France was a country that created both excitement and dread. My wife was very concerned I would go above and beyond, creating a meal that engulfed the whole weekend. However, French and Italian food has always been at the top of my interests, and fortunately, we have put together a menu that any beginner can handle with ease, while also impressing even the most intimidating of guests. First, we had to decide what route we would go. While fine French dining is alluring, it holds nothing over country cooking in regards to flavor, which was the North Star of this project as a whole.
For the protein, we decided to go with Salmon. The light, citrusy notes of the recipe allowed for a robust, herb-laden salsa to finish the dish. Salmon is an easy fish to cook, and while it can be overdone, the flavor will persist nonetheless. Even if you overcook and dry it out, the salsa is there to pick you up. Next, we decide to do a bed of pilaf for the fish to be served on. Hidden in that Pilaf was the additional flavors of French Onion, Butter, Chicken Stock, and Black Pepper.
Now that the Savory flavors were covered, the next step was to bring out the citrus in the fish. That was accomplished by making Lemon Garlic Kale, Baby Lettuce, Spinach, Walnut, Goat Cheese salad with a Lemon Dijon Dressing. The salad, while sounds tart, is well-balanced and has sweet notes based on the Goat Cheese you choose. Lastly, we made a Baked Brie, which can also be done on the smoker, that really finished off the palate. I take a wheel of Brie Cheese, cut it in half, layer the middle with Fig (or Apricot) Jam, then wrap it in a puff pastry. I egg wash the pastry and bake in the oven at 350 until golden brown. This can be served with slices of apple, bread, crackers, or honestly just eaten with a fork. You will not be sorry for making this dish, and kids love it.
Finally, the wine! Bordeaux is easily my second favorite wine on the market, and to say I was happy for the excuse is an understatement. French wine is one of the few instances where full-bodied wine, which is my favorite, does not sacrifice the fruity notes that lighter reds can boast about. However, we also had a dry, yet fruity Chardonnay that paired amazingly with the Salmon. Lastly, quality French wine can be found between the $15-40 dollar range all day, which allows you to enjoy the Country without breaking the bank.
In conclusion, this is without a doubt the lightest of meals for the whole year. It is the perfect meal to enjoy on the deck during a humid late-Spring afternoon. Do not let the movies intimidate you about French food. This cuisine is very much accessible and even more enjoyable. The hardest part was the Crepes, which I struggled with immensely. However, as I later learned, most grocery stores carry pre-made Crepe shells, so even that is nothing to fret about. We filled ours with sweet cream or Nutella and topped with bananas, strawberries, and kiwis. Best of all, the kids ate every part of this meal without complaints. They did pick around the walnuts, but for those who enjoy them, I highly recommend leaving them in. If allergies are a concern, they can always be placed on the side. I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did.