Entertaining? A French Winter Menu from Dancing Tomatoes
We turned to author, chef, and journalist Susan Herrmann Loomis with 20 years of culinary teaching experience, for our 2023 Winter Menu.
Loomis has published 14 best-selling cookbooks and founded the Dancing Tomatoes website. Living in Paris, she offers live cooking classes via video link and a collection of six (6) pre-recorded instructional videos with four-course menus under the Plat du Jour link. So, if you are entertaining friends this winter, this dinner party menu includes three (3) French recipes. For the menu, Susan Herrmann Loomis selected (starter, main course, and dessert) from her cookbooks: French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes and Plat du Jour: French Dinners Made Easy.
Here is what she shared about her curated menu and wintertime meals in Provence:
Winter Menu from Provence
Penury rather than plenty gives Provençale cuisine its remarkably intense and alluring flavour. In a region of hills, rocky soil, and arid seasons, each plant that grows puts its all into coming to maturity so that everything from lemon to garlic is grown here and is more flavourful than elsewhere in France. Sheep clamber throughout the hillsides, grazing on the garrigue or wild herbs like rosemary, thyme, and marjoram native to the area. In winter, these flavours comfort, satisfy, and delight.
I’ve chosen these recipes to represent an authentic Provençale meal. So whether or not you grill the lamb shoulder (it’s also deliciously savoury from the oven), you’ll be transported to Provence with this lovely menu. Remember, if you’re in Provence and enjoying this menu in late fall or winter to wrap up, days are sunny and warm, evenings deliciously chilly, ideal for a menu that warms from the inside.
Winter Menu 2023
Starter Course or with Drinks
Made with olive oil and egg yolks, aioli (aïoli) is a popular sauce in the South of France and is often served as part of a traditional main course, le Grand Aioli. However, aioli works as an appetizer or first course with raw vegetables (crudités) such as carrots and radishes. Alternatively, serve aioli as a starter course in winter with a few steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes, shrimp or crab.
Aioli a Garlic Mayonnaise
- 5 Garlic Cloves green germ removed
- 1 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 2 large Egg Yolks
- 1 cup Neutral Cooking Oil vegetable, grapeseed or canola
- 2 tsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Make a paste of the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle by working the pestle around slowly in the mortar. You can also do this in a food processor.
- Whisk in the mustard and egg yolks until they are blended with the garlic and salt. Then, using either the mortar or a whisk, slowly add 3/4 cup (185ml) of the neutral oil very slowly in a fine, fine stream until the mixture becomes thick.
- Add the lemon juice to the oil and garlic mixture, then add the remaining oil.
- Taste the mixture for seasoning, and adjust with more lemon juice and salt if necessary.
The Main Event
Colder weather in Provence is an excuse for making hearty dishes and serving wines complimenting earthy flavours. Enjoy Susan’s recipe for grilled lamb shoulder with a lemon, garlic and rosemary infusion.
Lemon, Garlicky, Rosemary Lamb Shoulder
- 1/3 cup Fresh Rosemary Leaves
- 2 Garlic Cloves green germ removed if necessary
- 1 Zest of a Lemon
- 1 Lamb Shoulder, boned ( about 3 to 3-1/2 lbs or 1.5- 1.75kg )
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Coarsely Ground Green white and black peppercorns
- Mince together the rosemary leaves, garlic, and lemon zest and transfer to a small bowl.
- Make six ½-inch (1.25cm) deep slits in the lamb shoulder. Insert as much of the rosemary mixture as you can in each slit. Mix the remaining mixture with the olive oil and rub it over the lamb shoulder. Let the lamb sit at room temperature for 2 hours up to overnight. If leaving the lamb overnight, wrap and refrigerate it and remove it from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before grilling, so it is at room temperature.
- Build a good-sized fire about 25 minutes before you plan to cook the lamb shoulder. When the coals are red and dusted with ash, divide them in the barbecue, putting half the coals on either side. Set a BBQ grill pan in the middle of the coals, then set the grill over the coals.
- When the grill is hot, place the lamb shoulder in the centre, over the drip pan, sprinkle salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper over the shoulder, and close the grill making sure the air holes are open in the top and the body of the barbecue. Grill for 12 minutes until the shoulder is pale gold on the grill side. Turn the shoulder, season with salt and pepper and grill for another 12 minutes. Transfer the shoulder to the part of the grill over the coals, cover, and grill until the shoulder is deep golden, about 10 minutes. Turn and repeat. NOTE: The interior temperature of the lamb should now be about 150F (65.5C) which means it is medium and, to my way of thinking, perfectly cooked; if you like it rarer, brown it on just one side; if you like it more well done, adjust the initial cooking time in the centre of the grill accordingly.
- Transfer the lamb from the grill to a cutting board that will catch the juices, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes and up to 20 minutes before slicing the lamb. Drain the juices into a small pitcher and serve alongside the meat.
A Sweet Finish
This classic French lemon tart (tarte au citron) is the perfect balance of sweet and sour. An easy recipe with a sweet result might convince a non-dessert lover to try a bite.
Classic and Amazing Lemon Tart
For the Pastry:
- 1-1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 7 tbsp Unsalted Butter chilled, cut into 7 pieces
- 1/3-1/2 cup Chilled Water
For the Lemon Cream:
- 7 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice from 3 large lemons
- 2 tsp Lemon Zest just the yellow part of the peel of one lemon, minced
- To make the pastry, place the flour and the salt in the work bowl of a food processor and process to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. With the food processor running, drizzle in the water and process just until the mixture comes together, but not until it forms a ball. The pastry should be quite damp. Turn it out onto a work surface, form it into a flat disk, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Roll it out to fit a 10-1/2 inch (26.5cm) tart pan, refrigerate for 1 hour, or freeze for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Prick the bottom of the pastry with the tines of a fork, then line it with aluminium foil and weigh it down with pastry weights. Bake in the centre of the oven until the pastry is golden around the edges and bottom, roughly 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the aluminium foil and the weights from the pastry and return to the oven to bake until the pastry is golden (all over about 10 additional minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven and let cool.
- To make the lemon cream, place the butter and the sugar in a double boiler set over medium heat, so the water is gently boiling, and stir until the butter melts. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition, so they are thoroughly blended into the butter and sugar. Add the lemon juice, whisk and cook, stirring gently, until the mixture thickens, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the double boiler from the heat, remove the lemon cream container from the double boiler, and let it cool to room temperature. Finally, stir in the lemon zest. If you have made this the night before, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate.
- If you have made this the day you’re planning to serve it, spread the pastry with the lemon mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 3 hours before serving it.
Explore our Tastes of Provence section for seasonal recipes, and create your own menu. Bon appétit!
For Pinterest fans:
Susan Herrmann Loomis shares recipes from her cookbooks French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes and Plat du Jour: French Dinners Made Easy. In addition to publishing 14 best-selling books, Susan Herrmann Loomis founded the Dancing Tomatoes website, where you can read more about this talented lady. Based in Paris, with 20 years of teaching experience, Loomis offers live cooking classes via video link and a collection of traditional six 4-course menus in her Plat du Jour video archive.