IMG_5113One of the most sacred moments of the French day comes around 6 p.m. (or 18h, as they say here, because they sensibly use the 24-hour clock). Time for l’apéro, or apéritifs.

It can be simple–a glass of wine and some nuts and olives or a few slices of saucisson (hard sausage), to be nibbled on as one makes dinner. For many people, rushing home from work to throw together dinner for the family, l’apéro is appreciated only on the weekends, an almost sacred rite attached to the evening meal.

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Mini clafoutis with boursin and chorizo.

Drinks are always accompanied by food, very light, not to ruin the meal. I remember learning about l’apéritif in my French class in New York–that it comes from the Latin word aperire, which means “to open,” and what’s getting opened is your stomach.

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The crème de cassis and pêche de vigne get added to white wine or blanquette/champagne. Guignolet is like kirsch.

The drinks started off as alcoholic beverages made with herbs. Medicinal, of course. However, the most popular apéritifs in our region are simply a glass of wine or un jaune–a glass of pastis, the golden anise-flavored spirit that oxidizes when water is added, turning a milky yellow. If you want to sound like a local, ask for “un p’tit jaune” (a small yellow).

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A roll of piecrust, some spaghetti sauce and mozzarella become mini croissants.

Last weekend was the Fête des Voisins (European Neighbors’ Day), and about 15 of us gathered for dinner en terrace, each bringing a dish. Potlucks are unusual in France. They aren’t unheard-of, but if you’re invited to dinner, you are unlikely to be assigned a dish. However, you can bring flowers, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or another thoughtful gift for the hosts.

Homemade gifts are OK, too. Like this one:

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An artisinal strawberry liqueur.

Which is not the same as a potluck dish.

But the Fête des Voisins is different. In our neighborhood, it was the Carnivore who took up the mantle of organizing a meal. Tables and chairs were rented (for a ridiculously cheap amount from the village, including delivery and pickup the next day!). Somehow, no matter how hot the preceding days had been, every year as dinnertime approached, clouds would roll in and the temperature would drop.

This is when it’s good to be neighbors with a winery. Several times, the tables were set up amid the huge cuves, or tanks, of wine, with plenty of room, not to mention atmosphere.

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Chorizo-olive “cookies”

This year, the group was smaller, but the intimacy was nice. The weather behaved and we had apéritifs next to the pool before moving to the table. I was assigned to bring appetizers, some of which I wrote about when we hosted a pre-Christmas apéritif dînatoire–basically a cocktail party.

I again made the chorizo cookies and two kinds of croissants (ham and Boursin, and “pizza” with tomato sauce and mozzarella). And I made two new ones that are SO easy: goat cheese mini tarts and savory mini clafoutis.

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Goat cheese mini tarts (packed in a bakery box for easy transport)

For the goat cheese mini tarts you need:

A readymade pie crust (feuillété, or flaky, if you have the choice)

A bûche, or log, of goat cheese

Honey

Fresh rosemary sprigs

Cut rounds out of the pie crust. I used a small glass. You want the rounds to be slightly bigger than the diameter of the goat cheese. Slice the goat cheese and lay the slices on the rounds. Place a tiny dab of honey on the goat cheese (I used a knife and just dipped the tip into the honey). Top with the rosemary. Bake at 360 F (180 C) for about 10 minutes–until the cheese has melted a little and the crust is cooked.

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Olive and boursin clafoutis.

The clafoutis recipe is similar to the recipe I used for rhubarb clafoutis, but without the sugar. You can put anything you want in them. I had Boursin left over from the croissants, and I thought sliced black olives would be pretty. When I used up the olives, I still had batter left, so I sliced up some more chorizo (the Spanish kind, which is a hard sausage). Both were delicious. You could do bacon, diced peppers, diced sun-dried tomatoes, other cheeses….

2 eggs

1  cup milk or cream or a combination

3/4 cup (30 grams) flour

pinch of salt

butter for greasing the muffin pan

Beat the eggs and milk/cream. Mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl that you can pour from. Add the liquid to the flour little by little, so you don’t get lumps. Let it rest for about half an hour. Pour into a greased mini-muffin pan. Drop your add-ins on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes (I had to turn the pan halfway through). IMG_5131À votre santé!

 

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38 thoughts on “Apéro Hour

  1. One of my favorite parts of France is l’apero. My children always enjoyed what they now call the “do-dad’s” served during l’apero. Recently we had guests from France and I was so excited to prepare this uniquely French event. A little Pineau des charante is my favorite drink for l’apero whereas my husband prefers Ricard. Thanks for the lovely post. Suz

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I organise an apéro once a month for our friends and contacts. We get anything from a dozen to 60 people attending. Everyone is asked to contribute either a bottle of drink or a platter of nibbles. Some of my French friends are in awe of how easily it all comes together with little organisation. They love doing something so informal. I’ve not quite figured out what it is I do differently to them, but obviously it has the attraction of the exotic 🙂

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    1. Haute cuisine IS fussy and intimidating, but the thing about the French is that even humble, everyday food is extremely good. And they don’t spend any more time than Americans on cooking–half an hour is the average for preparing dinner.

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    1. There are some high-quality frozen options here, especially at frozen-food places like Thiriet. But I’ve been making an effort to eat real food–from single-word ingredients–and it doesn’t have to be super hard.

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  3. Loved this! Sounds so much more my style than block parties at our prior home which were overwhelmingly huge and complicated. Just hosted a cocktail party and whipped up similar fare (a bunch of variations of good cheese and pastry!). The peach sangria was a hit since it was 96 degrees that night!

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  4. L’apéro and I are VERY good friends and I am always looking for new ideas for little snackettes to offer whoever happens by. Your clafoutis idea is sublime. I will be purloining it tout de suite and will give credit to you every time someone takes one! À la vôtre 🥂

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  5. Bonjour! I saw your comment on the smitten kitchen blog about having recommendations for restaurants that are kid- friendly in Paris, and was wondering if you could email them to me? Would so appreciate it! Thanks so much!

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  6. Oh, you temptress, you (for those of us qui font régime)! Everything looks delicious. Incidentally, I tried making clafoutis a few years back, and it wasn’t bad, but nothing resembling your gorgeous (mouthwatering) savories.

    Tu me donnes faim !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a gorgeous selection of nibbles – I know you write that they are easy to do, but all those different kinds still require planning and work! Well done, I’m sure the neighbours gobbled them all up!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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