I Cooked a Holiday Dinner in Paris for Only 150 Euros
Around 2 p.m. one Tuesday afternoon about three months ago, I found myself in the conference room of our New York office with my credit card in one hand, cell phone in the other, about to purchase a Norwegian Airlines flight to Paris for Thanksgiving. “Are you ready?” I nervously asked my friend Kate, who had queued up the same web page. “You do it first,” she answered. So I did. And it was the best decision I’ve made in all of 2016.
For me, Thanksgiving has always been the more flexible holiday, the one my parents won’t murder me for missing. In the past, I’ve spent it with a boyfriend, my sister’s in-laws, and even in London the year I studied abroad in college. So the idea of heading to France wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. However, the common denominator for all other Thanksgiving adventures was the promise of a cooked meal by able bodies. Such was not the case for Paris. Nay, Kate and I quickly realized we were on our own. Our challenge would be to pull off the dreamiest, chicest Thanksgiving dinner in Paris. Perhaps while wearing berets.
Scroll down to see if we completed our mission successfully and find out how you can celebrate your next holiday abroad with a locally sourced, home-cooked meal.
Courtesy of One Fine Stay
My first plan of action was to find somewhere to stay. Secure a stylish apartment and you’ve laid a great foundation. So I did like any other journalist would do; I tapped my resources, which in this case came in the form of One Fine Stay. Because Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday for Parisians, the options were plentiful. With the help of the One Fine Stay team, I landed a stunning property in the 16th arrondissement that was perfectly situated near local markets and had charming balcony views. Though I’m a big believer in doing your own research and discovering spots by wandering around the neighborhood, One Fine Stay provides guests with an iPhone that gives recommendations for anything and everything you’d need, within walking distance of the property. This proved invaluable when we mapped out where we’d buy our groceries, wine, and flowers.
The Prep Work
After I nailed down the location, the next task was to outline our menu. Naturally, Kate and I did this over a glass of wine at a Vin Sur Vingt in the West Village (no other way!). The rough draft turned out a little something like this:
Cheese plate with figs and honey
Radishes with butter and salt
Roasted carrots on a bed of kale
Potatoes with a rosemary garnish
Onion and sweet potato stuffing
We chose to opt out of the turkey because neither of us is fond of it. Obviously this worked in our favor because, as everyone under the sun knows, the #turkeystruggle is real. We also wanted to incorporate a Parisian element into our menu, and sole meunière is a favorite of Julia Child. That being said, I read up on the subject of turkey scouting abroad, and apparently you can order one a few days in advance, so it’s totally possible.
I knew we could only plan so much and that our meal would be contingent on what was available in the markets the day we cooked. So with an optimistic attitude and this preparation in mind, we packed our bags and headed to Paris.
Set the Table
Courtesy of One Fine Stay
We arrived on Wednesday in the afternoon, but the only thing on our to-do list that evening was to buy a baguette to shred and leave out overnight to go stale for the stuffing. We aimed to be devouring our food by around 4:30 p.m. the next day, so we began our morning at 9 a.m., heading for the food market. Paris has open-air markets and covered markets, some of which have limited days and times they are open, so be sure to plan ahead.
We went to the Passy Covered Market located at Place de Passy. I was blown away by the vast number of delicious options—cheese, fish, and produce galore. Wines, spices, meat—it was literally an emporium of fantastic French food, and it was divine. After spending about an hour in the market stopping by various stands (visit the organic butter vendor, he’s British and has lived in Paris for 40 years), we headed for the bread shop to pick up a baguette and tarts (raspberry, apple, and crème fraîche). Somehow we managed to also pick up small bottles of Champagne, Sancerre, and Beaujolais without our hands falling off from holding so many bags, and then we headed home.
After dropping everything off and tucking items away into the refrigerator, we hurried over to a nearby flower market to Fleurs de Passy and picked up some greens and white freesia. Voilà! All our supplies and ingredients had been bought for just about €150 (about $160).
When we got back, I started with the floral arrangement, separating the bundle of greens and trimming the flowers so they could be sprinkled discreetly throughout the leaves. Once that was completed, the next order of business was the Champagne and the cheese plate (we ended up with manchego, brie, and rosemary chèvre). Kate chopped up the figs and radishes, and we both clinked our flutes to what we hoped was a day that would not end up an utter culinary disaster.
Serve in Style
I peeled the carrots and then handed them off to Kate, who seasoned them with salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin, and honey. We put them in the oven with the stuffing so neither dish would have to sit out for too long. I boiled the red potatoes, and once they were ready, I cut them into halves and placed them in a covered bowl with olive oil, pepper, and rosemary.
The Thanksgiving Meal
Our final tasks were the sole meunière and the sautéed kale. We followed Julia Child’s recipe for the fish, and it turned out perfectly. All you have to do is take your trimmed and skinned Dover soles (they did this for us at the market), season them with salt and pepper, and then dip both sides into flour (pat off excess). Next, simply place one of the pieces in a seasoned or nonstick pan on low heat and add a small piece of butter. Leave it for four minutes, and then flip it over and leave for another four minutes. The filet should look golden brown. Next, repeat with the other piece of fish. The last step is to add any remaining butter to the hot pan, wait until it’s slightly brown, and then add lemon juice and parsley. Generously pour this over your fish for a Pinterest-worthy finish!
To be frank, I’m fairly certain a higher power intervened that day, because not only did every dish we cooked turn out perfectly without the use of any real measurements, but they also tasted incredible. And you better believe that after a night out in the City of Light, we definitely came home and had our second helpings.