A French Christmas celebration

gluten free raspberry charlotte French dessert

Raspberry charlotte, a recipe from my cookbook

I’m holding this moment close to my heart. On Christmas day, we celebrated Lulu’s birthday.

She turned three. I am amazed we are already there.

It’s an amazing age of innocence and curiosity for every detail of life. The time when her world is filled with teddy bears, butterfly stickers, coloring pencils and markers, hot chocolate sipped with a straw, Charlie and Lola, kitties, puzzles, doudous, T’Choupi books and legos. Lots of openness and love. And what’s this, qu’est-ce que c’est, and what’s that questions about the world in which she is growing.

I’m in love with this age. I’m in love with her exponentially.

For the first time since Lulu’s birth, my parents were with us for this special time.

The perfect occasion to build together a lovely French Christmas celebration–I was really excited.

My mother and I spent a lot of time together in my kitchen. That was where she felt comfortable. It made me happy to watch her make it her creative space.

Most days, we cooked simple meals. Every day foods that I’ve learned to cook by my mother’s side. One day, it was an organic chicken flavored with garlic and a bouquet garni that she prepared with mashed sunchoke and potatoes. Another day, she treated us with braised fennel served with wild Alaskan salmon and short brown rice, and we also begged, Lulu included, that she cooked her petit salé, an old favorite.

Foods we were so glad to eat after taking walks to the farm and at the park.

On the day of Lulu’s birthday party held a week before the day, she even pulled together a large dish of paella to feed a crowd.

Next to her, I prepared custards and chocolate cakes and muffins and puddings.

C’est toi qui t’occuperas de faire les desserts, (You’ll be in charge of making desserts) she told me on the first night after they’d arrived.

Because between the two of us, I’ve always been the one known to make desserts.

To have them taste some of our daily favorite dishes, I prepared lentil soups and spaghetti with vegetables and langoustines.

We ate lunch and dinner in the French manner with baguette, cheese and salade verte to seal our meals–my dad is so French about it.

I liked to watch my mother create our meals. They came effortless to her. In a beautiful sort of way.

And so quite naturally, we ended up giving our Christmas an obvious French flair.

I don’t know whether you know this, but for the French, le réveillon de Noël–the dinner eaten the day preceding Christmas–is as important as Christmas day. It’s when the festivities start late in the night with family members gathering around a table filled with out-of-the-ordinary delicacies.

I keep lovely memories of our réveillons: smoked salmon and snails and an array of colorful amuse-bouches were treats that we’d enjoy after going to midnight mass. On Christmas day, when my dad was busy opening oysters and a bottle of champagne, my mother would prepare scallops or foie gras with onion jam, chapon (capon), duck, pintade (guineafowl) or game meat which she’d serve with seasonal petits légumes and airelle relish. Invariably, my brother and I kept our eyes and interest largely riveted on the chocolate bûche de Noël that always finished our meal.

I wanted that our Christmas spent together had a little bit of it all.

Dressed-up crab, grapefruit and avocado appetizer –
Recipe from my book

Together, my mother and I imagined tradition in our menu. But as the words fresh, colorful, and earthy kept popping inside my head, I knew that our foods would have a bit of each. And, since neither my mother nor father had seen my book before, the idea to cook from it made sense as well.

It really felt right to make it happen in that way.

gluten free raspberry charlotte dessert

Raspberry Charlotte

So we did it.

On the night of the réveillon, we ate delicious, plump and sweet oysters from Island Creek Oyster Farm. We enjoyed a mâche and scallop salad dish, from the same recipe I had imagined for the Christmas the year before. I loved that it was so easy to make, but so eye-catching too with its pretty finely sliced potato galettes arranged on top. And then I prepared a veal tajine with preserved lemons, Turkish dried apricots and millet, and a homemade raspberry sorbet for dessert.

Avec les cookies du père Noël !” Lulu had exclaimed excitedly as she was pulling a plate filled with the cookies that she and I had prepared in the afternoon for Santa Claus.

Then, on Christmas day, we used recipes from my book: Endives leaves with roquefort, grapes, radishes dressed in a pistachio vinaigrette served as an amuse-bouche; dressed-up crab and avocado appetizer (I used a fresh leg of cooked crab to replace fresh salmon in the recipe). Then, my mother cooked cailles aux raisins (quails with grapes) and a potato gratin dauphinois, two French classics. And I made a raspberry charlotte which brought oh and ah to the table when Lulu caught sight of the three small candles lit on top of it.

Souffle fort !” (Blow !) we encouraged her while singing “Joyeeeuuuux aannniversaaaiiire, joyeux anniiivvveerrsaaiire Lulu” (Happy Birthday) in French.

She was beaming. She looked touchingly shy. But so happy with all of us gathered around her.

She is a Christmas baby.

She had just turned three.

And she looked beautiful.

Belgian endive leaves
with Roquefort, grapes, radishes dressed in a pistachio vinaigrette –
Recipe from my book

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas celebration. And will have a wonderful night to enter into the new year. Can you believe that we are so close to 2012 already? My last post of 2011.

Bonne année ! I will talk to you next in 2012!

41 comments

  1. Pingback: A French Christmas celebration | Shelterholic Now Food

  2. The other day I came across a Food and Wine magazine from this past October, a French issue. Thumbing through the pages, I was pleasantly surprised to see a photo and recipe from you! Looking forward to what 2012 has in store for us all, bonne année!

  3. What a beautiful way to spend Christmas! Your parents, Lulu’s birthday and the holidays together. Plus all that wonderful food. Happy New Year Bea!

  4. We have made 8 recipes already from your book, and they were all fantastic! Two more for the New Year are in preparation. Have a wonderful 2012!

  5. We have two Christmas babies in our family too. So we are well versed in making sure there are birthday surprises. Happy birthday to your adorable daughter!

  6. Happy belated birthday to sweet Lulu! And may 2012 be a wonderful year for you and your family :)

    The raspberry charlotte looks DIVINE!! I was oogling at it and can’t wait to get a copy of your cookbook to recreate it.

  7. So heartwarming! Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful thoughts of family this Christmas. I received your cookbook this past week, and I am still admiring your photography! Absolutely beautiful! All the best in 2012!!

  8. How precious – how beautiful – how perfect. Bonne année! Et joyeux anniversaire, Lulu!

  9. Happy New Year Bea! Wow, time flies! Lulu is 3 already.. it was like yesterday when she was in your tummy. Have a great year 2012 ahead. Hugs to Lulu..

  10. tes photos me font rêver depuis plusieurs mois maintenant, alors pour cette nouvelle année je sors du silence…
    merci pour toutes ces recettes gaies et jolies, mais aussi délicieuses je n’en doute pas
    bonne année a toi

  11. Happy birthday dear Lulu, and may you all have an amazing new year!
    Bisous!

  12. Gorgeous post to seal off 2011…and my first read of the new year. Thanks for keeping me smiling and inspired, as always. And I love that I know have your book, too, to help with ideas and dreams. Would love to have you sign it at some point if you get to NYC in the new year… Bonne Année, Bea.

  13. I’m amazed by all that beauty and love you shared with us and absolutely love you table decoration.

    May 2012 be full of moments to remember, food to share and trips to inspire. Bonne année!

  14. I just received you cookbook from my daughter for Christmas! It as sooo beautiful and you signed the copy to me. Thank you very much. My daughter Nora has just moved to Boston with her family and met you at a food fair. I love your beautiful food blog and had told her how lucky she was to be moving to your city as I always enjoy your photos of the area. I am from the Chicage area and sadly do not know your husband’s family but love your work non the less. MK

  15. Bonne année 2012 ! Que celle-ci soit remplie de petits et grands bonheurs, de voyages et nouvelles aventures ;)

  16. Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to Lulu! I follow your blog for a few weeks only but I can t wait to get a copy of your book. Cooking is a lot about transmission, I love cooking with my kids and I m sure Lulu will also be a great cook! All the very best for this new year.

  17. Happy late birthday Lulu! I’m just dying to get your cookbook, it sounds amazing! Your pictures are spectacular and they make me wish I could eat what you’ve prepared. Happy new year!

  18. Happy birthday Lulu! I’ve ordered your cookbook and am dying for it to be shipped! I’m starting to make recipes from the blog-such awesome photos! In this post, could you possibly tell me where you got the colored champagne flutes?
    Thanks for having such a fabulous site:)

  19. Joyeux Anniversaire Lulu!!!!
    Je vous siouhaite une tres bonne annee 2012.Puissiez vous continuer à nous faire rever avec vos fantastiques photos et delicieuses recettes
    Merci

  20. Love this post and look forward to your cookbook. Could you tell us where you found the colored champagne flutes? Merci !

  21. I too am taken by your sophisticated, yet fun, Christmas Day table setting and join JoAnn in her request to find out where you found the colored champagne flutes. They would add another wonderful element to my La Tartine Gourmande dinner parties! Thank you.

  22. An absolutely beautiful and touching post!!

  23. Une belle, douce année .. plein de gourmandises et beaucoup de couleurs !!!
    Il me tarde la sortie de ton livre !!!

    ★ ✰ ★

  24. les l’armes aux yeux wheni read this bea, gosh you sound happy and how wonderful to have parents with you at this time. it all sounds delicious and looks so festive, love your smile holding the charlotte, my grandmere specialty. bea how special that lulu was born on christmas, i did not know but it makes so much sense
    since she is the loveliest gift of all, i know i should not say it but i envious of your moments with lulu, i truly feel how happy she makes you and that is just so very special!

  25. Christmas day! A baby on Christmas day! NOTHING could possibly be more magical. Your celebration sounds so dreamy and perfect and quiet, yet alive and vibrant all at once.
    What a lovely time to be with your family. What a lovely sharing of your cookbook!
    Whatever will this new year bring! Certainly, every day with a child is filled with magic. That is the thrill of parenting. Happy 2012, Bea!

  26. Happy new year! I spent the last 6 years celebrating French Christmas and yes, got to learn that le réveillon de Noël is just as important as Christmas day! I had lots of good food, good wine and good Champagne!

  27. Your photos are just amazing ! It is a pleasure to read such emotional and personal post. <3

  28. Thank you so much all!

    The Champagne glasses are from Leonardo! Bought them a long time ago, so hopefully, they are still available. I am sure they now even newer models too.

  29. Hello, I am a new subscriber and a confirmed francophile. I think your website is just lovely. I am also a NY Times Crossword Puzzle nut and read Rex Parker’s blog every day. I often see posts from “Chef Bea” and wonder if that is you??!
    Joyeaux Noel!
    Connie

  30. Hi, I just saw this blog of yours for the first time and I find it absolutely charming! All the photos that you share are amazingly adorable and very pretty.

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