Ten Easy Ways to Cook Bistro-Style

Create the romance of a French bistro in your own kitchen with these simple tips:

  1. Serve an aperitif. A Kir, consisting of a splash of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) mixed into a glass of white wine, is a particular refreshing way to start a summer picnic or dinner party. A Kir Royale is made with Champagne in place of the white wine. Cassis can also be mixed with Sprite or 7-Up to create the cafe drink "Diabolo Cassis."
  2. Add a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard to your vinaigrette. Such a dressing will make any mixture of greens and salad ingredients taste French.
  3. In place of a summery white wine or rose, serve a dry, fruity red wine slightly chilled. Parisians love to sip a glass of light, young, refreshing red wine that's been slightly chilled. Cool, not cold. Among the French wines typically served this way are Beaujolais and the Loire Valley wines Chinon, Saumur-Champigny and Bourgueil.
  4. Season something with tarragon. The aromatic herb with its delicate flavor is commonly used to season salads, sauces, eggs, meal, and poultry. Fresh leaves are best, but dried tarragon is also effective.
  5. Cook with leeks or toss them into a salad. Leeks can go in soups and quiches or with all kinds of meats. The dizzying aroma of leeks as they cook will make your entire home smell like a bistro. You can also serve leeks cold with mayonnaise or with a vinaigrette (in this case, no Dijon) in the bistro classic, Leeks Vinaigrette.
  6. Make French fried potatoes from scratch. Be sure to cook them twice, first blanching them at an oil temperature of 310 degrees and then, immediately before serving, deep-frying them at 360-375 degrees.
  7. Play a CD of classic French songs. Compilations are widely sold which include the greatest recordings of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, Yves Montand and others.
  8. Start up a conversation about fate and destiny. Ask your family and friends if they believe in them. Both are French obsessions and mainstays of bistro talk. Plus, discussion of destiny invariably branches out into other interesting topics.
  9. Serve sugar cubes instead of granulated sugar with coffee. France is one of the last bastions of sugar cubism. You can dunk a sugar cube halfway into a cup of espresso, lift it out, and eat it like a candy. The French refer to this candy as a "canard."
  10. As your guests leave, kiss them on both cheeks!
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