Come Monday, when the hoards of stripes-wearing, beret-porting, baguette-toting Frenchmen and women are running about the streets of Paris calling out Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité! (because that's obviously how Bastille Day goes down in France), you'll find me stuffing my face while musing, Oh my, what an excellent excuse to eat heaps of delicious French food! Tomato, toma(h)to, am I right?
Whether you're a true French patriot or merely a hungry American looking for a decadent meal, we've got the ultimate Bastille Day menu for you. Allons-y, mes amis!
Apéritif: Lavender French 75
The classic French 75 (or, if you want to get extra-authentic on this particular occasion, Le Soixante Quinze), is a light and refreshing cocktail of lemon juice, gin, and simple syrup, finished with an effervescent pour of Champagne. In this recipe, we infuse the simple syrup with lavender to coax out the gin's more herbal notes. It makes for a bright, floral start (and finish) to your meal, French or otherwise.
We'll kick off our meal with some summery finger food. The purists may opt for these puff pastry-based fig and goat cheese tarts, but if you're lucky enough to have access to fresh figs at this time of year, feel free to add a slight Italian twist with some Taleggio cheese and Mission fig tartines. With a few minutes under the broiler, you'll get lightly caramelized, jammy figs atop melty, funky cheese—an open-faced sandwich that's damn near impossible to put down.
Can't get your hands on figs? Celebrate France's gloriously nutty Gruyère-style cheeses (Comté and Beaufort, specifically) in the form of these airy gougères or a rich and creamy gratin dip of artichoke, spinach, Boursin, and Gruyère. There's really no going wrong here.
Entrée: Sweet-Tart Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Sauce
In my mind, France and perfectly cooked, medium-rare duck breast are virtually synonymous. This take smothers the seared breasts in a sweet-tart sauce of cherries, shallots, and balsamic vinegar: a perfect foil for the meaty slices of duck.
If you're not a fan of duck, or have a hard time finding it, take classic coq au vin from winter-friendly braise to outdoor feast with this grilled rendition, which packs the dish's signature flavors—bacon, onions, mushrooms, and wine—into a thick barbecue sauce for the wine-marinated chicken. And hey, there's no harm in throwing a garlic- and herb-marinated hanger steak on the grill while you're at it, à la steak au poivre.
Salade: Peas and Carrots Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds
It's not prime pea season anymore, but the frozen variety is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Lightly blanched with snap peas and carrots, they're served with crunchy marcona almonds and a citrus-infused goat cheese. Drizzled with honey and toasted pumpkin seed oil, it's a satisfying side that highlights some of summer's freshest flavors.
Already have that grill fired up? Go for a heartier salad-ish side with this grilled take on ratatouille, instead!
In true French fashion, we'll wind down with not one, but two dessert courses. First up: one (or all?!) of these nine French cheeses you should absolutely, 100% know and devour. Regularly.
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse
And, to finish off, might I recommend something rich, creamy, deeply chocolaty, refreshingly cool, and, most importantly, pretty much effortless? Like, say, a food-processor chocolate mousse? Yeah, I thought you might like that.
No? Not a fan of chocolate, you say? Very well, on to an equally rich, equally creamy vanilla bean crème brûlée. Shatter away!