French New Years Eve Food Traditions: Is It Too Weird For You?

If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to a French person’s new years eve party, here are some typical or traditional foods you can expect to see on the menu.

In France, New Year’s Eve, known as “La Saint-Sylvestre” or “réveillon de l’an”,  is celebrated in a variety of ways.

Some people like to organize costume parties with dancing while others like to have a quiet evening doing nothing more than snuggling up in front of the TV. Many of our friends like to throw New years eve dinner parties for friends and family to ring in the new year with a long feast called “le Reveillon” or “Dîner du Réveillon de la Saint Sylvestre”. The meal on Christmas eve is also called “le Reveillon”.

The meal and types of food served at a le reveillon are typically very luxurious, fancy and exceptional. 

French New Years Eve Food Traditions

1-OYSTERS:

Weird french new years eve foods: raw oysters

I hope you like oysters (les huitres – “lay zueetr”),  because every year about 80 thousand tonnes of oysters are consumed in France during the festivities of the new year. They are literally every year during the holiday season leading up to New Years’.

In the supermarket, at Christmas markets. It can also be served for holiday meals around Christmas too.

2- FOIE GRAS (fwa gra):

Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feeding
Foie Gras “fat liver” is defined by French law as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding with a feeding tube.

Despite the controversy around the method of producing foie gras by force-feeding, which most animal activists say is torture for the animals, Foie gras is gleefully gobbled up across France all year round, especially during Christmas and New Years.

 

It’s even served to school-aged children for the end of year Christmas meal .

3- CRUSTACÉS et COQUILLAGES

Weird french new years eve foods: raw sea urchin and crustacean

If you’re really lucky, your host spared no expense, and in addition to oysters, he or she put out a platter of a variety of shellfish and crustacean over ice.

If you see prawns (Gambas) on the platter, don’t be surprised to see the heads, eyes and antennae still attached to prawns which you eat by pinching off the head and suck out the juice if you dare before eating the actual flesh.

You might also find raw cockles, mussels and raw sea urchin.

4- ESCARGOT

French stereotypes and cliches: Escargot, land snails

Snails, known as escargot in France is a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine except maybe in Asia. I particularly like Feuilletés-d’escargots for the new Year Meal. Think of it as a puff pastry filled with escargot and cream. You can’t even tell you are eating snails. Here is a nice recipe in French for Feuilletés d’escargots aux cèpes).

Contrary to popular belief, not all French people eat escargot but for those that do eat them, they usually do so around special dinners or holidays like New Years and Christmas, which explains why more than half of all escargot sales in France are sold around the end of the year.

I think the most popular is butter and parsley.

You can easily find escargot at any grocery store in France sold in cans or the frozen section. Or you could opt for a farm-fresh version by searching the internet.you can buy canned snails and frozen snails at French grocery stores and online

5- CHAMPAGNE:

If you hate raw oysters and can’t stand smoked salmon, at least you know you’ll have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birthplace of Champagne.

If, by chance, you don’t see the words Champagne printed on the label of bubbly, you happen to be drinking, but instead see the words “CREMANT,” don’t worry. Crémant is sparkling wine, which is just like champagne.

In 1891, the French made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region to make a drink called “champagne” so although a vineyard may use the same techniques to produce their bubbly beverage unless they are physically located in the Champagne region of France, they cannot legally call their drink Champagne. 

6. Tapenade

If you love olives and anchovies, you’ll love Tapenade, the French Provençal name for a dish consisting of five or fewer ingredients: finely-chopped olives, capers, and anchovies, olive oil, and pepper. Everything is blended together and ready to eat in minutes. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. 

7. Les Verrines

Les verrines are appetizers or desserts made of different food components that highlight layers of colours and textures, served in a transparent bowl or glass. Similar to how a seven layer dip is prepared only so much more refined and delicate. 

The variations are endless; just take a look on Pinterest and search for “Verrines.”

Les Verrines are a popular appetizer or dessert of layered food components in France

Image and recipe courtesy of Pit Chef

8. Terrines

Think elevated meatloaf with various meats, organs, herbs baked in a ceramic or metal loaf baking dish sometimes covered in gelatin. 

A terrine can either be rustic or refined and is often included on a charcuterie platter. A paté would be considered a terrine, but a terrine is not always a paté, with the difference being that pâté is usually eaten cold and contains some liver. 

A terrine, on the other hand, is much more complicated and takes time to master. It can contain any combination of meats from seafood, boiled eggs, ground organs, ground meat. Vegetables, herbs and other seasonings which are then layered and packed in a loaf-shaped mould, then cooked in a water bath, cooled, turned out and sliced like a meatloaf.

Sometimes terrines are infused with aspic (gelatin) for a decorative effect that also adds an additional layer of flavour or wrapped in a puff pastry and baked “pâté en croute.”

Image of Terrine de boeuf en gelée and recipe found at Marie Claire 

9-SAUMON FUMÉ (smoked salmon):

If you can’t stand the thought of eating escargot, raw oysters or mussels than stick to the smoked salmon dishes (Saumon Fumé) almost always served cold often as part of a Verrine, Blinis or delicate canapés with chives and crème fraîche.

10. Blinis

Not to be confused with a Russian Blini or crepes, a French Blini is a savoury mini pancake made with yeast (a leavened batter). It’s usually served as an appetizer at meals and parties similar to a cracker or canapé, topped with savoury garnishes such as creme fraiche and caviar or smoked salmon and cucumbers. Blinis’ are simple to make and a staple in French supermarkets. 

You can make them at home and get perfectly sized Blini with a Blini Pan. We have an electric raclette machine that doubles as a Blini machine. 

French Blini's are a popular food choice at French New Years Eve dinner parties

Image and recipe courtesy of “Cuisine en Couleurs.”

Don’t expect crepes for the New years eve meal

One last thing, yes, the French eat crepes all year round, but it’s not typically a New years eve dish. However, there is one particular day, chandeleur, which happens to fall on groundhog day, where it’s the tradition to eat crepes. If you’re interested, read Chandeleur and why it is a French tradition to eat crepes on this day. 

Bonne Année, everyone.

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