A triple layer of crumbly crust, a truffle-like interior, and an almost patent-leather-shiny glaze…

"An Antique Table"

After sharing some of my tips for being the perfect Parisian hostess on our last Paris Rendez-vous, I thought you might be ready to do some entertaining à la française of your own! For your next soiree, check out some amazing dinner party recipes I've handpicked to share with you from Gourmet Magazine. Bon appétit!

In Paris, flea-market vendors pull up Louis XIV chairs and break for a midday meal, honoring a tradition as old as their wares. The oh-so-French spirit of putting lunch before work inspires these classic dishes updated with a global flair.

Butternut Squash Soup with Chestnuts
Serves 6 (first course)
Active time: 35 min Start to finish: 1 hr

While eating at one of the coveted counter seats at Les Cocottes, Christian Constant’s chic restaurant, food editor Paul Grimes was deeply inspired by the pumpkin soup, which surprised him with savory little chunks of foie gras waiting at the bottom of the bowl. Here, Grimes explores squash’s more savory side by cooking it with a touch of tomato and providing that little bit of sweet surprise in the form of chopped chestnut. With just a dollop of whipped cream, it is rich only in looks and spirit—a spoonful will reveal how unbelievably light it is.

4 large shallots, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 large thyme sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1½ lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into
(1-inch) cubes (about 3½ cups)
5 cups water
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
12 bottled cooked chestnuts, chopped (½ cup)
Accompaniment: softly whipped cream

- Cook shallots, carrot, celery, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf in oil in a 4- to 5-qt heavy pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
- Add squash, water, nutmeg, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper and simmer, covered, until squash is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard thyme and bay leaf.
- Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Thin soup if desired and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle soup over chestnuts in bowls.
Cooks’ note: Soup can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered once cool. Thin slightly with water if necessary.

Watercress and Frisée Salad with Green Apple and Celery Root
Serves 6 (first course)
Active time: 25 min Start to finish: 25 min

After a rich main course, you’ll love the clean flavors of this minimally dressed salad. Watercress and frisée are tamed by slivers of celery root and green apple, which also makes for a seamless segue into the next course—Camembert with apple butter from a local market.

6 oz watercress, coarse stems discarded (6 cups)
¼ lb frisée (French curly endive), torn into 2-inch pieces (4 cups)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 tsp finely chopped shallot
1 Granny Smith apple
½ medium celery root (½ lb), peeled
Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer fitted with an 1/8-inch julienne blade

- Put watercress and frisée in a large serving bowl.
- Whisk together oil, vinegar, shallot, ¼ tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in a small bowl.
- Julienne apple lengthwise using slicer until you reach core, then rotate and continue. Add to greens. Julienne celery root and add to greens.
- Toss salad with vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate-glazed Chocolate Tart
Serves 8 to 10
Active time: 30 min Start to finish: 2¾ hr (includes cooling)

A triple layer of crumbly crust, a truffle-like interior, and an almost patent-leather-shiny glaze make this tart the chicest take on chocolate we’ve come across in a long time.

For crust:
9 (5- by 2¼-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
For filling:
1¼ cups heavy cream
9 oz bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
For glaze:
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 ¾ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp warm water
Equipment: a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep) with removable bottom

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and ¾ inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes.
Make filling: Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.
- Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.
Make glaze: Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water.
- Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.
Cooks’ note: Tart is best the day it is made but can be made, without glaze, 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before glazing.

Scarlet Poached Pears
Serves 6
Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 1½ hr

Though poaching pears in wine often results in a subtle, sophisticated dessert, it rarely looks as lovely as it tastes. Here, Grimes took inspiration from the saturated-red glassware that’s ubiquitous in Parisian flea markets and from a dessert at Le Chateaubriand, which uses beet to give the pears a lush garnet hue. As far as its flavor goes, the beet doesn’t lend anything more than a nice balance to the overall dish, but you’ll probably want to poach pears this way from now on.

2 cups Orange Muscat such as Essencia (from a 750-ml bottle)
1 medium red beet (¼ lb), peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3 small firm-ripe pears (¾ to 1 lb total), such as Forelle, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored

- Bring wine, beet, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and bay leaves to a boil in a 1½- to 2-qt saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
- Add pears and cover with a round of parchment paper. Simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender and liquid is syrupy, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pears to a bowl. Discard cinnamon stick and bay leaves and pour syrup over pears. Cool completely in syrup, about 30 minutes.
Cooks’ note: Poached pears can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Gourmet: “An Antique Table”

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