What will be on your table this Christmas? In France, it's all about the food - and family of course. Traditionally, families would attend Christmas Eve Midnight Mass and then gather at home for the feast of the year, a meal lasting until the wee hours of the morning called Réveillon, which comes from the verb to wake up. Today some families carry on that tradition, while others celebrate this long meal at noon on Christmas Day.
Although the menu can vary according to regional culinary traditions, it is not uncommon that a good portion of a French family's Christmas budget is devoted not only to gifts, but also to a list of culinary delicacies and special-occasion foods that are served in multiple courses.
Before the start of the meal, oysters, seafood, shellfish or smoked salmon may be served along with an aperitif, or cocktail, such as a Kir Royale made with champagne and Cassis liqueur.
A traditional entrée of the feast is duck liver (foie gras). Hearty bread and rich creamy butter will be offered to accompany this delicacy along with a Sauternes, which is a sweet white wine that is typically paired with foie gras. Or you can serve your best magnum bottle of champagne big enough to serve the whole family and then some.
The plat principal, or main course, may be goose in Alsace or turkey stuffed with chestnuts in Burgundy. In any case, each course of the meal will be elevated through the use of special ingredients worthy of a once-a-year indulgence.
The salad and cheese course provide a clean and savory pause before dessert, traditionally bûche de Noël. Hours after the start, the meal will be rounded out with offerings of coffee, tea, digestives, cognac, chocolates, and maybe even homemade truffles.
Wherever you may be celebrating this holiday season, raise your glass with family and friends for wishes of a joyous (and delicious) 2012!