These cheesy, feather-light puffs of pastry are the ultimate French appetiser. Similar in appearance to a profiterole but made savoury by the addition of Gruyere, they're best served piping-hot from the oven and with plenty of napkins, because while they’re delicate in form, they’re not particularly delicate to eat (hello, crumbs).
To drink: sparkling wine (or Champagne if you’re committing to the theme) is the best friend of salty foods like cheese and the acidity will help to cut through the richness.
While quiche actually originated in Germany (quiche comes from the German word ‘kuchen’ meaning cake), the French made it their own when they called it quiche Lorraine, and the addition of onion in this tart makes it consistent with the traditions of Alsace. This speedy quiche from Posh Eggs will ensure you’re making the most of your dinner party’s shopping list and that you won’t need to spend a tonne of time in the kitchen. You can pre-prepare your tart shell, get your filling ready to go in a separate bowl, and then assemble and cook when your guests arrive. If you have vegetarians to cater for, replace the bacon with veggies like leeks and mushrooms (grilling the veg will give you the smokiness that bacon provides and you already have the saltiness in your cheese, which you can increase in amount if you need).
On the side: You need a fresh and crunchy salad to serve with your rich and flavoursome tart. This Lyonnaise salad by Luke Nguyen will tie in nicely with your theme, as well as using some of the ingredients already at hand (to lighten it up, skip the poached egg). If you want to go fresher, try using in-season ingredients to make a version of this herb salad from Alain Ducasse or this green one from Good Good Food.
To drink: if you haven’t already finished your bubbly, it will work well here too. Another top option is an Alsatian riesling, which is this case is not only an ideal pairing, but also aligned with the origins of the dish.
This country-style dessert from south-central France is classically comforting fare. It has a flan-like finish and is traditionally made with juicy black cherries, but the fruit is where you can play around and reach for whatever looks good at the market (it’s often made with pears, plums, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries as well). All this simple dish requires is a decent dollop of cream and a dusting of icing sugar to serve.
To drink: a nip of eau de vie (literally meaning 'water of life') would be a very French way to finish your meal and you can choose kirsch, a style distilled from cherries, for a like for like (if going this way, incorporating the spirit into the dessert itself would help). You might find brandy a bit strong, in which case Sauternes, France’s most celebrated dessert wine, would be a great choice.
For more inspiration, flip through James Martin's French Adventure, Luke Nguyen's France and keep an eye out for Gabriel Gaté's new book So French So Sweet, coming to Cooked soon.