A Christmas Eve Dinner in the French Alps

We’re wrapping up our Christmas in July week by talking about one of our favorite holiday meals: Christmas Eve dinner. For those who celebrate Christmas, this is perhaps one of the most celebrated of meals — even more so than the food on Christmas day.

Cooking in MexicoLooking south, Mexicans don’t often have many holiday meals, but when it comes to Christmas Eve, chances are you’ll see stews and fish dishes galore, along with tamales. In Peru, turkey is one of the number one dishes, as is hot chocolate.

Over in Europe, what’s being served is largely dependent on the country. While in the UK they love their turkey too, in Italy, the meal often revolves around seafood — or seven fishes, to be specific, as its called Festa dei sette pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes). Meat is more often served on Christmas Day. In Germany, it’s all about goose as the entree.

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Pumpkin soupAs for the French, traditions vary depending on the region, but the meal is called “le reveillon,” and it’s always a long meal with plenty of conversation and dishes galore — and it often takes place after Midnight Mass.

Up in the French Alps, where Chef Nikki runs our popular Cooking in the French Alps culinary vacation, she has a set menu that’s been long popular in her family, and it all starts with kir royal as a pre-dinner drink, along with small dishes like olives and nuts. Once the meal itself begins, she often serves smoked salmon as well as thin slices of foie gras on ginger bread, and often oysters too. A pumpkin soup is also often part of the appetizers, because yep, she’s just getting started!

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The main meal often includes a roasted meat of some sort, like rooster or guinea fowl, alongside plenty of vegetables. After all that, a salad is served to aid in digestion, and then some cheeses. As she says, “We usually have a board with no less than cheese cheeses.” In the Savoie, that often means Beautfort, Reblochon, and Tomme de Savoie.

Christmas loungeDon’t forget to save room for dessert, which is often a “buche de Noel,” as it is in most of France. The buttercream cake is shaped in a log, and decorated with things like red berries or chocolate mousse. And a box of chocolate truffles may also be shared while enjoying a glass of port and opening gifts. And yes, this is Christmas Eve in the Rhone Alps!

Read more about Christmas in the French Alps.

Discover more culinary traditions with Chef Nikki’s French Alps cooking vacation which includes a wonderful blend of cooking and discovering this beautiful region, no matter what the time of year.

And try some of Nikki’s recipes this Christmas:

What’s your favorite Christmas Eve meal tradition?

By Liz Hall

Try a recipe for chocolate mousse.

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