There is a time for casual get-togethers and a time for a fancy fête, and the holidays are the perfect time to bust out Fancy with a capital F. This is a meal that we usually make a for a small dinner party with French friends on Christmas Eve. It would work equally well for a NYE shindig.
Dinner Party Menu
Potato Chips with Crème Fraiche and Caviar
Veuve Cliquot Brut Champagne
No Knead Bread
Dinner Party Tips and Tricks
Nothing says fancy like champagne and caviar, so why not start your meal with them? I love easy appetizers like this one where you basically spoon a little caviar and crème fraiche on a potato chip and call it a day.
As you may have already figured out, a slowly cooked stew or braise is my dinner party secret (see the Moroccan stew and vegan beet bourguignon from prior dinner party menus). These types of dishes are the best because you can cook it the day before and reheat the next evening, which leaves you with time to focus on the rest of the menu the day of the dinner party.
I started making this take on coq au vin with Riesling after watching Juliette Binoche cook it in Elles, a French film on Netflix that is worth your while if you find some extra time this winter break. The coq au Riesling is as deliciously decadent as the mashed potatoes, so bringing in a fresh salad with bright dressing is a nice complement to all that creamy goodness.
Unsurprisingly, the best wine to pair with this dinner party menu is a Riesling; I like the Blue Fin Riesling at Trader Joe’s. Once you get to the cheese hour, I highly suggest you turn to a Californian Zin. The heartiness of a wine like the Ravenswood Zinfandel (also available at ole Trader Joe’s) cuts through the creaminess of the Camembert and helps highlight the cheese’s herbal notes.
Of course, homemade bread is an ideal companion for wine and cheese. It’s also a great thing to pop into the oven right before the dinner party so that your guests are welcomed with the wonderful smell of fresh-baked bread and you get awarded 100 hostess points. No knead bread takes about two days to make because it needs to rest for long periods of time so plan accordingly.
Almost everything for this dinner party can be purchased from Trader Joe’s with the exception of the caviar, purple potato chips (unless you sub for regular potato chips), and yeast for the no-knead bread (unless you forego homemade bread and pick up a loaf of Pain Rustique).
Trader Joe’s offers a superb Camembert cheese in a circular wooden package from mid-November through the end of December. They also have another Camembert cheese that is sold as a triangular wedge wrapped in plastic almost year-round.
If you are wondering how and where to buy caviar, I found this article to be helpful. Brace yourself for the price though, caviar ain’t cheap and the appetizer recipe requires three tins (or upwards of 90 grams of caviar). You can probably skate by with two tins for a smaller dinner party group.
This is probably a good time to point out that this is not a cheap dinner party menu at all. Fancy with a capital F can lead to lots of dollar signs! If you want to keep your costs down, I suggest keeping the guest list small (4-6 people being ideal) and asking your guests to bring the champagne and wine should also help save a few bucks.