Saturday, October 20 –
I am not even sure where to start with this dinner. It was a potluck and there was so much food that it still hurts to even think about it. A HUGE thank you to Sassy Desserts and ManlyMan for hosting this French food explosion. This might be my favorite dinner so far, and I feel like it’s going to be hard to top in the future (but I will certainly give it a shot!).
DevouringWorld & BestestFianceEver: saffron mussels bisque, au gratin potatoes, mushroom garlic escargot, french bread, 3 types of french cheeses, crackers, wine
ChinUp & MyBuddy: ratatouille, wine
Sassy Desserts & ManlyMan: artichoke tartlets, shrimp cucumber & curry cream cheese canapes, apple clafouti
Kid Kreole: etouffee
Miss Sweets: nutella crepes
Harvey Danger: drinks, garlic bread
RubsWithLove: stuffed pumpkins with everything
Mr. Hero & Hot Momma & BabyBear: wine, french bread
SlotMachine: wine, eclairs
OurCuz: food photographer for the night
I started with the au gratin potatoes, knowing that they had to bake the longest. I sliced up four russet potatoes, which actually filled two 9×12 casserole dishes and needed twice the amount of sauce. I made it exactly as it is written, and it was simple and straight-forward. Butter, then flour, then salt, then milk, then cheese – stirring often. Presto! Cheese sauce! Covered with foil and into the oven for 1.5 hours it went.
Multi-tasking around the sauce thickening I started the escargot. Again, this recipe was followed exactly as it was written and it was simple and easy to make. I soaked the escargot in water and then cut each of the snails in half. In the pan was the butter and garlic, then the mushrooms and snails. Wine, cream, flour, pepper, and tarragon were whisked together and poured on top. Left to simmer for a few moments the sauce thickened and I took it off the heat. Into the baking dish went the mushrooms first, then the escargot into the caps, then the sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese, then into the oven for about 15 minutes.
As the mushrooms were softening, I was starting the mussels bisque. Lucky number three, this recipe didn’t need much in the way of change either. Mussels cooked in water and wine, drained with liquid reserved. Butter, onion, garlic, leek, and fenugreek cooked until soft. Flour, then saffron mixture, then broth and reserved liquid. Simmer until flavors are all mixed together. Then parsley, salt, pepper, and cream – and finally the shelled mussels.
My thoughts on all of this:
- saffron mussels bisque and french bread – Flavorful without being heavy. I usually think of bisque as a creamy, heavier base and this was not. With the fresh French bread dipped in it the flavors made a perfect fall-time soup.
- au gratin potatoes – This dish was all of the best things that I love about cheesy potatoes, especially the crispy cheese on the edges!
- mushroom garlic escargot – Creamy, garlicy, heavy sauce on top of cheesy, baked mushrooms = heaven. I could have easily left the snails out and been just as happy with the flavor. Yum!
- 3 types of french cheeses and crackers – There was a creamy white, an herbed, creamy white, and a sharp, nutty orange cheese. This managed to keep the hunger at bay while the oven worked overtime trying to get all of these dishes done.
- ratatouille – The last time I had ratatouille it was slightly mushy and mostly flavorless. This time, it was heavenly and very, very flavorful. Apparently if you make it like Disney, you get a great dish!
- artichoke tartlets – Picture it: flaky pastry, gooey cheese, ripe tomatoes, and salty artichoke. Sounds amazing, right? It was. Very, very. Have a party you’re throwing soon? Make these, they won’t disappoint.
- shrimp cucumber & curry cream cheese canapes – These were indulgent squares of flavorful goodness. It was almost overwhelming how much flavor they had in them, but then you reached for another and realized that you didn’t mind.
- stuffed pumpkins with everything – Get up. Go to the store. Get the stuff. Go home. Make this recipe RIGHT NOW. Your mouth (and whoever you decide to share it with) will thank you. I could easily see this becoming a base for many recipes in my kitchen.
- etouffee – This was a homemade recipe, hence no link. It was spicy, slightly creamy, and very flavorful. He even plated it for everyone so that it ended up beautiful when served.
- nutella crepes – I only managed to eat half of one of these, but it was dangerously good. With banana and nutella inside and whipped cream on top – how could you say no?
- apple clafouti – Almost like a pie, almost like a tart, and almost like coffee cake – it was amazing. And the very last thing that I could possibly eat.
- eclairs – I couldn’t even have one of these, I was so full. But they looked amazing and I am sure they were delicious.
Food and wine and people everywhere – holy cow. Thank you to everyone who came to this dinner and made such wonderful food. All of it collectively knocked my socks off and I’m so happy it turned out the way it did. Three cheers to our France potluck!
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.allrecipes.com)
Saffron Mussels Bisque
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
- 1 1/4 cups white wine
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons margarine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 leek, bulb only, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, finely crushed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 saffron threads
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons whipping cream
Directions: Place saffron threads in a small bowl, and cover with 1 tablespoon boiling water. Set aside.
Scrub mussels clean in several changes of fresh water and pull off beards. Discard any mussels that are cracked or do not close tightly when tapped. Put mussels into a saucepan with wine and water. Cover and cook over high heat, shaking pan frequently, 6-7 minutes or until shells open. Remove mussels, discarding any which remain closed. Strain liquid through a fine sieve and reserve.
Heat butter and oil in a saucepan. Add onion, garlic, leek and fenugreek and cook gently 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add saffron mixture, 2-1/2 cups of reserved cooking liquid and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, keep 8 mussels in shells and remove remaining mussels from shells. Add all mussels to soup and stir in chopped parsley, salt, pepper and cream. Heat through 2-3 minutes. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired, and serve hot.
Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes
- 4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 onion, sliced into rings
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 1 quart casserole dish. Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese over the potatoes, and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven.
Easy Garlic Escargots
- 1 (7 ounce) can escargots, drained
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 20 mushrooms, stems removed
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: Place escargots in a small bowl, and cover with cold water; set aside for 5 minutes. This will help to remove the canned flavor they may have.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
Drain the water from the escargots and pat dry with a paper towel. Melt butter with the garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the escargots and mushroom caps; cook and stir until the mushroom caps begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Whisk together wine, cream, flour, pepper, and tarragon in a small bowl until the flour is no longer lumpy. Pour this into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat, and use a spoon to place the mushrooms upside down into the prepared baking dish. Spoon an escargot into each mushroom cap. Pour the remaining sauce over the mushroom caps and into the baking dish. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake in preheated oven until the Parmesan cheese has turned golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.