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Doing a Coq au Vin dinner for 9. Any suggestions for an appetizer?

I foolishly agreed to cook a French dinner for my friends at the end of the month. Was wondering if anyone had any easy - no prep, appetizer ideas. I was thinking a nice pate with cornichons and a green salad. But I really want to make everything myself and pate sounds rather challenging. Any ideas welcome.

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  1. paté can actually be very easy, but it's rich and brown, just like your main dish. why not a fresh green salad, with lots of assertive greens, like endive and watercress? or a salad of fennel, orange and black olive? these take some slicing for prep, but that's it and will be bright on everybody's palate.

    what are you doing for sides?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      OMG - so weird! As I was scrolling down to write you my suggestion, hotonoodle had beat me to it!! I, too, think the fennel/orange/olive salad is a perfect starter. I think you need something fresh and light to balance the meal. Pate, usuallty served w/ thin baguette slices or crostini would be too heavy and filling and your lovely coq au vin will be compromised.

      I don't think you will need any sides w/ the C.A.V. except a nice crusty baguette to soak up the juices. I assume you will have tiny new potatoes, the babiest of carrots, pearl onions and mushrooms. Don't forget to sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley before serving.

      As a dessert, I can taste a nice cherry clafouti with REAL whipped cream or REAL vanilla ice cream.. Yum. Please provide address and another place setting ;-)

    2. I suggest this one a lot, but I like endive "boats" where you fill the leaves with bits of goat cheese, clementine or mandarin orange segments, and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with honey blended with balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper. Easy, beautiful presentation, tastes great....vaguely French.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ChristinaMason

        i'm with you, I love this as an appetizer. Just the pefect food to serve, not too heavy and different than the dinner. Crostini tend to get to heavy for me ( I know-light weight) or they just aren't the best if they sit.

        I think this is perfect, I just love goat cheese, and the combination you've described sounds divine! I'll be using your idea during the holidays.
        thanks ChristinaM!

        1. re: chef chicklet

          Yay! The plus being, with a "light" app., you have more room for those delicious, sinful, heavy things during the rest of the meal ;)

      2. I also think a bagna cauda with lots of fresh, crisp, colorful vegetables would be nice with this meal. But it's more Italian than French.

        1. Walnut salad in endive is a nice hors d'oeuvre; it's light and flavorful and would be a great simple accompaniment to your Coq au Vin. You can prepare the walnut salad up to one day ahead, and chill it covered. You can trim the endive and separate the leaves one day ahead, keeping them in the refrigerator wrapped in dampened paper towels in a plastic bag. Here's the recipe for walnut salad, enough to fill the leaves from 4 belgian endives.

          1 small garlic clove, minced and mashed into a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
          2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
          2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
          1 tablespoon mayonnaise
          a 1/4-pound piece of Parmesan, cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1 cup)
          1/2 cup finely chopped celery
          1 cup walnuts, toasted lightly lightly and chopped fine
          1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
          4 heads belgian endive, trimmed and leaves separated

          Whisk together the garlic paste, lemon juice, oil and payonnaise and stir in the parmesan cheese and celery. If you are preparing ahead, prepare up to this point and chill, covered.

          Just before serving, stir the walnuts and parsley into teh salad. Spoon about 1 tablespoon salad onto the wide end of each endive leaf and arrange in circles on a platter. Makes about 40 hors d'oeuvres.

          1. A favorite and simple dish from the south of France is figs wrapped in Bacon

            Cut Bacon in half, wrap bacon around fig and pick or skewer – bake or Grill until bacon is done.

            Another is roasted goat cheese topped with honey and thyme.

            Slice cheese (use a sharp goat cheese for this) into squares – brown under broiler top with honey and thyme.

            For salads the endive one is classic French but so is Pear / beets and blue cheese and a pear salad would go with the season too.

            1. I think for a rich dish like coq au vin, I would skip the first course and serve a nice green salad and a cheese plate after the coq au vin. After all, its very french.

              1. I agree that the main course is a rich dish (but wonderful) so the appetizer should be lighter. If you want to go with the French theme, I would do seared scallops over greens with a balasamic reduction drizzled over it.

                1. Thanks. Some great suggestions. Thinking of simple haricot verts as a side, or fava beans - if I can find some good ones. cheese plate instead of dessert? inspired. x

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bondi10001

                    Cheese following coq au vin seems a little rich and heavy. I'd go for something fruit-based instead. Maybe pears with a tiny wedge of cheese.

                    1. re: bondi10001

                      Hard to find either fresh figs or fresh fava beans this time of year. Totally out of season now. Haricots verts that are simply sauteed with some baby grape or teardrop tomatoes would provide some color and brightness to an otherwise heavy dinner.

                      For a starter, scallops again seem a little heavy and rich, to precede the coq au vin. I think a frisee salad with lardons in a light vinaigrette would provide a nice bitter counterpoint to all the richness.

                      And I personally love a cheese course, with some grapes, pears and nuts or walnut bread; however, many feel a meal is not complete without a sweet ending. How about chocolate pots du creme? Or a flourless chocolate torte with powdered sugar on top? And don't forget the strong coffee or espresso!

                    2. I second the inclusion of greens... Like this recipe a lot... http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... or Radish, Watercress and Endive http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      Perhaps to go with -- Lemon Scented Quinoa or Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

                      Maybe some Crepes Suzette or Crepes with Lemon Curd for dessert...

                      1. Cooks Illustrated has a series of menus showcasing their extraordinary recipes. The one featuring coq au vin consists of the following:

                        1. Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette
                        2. Coq au Vin
                        3. Pommes Anna
                        4. Tarte Tatin
                        5. Citrus Madelines

                        You can check out the recipes here, but you'll likely need a subscription (which I highly recommend... I've made their coq au van recipe and it is heavenly)


                        Mr Taster