France is known for its gastronomic delights, from patisserie windows filled with beautiful sweet creations to Michelin star restaurants headed by famous chefs, so unsurprisingly food is an extremely important part of a French Christmas. December 24th is the main day, and people enjoy a late night feast called Le Reveillon, or the awakening, as it continues into the early hours. Family and friends meet to enjoy several festive delicacies, most likely including the following.
1. Caviar and champagne
What else would you expect in France than pure style, like starting the festivities with caviar and champagne. Caviar (fish eggs) is traditionally served on blinis (small buckwheat pancakes), or with a dollop of sour cream, whilst champagne is enjoyed by itself or with a bit of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liquor) to make a kir royal.
2. Foie gras terrine
A famous French dish, foie gras is very popular at Christmas. It is eaten spread on different kinds of toasts, such as brioche bread or pain d’épice (gingerbread), and it is common to add fig jam or onion confit to this as well.
Another famous French dish, escargots (snails) are often enjoyed at Christmas, cooked in garlic, melted butter and parsley.
French countryside is one of the best places to grow truffles and they feature in many fine French chef’s creations. At Christmas they are also present, and people enjoy black melanosporum truffle, truffled dill cream, specialty cheese with black truffle and other variations of the delicacy.
Various types of fish and seafood are eaten during the French Christmas feast including but not limited to monkfish, turbot, sole, bass, smoked salmon, scallops and chilled oysters. Monkfish blanquette with morels is often eaten and salmon is usually served blini style, while scallops are served still in their shells, briefly fried and dressed with a sauce or as scallop tartare. An increasingly popular scallop dish is scallops with an orange cream sauce accompanied by braised endives with honey. Oysters are served in the classic way, on ice on a large tray with a lemon wedge or a mignonette sauce made with red wine vinegar, chopped shallots and black pepper.
The meal will feature at least one sort of meat, usually capon or turkey, or some sort of type of wild fowl. A classic dish which also has variations eaten in other countries at Christmas, the capon or turkey is braised in the oven with chestnut stuffing and sides such as chestnuts, green beans wrapped with bacon and truffle mashed potatoes are added. Popular choices for wild game are venison, wild boar or pheasant marinated in red wine or served with a sauce such as wine or cranberry. This is a special Christmas treat, as wild game is not often eaten outside of the holiday season.
Obviously there is cheese, this is France after all! A cheese platter made up of plenty of different cheese varieties is always present, arranged beautifully and served with a variety of breads. There are also special Christmas variations of cheeses, such as truffle camembert.
8. Bûche de Noël
Now onto the sweet treats, as there are plenty! The classic Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) is the main feature, and is made with all the French class and elegance you can imagine. Around Christmas, Patisserie windows are full of garnished chocolate Swiss rolls, topped with buttercream or ganache and decorated incredibly with tiny figurines, and ice cream logs are also gaining popularity. The delicious dessert is traditionally shaped to represent a real wood log placed in the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and variations range from realistic to absurd.
Once the Christmas feast has been eaten, exotic fruits such as lychee, clementine, passion fruit and mango are often served as a kind of refreshment, as well as dried fruits like dates, which can also be stuffed with almond paste, and candied fruits.
10. Chocolate truffles
For any chocolate lovers, French chocolate truffles are a must. Black chocolate ganache coated with cacao, these are a popular Christmas treat, among the many delicious French sweets that are out there.