

OP’s posts: |
sommewhereelse Mon 17-Oct-11 21:38:06

Traditional dessert is chocolate log.

If you were doing turkey, traditionally one of the veg would be chestnuts.

Don't forget the cheeseboard.

DHs family traditionally have onion soup on return from midnight mass and then the meal on Christmas day but I know many families do the whole thing on 24th.

bunnyfrance Tue 18-Oct-11 10:17:17

If I were you, I'd let my MIL do all the cooking and get myself out of the kitchen...there's no way I'd be able to do a proper French Christmas myself without irritating comments from the in-laws! Would be far easier just to let them get on with it.

They'll think you're weird with the crackers, by the way, although the mince pies will probably go down well!

shanghaied Tue 18-Oct-11 10:24:04

Hi. Have French DH who is also a chef by trade. Can get back to you with some easy tips / ideas for Xmas meal if you want. I once did the full English Xmas meal for the French PIL and they loved it !

Weta Tue 18-Oct-11 10:56:32

DH's family always have a Christmas log bought from the best bakery in town (best to order in advance and you can get different sizes depending on the number of people). There are two types - the traditional heavier ones with butter cream (personally I find these too rich and can't stand the butter cream) or lighter ones with more mousse-type stuff (which I think are fantastic). Bakeries will normally publish a list of the ones they do with the prices. Personally I think this is a brilliant tradition as it is one less thing to cook!!

I would discuss it all in detail with your MIL as she will care deeply about it, and maybe choose the Christmas log together?

Obviously I don't know what your relationship with MIL is like but I think a collaborative approach is probably better than trying to prove something to them...

Not sure about the other food as my in-laws are not particularly traditional about itsmile

shaketheshame Tue 18-Oct-11 10:59:41

With your meat, you need to have pomme de terre dauphine ou duchesse !
Fois gras for starter is good as well.

IwishIwasmoreorganised Tue 18-Oct-11 11:01:49

I have no idea I'm afraid, but we're spending Christmas in France this year so I'm keen to see what might be in store!

Does your DH have no helpful ideas?!


Pascha Tue 18-Oct-11 11:04:39

Definitely get your MIL on side. Have a long chat with her now about what is traditional for them, then you can get a feel for what is expected and what you can play around with.

Assuming your MIL is a reasonable woman, I think if you can make her feel involved and helpful the day has a chance of being fantastic.

If she's a cow, of course, I take it all back.

laptopwieldingharpy Tue 18-Oct-11 12:37:20

The menu sounds right but the feast is actually Christmas eve for dinner no?

laptopwieldingharpy Tue 18-Oct-11 12:38:45

Good idea talking to MIL to find out if there is a particular tradition in their family.

Weta Tue 18-Oct-11 13:44:02

Oh yeah, forgot to answer about Xmas Eve issue - yes this is definitely the important meal... not sure what they do on Xmas Day apart from general feasting as I know DH's family are more low-key than most. We always have foie gras a starter though (there are different ways of doing this, so again I would talk to MIL about it).

Weta Tue 18-Oct-11 13:44:30

and Xmas eve in the evening rather than at lunchtime...

eslteacher Tue 18-Oct-11 14:01:18

Thanks all! Just to reassure: I'm certainly planning on collaborating with MIL and wouldn't dream of shutting her out of preparations or decisions or anything. But I wanted to take a straw poll of ideas here so that I could have a vague idea of what was normal/expected, before going to her. That way we can collaborate a bit more rather than it just be me doing what she says. She's very nice, not a cow at all, but all the same I am just not the sort of person who could completely hand over all the decisions and preparations to her, given that Christmas is happening at our house, not theirs. Your ideas have certainly all been really helpful.

bunnyfrance - when they came to my parents last year for Xmas, crackers went down very well (especially with my DSS who adored them, and then when he discovered party poppers was in seventh heaven). So I think we will definitely be having them again this year.

shanghaied - any tips/easy recipes would be really gratefully received. Especially for anything that could be prepared in advance of the day itself. If I can get some stuff done before the day of the meal, I'll be happy to let MIL take charge of the stuff that needs preparing on the day - the meat, vegetables etc.

somewhereelse and Weta - thanks for the chocolate log heads-up. I quite like the idea of buying a really good one in, but on the other hand I do enjoy baking so might have a look at some recipes on the internet too.

shakethesame - noted, and thankyou, will start looking at recipes on the internet.

OP’s posts: |
flyingcloud Wed 19-Oct-11 10:20:49

Christmas Eve is the big meal although two feasts are expected!

Buy your log/buche de noel - order one from the best bakery/patisserie in town. There are iced ones too I think which are quite nice after a big meal.

Marron glaces seem to be their version of our After 8s or end of meal chocs.

Definitely involve mil/family and delegate. French families often share costs/responsibilities when it comes to big meals. Someone can bring cheese/buche de noel or order the oysters/make the foie gras / supply champagne. Depends on how many you are. If it's just the four of you (adults?) you don't have to share out all the courses/costs but don't be a hero and try and do it all yourself!

laptopwieldingharpy Wed 19-Oct-11 10:34:06

Our favorite side with chapon or poularde is truffled jerusalem artichoke gratin. Much nicer than a simple dauphinois.

- rub a gratin dish with garlic
- layer thinly sliced jerusalem artichokes
- cover with broth prepared as follows: 200 ml chicken broth in which you have infused 3 cloves + 1 small pot of single cream. They cook quickly so dont pour all the brothor it may be soggy.
- bake. Add a bit of creamy broth if needed
You can make this extra special by adding a few drops of truffle oil when baked or top it with field mushrooms fried in a little butter and tossed with a few drops of truffle oil.

PetiteRaleuse Wed 19-Oct-11 10:42:50

In my DH's family they do the main meal on Xmas Eve, and then do another big meal on Christmas Day, but not as big. Turkey or goose, game birds have been eaten so far. Last year I believe she did duck.

The one time they came here I allowed MIL to prepare the meal. She wanted to do it, in her role as head woman of the family, and quite honestly that was fine by me. I didn't see it as handing over the control just guaranteeing that it would be a good meal and if it wasn't I wouldn't be judged for the rest of my life grin

At the very least make sure in advance that you are each aware of your roles and ask her for advice as much as you can - she will love being able to help and feel useful - it's human nature.

The log comes from a bakery - don't even attempt that unless you're Nigella. Or even if you are. The bakers do loads of them and are far better in general than home made attempts.

I have brought an English touch to the Xmases we have spent together: crackers, fun napkins, and even a Xmas pud (served on Boxing day) but only a small Xmas pud as they'll probably only eat it to be polite grin

I'm spending Xmas this year with my ILs again after a couple of Xmases just the two of us and looking forward to a real troughing session. So much better than turkey and sprouts and plum pud. Shall be worth the 10 hours drive across France.

HazleNutt Fri 21-Oct-11 15:04:54

I'm in France as well and when I host our first xmas dinner here, I won't make a French traditional one, but my own. I am from another country after all and my culture is part of the family now as well.

Fenouille Sat 22-Oct-11 15:46:18

I'm with HazleNutt. If I host it's English and if my PIL host it's not English.

On the subject of logs, don't make it yourself just buy it. I personally prefer the ice cream ones but most of the French people I know seem to prefer the horrible, creamy, sickly ones.

PlasticFlamingo Mon 24-Oct-11 07:42:11

In our family the Christmas eve and Christmas day meals were both huge and hosted at by different people.

To share out the work, certain relatives would bring the meat, oysters, charcuterie and dessert.

The basic meal was smoked salmon, oysters, charcuterie, meat (beef, wild boar and capon have all been served over the years) and veg, salad, cheese, fruit, dessert (buche de noel or an ice cream cakie thing).

Apperitifs were ricard, martini etc, appropriate wine per course and champagne with the dessert, coffee.

At the very end lots of eau de vie would be drunk while playing bulotte (card game).

This might just be what my family does, I'm not sure how typical this is of French famillies in general.

I loved Christmas in France as a child, I hope you have a lovely day.

shanghaied Tue 25-Oct-11 07:45:05

sorry, completely lost the thread. DH has promised to give some menu ideas and useful websites for receipes. Just got to make him sit down and do it. Will be back soon

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