The French know gourmet cuisine, which is why we feature so many culinary vacations in France. This is no more evident than on the holidays. Le Réveillon is one of the biggest meals of the year, and it’s served on Christmas Eve following midnight mass. Yes, you read that right – it takes place after midnight; hence the word ‘réveillon’ which means ‘awakening’ as the dinner often goes into early hours of the morning. The tradition dates back to the 19th century and continues to be celebrated not just in France but also places with French roots, like Canada and New Orleans.
Since many of the dinner guests have fasted throughout the day, the meal is supposed to invigorate them, even though many dishes are decadent and hearty. The full meal often starts with appetizers like caviar, foie gras, escargot, coquilles Saint Jacques (scallops), and oysters — showing right from the start that this is gourmet food from start to finish!
Next, the main dishes traditionally feature roasted meat (like this honey roasted pork) or game, like guinea fowl or roast turkey with chestnut stuffing (although in some parts of France, fish is more traditional as a main course).
The meal then concludes with a cheese course as well as an array of decadent desserts, from ile flottante (floating island), to Frangipane tart, to a traditional Buche de Noel, or Christmas log, that can be made in any number of ways. And if you’re in Provence, it’ll be a buffet spread of 13 desserts. But don’t worry; if you’re starting to fill, this spread of sweets and nuts is often on the table for a few days, not just Christmas Eve.
Figs are often a part of those 13 desserts, but if you’re looking to highlight those figs as part of a larger dish, try this roasted figs recipe from Chef Nikki of our French Alps cooking vacation.
French Roasted Figs
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cook method: Baking
- 12 purple fresh figs, washed and dried
- 200 grams (about 7 oz) fresh goats cheese
- 20 leaves fresh mint, washed and chopped
- 3 tbs organic olive oil
- 2 tbs alpine honey
- Black cracked pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (or 350°F).
2. Lightly dust the salt and pepper on the goat cheese.
3. Using the back of a fork, crush all of the goat cheese to mix in the salt and pepper.
4. Mix together the goat cheese with the fresh mint.
5. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross on the top of each fig. Then, very carefully, open eat fig just a bit to fill with the goat cheese mixture. You should be using about one tablespoon of the goat cheese per fig.
6. Put all the figs on a baking tray, then lightly drizzle the olive oil and honey over the figs.
7. Cook the stuffed figs for 15 minutes, and then serve immediately along with a handful of rocket.
Want to learn more about the culinary traditions of France, whether over the holidays or otherwise? Contact us to plan your French cooking vacation. For another wonderful fruit-based Christmas dessert, check out our recipe for Pears Poached in Port.
Read about more of our favorite Christmas dessert memories.
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A version of this post originally appeared December 7, 2016.