Monday, June 27, 2011

Around My French Table: A Dinner Party

I recently heard about a new trend called a Cookbook Club. A group of friends picks an interesting cookbook and each person chooses one recipe they want to make from that book. They all get together and have a party and try a sampling of great food that they otherwise probably wouldn’t have had time or money to make at the same time. I thought this sounded SO fun and a great excuse to get to make more friends!

For my first Cookbook Club event, I chose Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table", one of the most popular and acclaimed cookbooks to be published in quite some time. All of the guests were impressed with how simple and approachable her recipes were. It proved to us that not all French food has to be intimidating or complicated in order to be satisfying.

My friend Tiffany made a French version of Shepherd's Pie (Hachis Parmentier), which was to die for, and that spinach bacon quiche behind it was great - even for an anti-quiche guy like my husband.

There was olive-cheese bread that was moist and savory, plus that squash I grew (just because we needed more vegetables), and I also made a citrus berry terrine. Dorie talks about how the French don't turn up their noses at gelatin like Americans are sometimes prone to do, and this recipe certainly is easy to love. Plain gelatin plus orange juice forms the base, and fresh berries and citrus segments are stirred into the mixture. It's pretty stunning when you turn it out onto a platter.

My only regret? That we didn't have a dessert. I guess that's a good excuse to do it again!

Citrus Berry Terrine
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table"

Segments from 1 pink grapefruit, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup cold water
2 packets unflavored gelatin
2 cups orange or grapefruit juice
1/3 cup sugar
About 3 cups mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (if you want to add strawberries, look for small berries or cut larger ones into bite-sized pieces)

Place a double layer of paper towels on a cutting board and spread the citrus pieces out on the paper. Cover with another double layer of towels and set the pieces aside until you're ready for them. If the paper gets very wet, change it.

Pour the cold water in a large bowl, sprinkle over the gelatin, and let it soften.

Meanwhile, bring the juice and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour some of the juice over the gelatin, gently stir to dissolve, and then stir in the rest of the juice. Put the gelatin mixture in the refrigerator and let it chill, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly, about two hours. (Mine was ready after 1.5 hours.) (You're looking for a mixture with the texture of egg whites.)

Moisten a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cold water and shake out the excess. Gently stir the reserved citrus segments and the berries into the lightly thickened gelatin mixture, and scrape everything into the pan. Jiggle the pan a little to settle the gel and chill for at least four hours or up to overnight.

When you're ready to serve the terrine, dip the pan into a bowl or sinkful of hot water for a few seconds, and run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan. Wipe the pan and unmold the terrine onto a platter.

The terrine should be served in thick slices. If you'd like, you can dress each serving with more berries, or pour over a spoonful or two of sweetened pureed raspberries.


  1. It was all so good! And I can't get over how good yours was. I mean- jello? Really? But it was delicious!
    I ate the leftover sheperd's pie last night. It was even better the second day!

    Ps.... that bread was sooo good. Thanks for hosting!

  2. What a fabulous idea for a party! Might have to "borrow" this idea!

    {Found your blog from Sacramento Connect}


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