It’s safe to say that we’re completely obsessed with just about anything the French do. We adore their effortless style, swoon over their artfully decorated homes, and delight in the way they entertain. Then, of course, there’s their decadent food and wine, which is second to none. French blogger and cookbook author Mimi Thorisson is the epitome of this French girl je ne sais quoi. She’s always able to produce classic French fare with a leisure unfamiliar to her American counterparts.
With this spirit in mind, we’ve turned to Thorisson’s blog—aptly named Manger, meaning “to eat” in French—to figure out just how to serve dinner like a French girl. See how to select the menu, set the table, and pick the wine for an evening of French dining. This, of course, includes how to try your hand at an easy French bread recipe.
Step 1: Prepare a Menu
When Thorisson hosts friends who no longer live in Paris, she creates a menu that helps them feel at home by making the French food they know and love. “Nothing can really replace the authentic taste of baguette, country bread, Normandy butter, and fresh foie gras from the Gers region,” she writes on her blog.
Create this thoughtful warmth when you prepare a meal for visiting friends by selecting a menu based on foods you know your guest will love and appreciate. Perhaps a local specialty or a dish you’ve heard them rave about. Unsure where to start? Try classic French recipes, like baked Camembert, salad niçoise, and easy French bread below.
Step 2: Fresh Produce and Fresh Flowers
Each beautifully cultivated post on Thorisson’s blog is full of photographs showcasing the meals she puts together with her own recipes and the freshest ingredients. She describes her favorite market in St-Vivien-de-Médoc, writing, “I love to choose my fruits and vegetables from local farmers—their produce is always seasonal and fresh. After going to the markets regularly, I know where to go for the best eggs, best foie gras, best sausages, best garlic. Everybody has something good to offer.”
While you might not be able to peruse the local markets of Médoc, you can find your own farmers market to source fresh produce and seasonal items from. These are the details that make a homemade meal pop. Take it one step further, and use some extra market finds as centerpiece items on your dining table to set the scene like fresh flowers and bright vegetables.
Step 3: Don't Forget the Wine
The French know that a true meal is never complete without the perfect wine to accompany it. She muses in a blog post titled Food & Wine, “Whether it’s an elaborate tasting menu with eight different wine and food pairings, the Sunday roast, or just the Monday stew, I can’t think of a meal that isn’t improved and sometimes even completely reliant on having a glass of wine to dance with.” According to Thorisson, it’s Bordeaux white with the tartlets, Croix de Beaucaillou with chicken, and Ducru Beaucaillou with dessert.
Not quite a wine connoisseur? To start, think about the flavors you want to highlight during your meal when selecting a wine. It can be as simple as pinot grigio with the fish or merlot to go with a steak. Just make sure there’s enough to go around.
Step: 4 Bake the Bread
Thorisson shares some of the bread baking wisdom that she’s learned over the years, specifically from one husband and wife bakery called Le Fournil de J & J. Apparently, the secret to a good baguette is in the time the bread rises (which can take 24 to 72 hours).
Even if you don’t have 72 hours, you can refer to Thorisson’s tips on how to bake bread like the French. She shares that it’s best to use fresh yeast, and let the dough rise for a long time (within reason), and the less yeast you use, the better the bread will taste. The final secret is to use a cast-iron skillet filled with one large glass of water placed under the baking tray. According to Thorisson, the steam delays the crust formation, allowing the loaves to rise fully.
Now that you’ve been inspired by a French girl who’s admittedly leading our dream life, try baking your own bread to serve up with flowers and fresh ingredients at your next soirée.
This easy French bread recipe from Life as a Strawberry will leave you with a warm fluffy loaf and a textured crust that will make any dinner guest feel like they’ve been transported to the countryside in the South of France. And you don’t have to slave away in the kitchen or even own a breadmaker to make it. This recipe boasts a total time of only 2 hours and 15 minutes. Voila!
Planning your next dinner party? Share your hosting advice in the comments below?