Come into our cosy little Bistro and enjoy an evening of simple, yet satisfying food in the company of friends... one of this month's participants found the perfect description of bistro food for me, writing it was "where restaurant and home cooking meet". That really hits the nail on the head for me, whenever I rave about one of the great bistros I have discovered in France or elsewhere over the years, more often than not I will come out saying "this tasted just like there was a French grand-mèrebehind the stove".
Bistro food is more than just food, and it's very different from your poncey restaurant experience - you can enjoy food in a relaxing and comforting environment, be transported back to your childhood days and feel you're being spoiled by your mum... at least that's how I experience it. If I don't get that extra feel-good factor, then the bistro is not worth writing home about.
So, sit down at the table with all the wonderful bloggers who contributed to this round, relax, maybe a glass of wine in hand, and savour the menu we've created for you. If you don't feel hungry after that, you might want to go see your doctor - the dishes here sure had me salivating!
Capital Salad. My apologies for an omission - Gourmet Chick brings us a wonderful salad: what could be more perfect than slightly warm potatoes, artichokes, fried bacon and soft-boiled eggs? The perfect food for those "in-between" days when you don't really know what to wear... cold, warm? I don't know - let's have both! Sorry for missing you out! Your recipe will be the first I am re-creating... tonight, with some crusty sourdough!
Ham hock peas and leeks. Feast with Bron claims she only made this because the name of the dish made her laugh... but can you imagine anything more decadent than this hearty, meaty, silky soup-type dish that leaves you plenty of juices to mop up with a crusty country loaf? Enjoy as a starter or a week-day dinner, you won't be disappointed!
Salade Provencale. Apart from being a very amusing read, A Lot On My Plate has come up with another classic of bistro fare. She took the challenge seriously, researching the "true" ingredients for this ever-so-popular salad, only to find that they're hotly debated! A refreshing and satisfying recipe she has come up with, though, so Chapeau to her!
Warm chicken & potato salad. An unusual dressing using elderflower cordial brought to you by co-host SpittoonExtra makes this a very seasonal dish, although it's sure to please the crowds all year round. We're also spoilt with a description of what would make his perfect bistro... one I can share without hesitation.
A selection of dishes that can serve as a starter for omnivores and a main for vegetarians who are often not spoilt for choice in a traditional bistro!
Red onion, feta & olive tarte. A cook keen to indulge and stay healthy at the same time, Green Gourmet Giraffe brings us a light tarte that can either serve as a starter or a vegetarian main (of which there are too few on bistro menus the world over...). A flaky dream of puff pastry, a tasty filling and a crunchy spring salad - recipe for success!
Tomato Tarte Tatin. Just to prove that even tartes can be light and summery, here's a savoury version of that eternal bistro classic. The Ginger Gourmand serves this as a starter or a vegetarian main, the pastry is spiced up with dijon mustard and cheese... a wonderful flavour-kick to complement the sweetness of the baked tomatoes!
Artichoke & chevre salad: Recreating a dish she has fond memories of from a recent trip to Paris, Ambrosia Quest presents us with this light, tangy and delicious, expertly presented salad of goat's cheese and artichokes with a light lemon & hazelnut oil dressing, a perfect, summery starter for a bistro meal.
Beef olive with pearl barley risotto & grilled vegetables. Caterer and private chef by trade, The Cotswold food year teaches us all a lesson or two in bistro cooking: it's not just this month's contribution that I will most certainly be recreating soon, you'll find a whole list of bistro dishes he's been serving over the years... a treasure chest of recipes, if you ask me!
Bistro burgers with bacon & creamy honey-dijon sauce. The Meal Planner's contribution may not be a bistro classic per se, but burgers are a fall-back plan for many establishments that cater for families. It's basically the traditional steak-frites, but served in a way that allows you to eat it with your hands... perfect for the kids, as it means the parents can enjoy their own meals without having to cut their offsprings'!
Bœuf à la flamande. Belgium has long been over-looked as a gourmet destination in my view, their food is so similar in style to French cooking and they love to indulge even more if that's possible... beer being a main ingredient in anything from mussels to stew - that's what they call "à la flamande". And you can't go wrong with Hard Spear's hearty stew!
Bœuf Bourguignon. Food & Family tries her hand at fusion cooking as she happily marries a traditional French beef stew with a very British way of serving it: parmesan-scented dumplings baked on top "designed to fill up hungry farm labourers, soak up the stew juices and make the meat go further, distract attention from the fact that there is hardly any meat in the stew at all." I bet you she wasn't greedy with what she put into her casserole, though!
Skirt steak with sauteed shallots. As a graduate of the Cordon Bleu, TasteFood knows a thing or two about traditional French food. Her Bavette aux échalottes brings back good memories of growing up in Europe and bistro fare is their favourite cuisine for home cooking... not surprisingly!
Slow-roast rib of beef with shallots a la creme. And another beef dish coming from your host. Slow-cooked so the meat literally falls off the bone, a creamy butternut squash & celeriac mash and shallots poached in port wine and cream... wonderfully comforting and moreish!
Leeks with mustard and crème fraîche. An ode to leeks comes from Petit Pois - this quintessentially Northern French vegetable is a perfect starter when steamed and served with a tangy vinaigrette, in her recipe using mustard and cream, they are an ideal accompaniment to any dish you could possibly find on a bistro menu... except, maybe, the mousse au chocolat!
Blueberry fool with pistachios. What surprised me in this round is that so many people found it hard to come up with something fitting the theme, yet we are sadly lacking desserts... what about mousse au chocolat, tarte tatin or crème caramel??? My friend and co-host Cook Sister! is the only one who stepped up to the mark and offers us a sweet treat with her wonderfully refreshing and very pretty blueberry fool. And I might treat you with a very yummy chocolate soup next week, so stay tuned!!!
As announced, we have a give-away for this round, a copy of the wonderful dish"today's special" by Anthony Demetre, reviewed here. The lucky winner (by draw out of a casserole, biensur) is The Ginger Gourmand, please email me your address and I'll post the book without delay!