Yesterday was glorious. As I stood at the end of my driveway chipping ice under the bluest, most cloudless sky in weeks I could finally feel it. Waking from winter hibernation, starting to feel social and glad for it. For me, I much prefer impromptu gatherings to formal ones and, I love the kind of talk that begins with friends over a few bites and drinks. This is probably why I’m drawn to Marie Asselin‘s newest book French Appetizers — I appreciate how she interprets the time honoured French l’apéro (think: Happy Hour) with such delicious, unfussy recipes.
Having grown up with parents who demonstrated how l’apéro could connect friends, food, drinks, and conversation, Asselin has written a guide on how to host your own l’apéro. I really appreciate how versatile the recipes are — regardless of the size of your group or your reasons for getting together. In the introduction, Asselin outlines how to plan and what to serve at your l’apéro, as well as offering several menu ideas ranging from ‘luxurious’ to picnic-y and menus that focus on specific dietary needs (vegan, dairy-free). Throughout the seven chapters: Basics + Condiments, Small Bites, Savory Cakes + Tarts, Breads, Sandwiches, + Toasts, Verrines, Sweet Bites, and Drinks she offers 75 recipes inspired by both her French-Canadian upbringing as well as global culinary trends.
As I’ve cooked through French Appetizers I’ve come to value the simple elegance with which the recipes come together. The Marinated Mushrooms smell so delicious when you open the lid of the jar and taste incredible! Bright and herby — the mushrooms are one of those things that I would have previously bought at the grocery store but after trying Asselin’s homemade version I’m not sure why I’d bother buying a jar when making it is simple. I also love how the marinade liquid can be later used as a dressing for salad or even pasta!
Many of the recipes, like the mushrooms or hummus, can be made ahead of time. With this kind of easy prep hosting l’apéro is painless. Another recipe that can be made and baked ahead of time then frozen until you need to reheat them are the Pistachio Falafel. What I found with the falafel is that it makes great kid food. My daughter happily dunked the bite-sized balls into the Any-Bean Hummus. Asselin offers strategies for feeding both parents and children in the introduction because what l’apéro offers to her and her guests (young or old) is a chance to unwind. Parents with a glass of wine and good conversation and, children with some delicious finger food and an opportunity to go off and play. In Asselin’s own words when l’apéro ends people leave “with bellies and hearts full.”
There are many recipes that are French-inspired — take her Palmiers, Three Ways. They can be made quickly if need be and I find the savory combinations delectable. When we baked up the French Everything Palmiers her French Everything Flavoring Mix (think everything bagel with herbes de Provence) paired perfectly with the Gruyere. One thing about the palmiers is that they look complicated to make but they aren’t — it’s as simple as unrolling a 10×10″ sheet of store-bought puff pastry, dressing it up then rolling it back up again. You chill, cut, and bake and voila! You serve a dish with some ‘wow factor’.
Marie Asselin works to convince and inspire home cooks that l’apéro is a great way to host their friends and family. Providing recipes that are simple and convenient makes hosting a get together that much easier. French Appetizers is the perfect guide to the most delicious and filling essentials. This is one book that I’ll come back to for ideas on entertaining my friends and family in a relaxed setting with easy to prep food. If you’re curious about what I’ve been making, checkout my dedicated Facebook post.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Gibbs Smith for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.