Sunday, January 17, 2010
When French say une entrée, Americans say an appetizer. When French say le plat principal, Americans say entrée. I don't know why a main dish is called "entrée" in the US...Could it be a size issue? Because the French entrées are so small that they are just regarded as a way to tease the Americans' appetite ... and that the real-size things only start with the main dish? Maybe... Anyway, just keep that in mind as you read the following...
With the French having the habit to eat a three-course menu (entrée-plat-dessert) or a four-course menu (entrée-plat-fromage-dessert), you have to be creative when it comes to preparing l'entrée. If you want things to be easy and healthy, you opt for crudités: a salad of raw vegetables (carrots, cucumber, celery roots, red cabbage, tomatoes, avocados, etc.) However culturally, a salade de cruditées has come to encompass a few cooked vegetables as well such as beets, corn kernels, artichoke hearts or palm hearts! Why? Allez savoir...
If you want to be less healthy, you start with some charcuterie (pâtés, crude ham, etc.), a quiche or a soufflé... Because I think that eating a quiche or a soufflé as une entrée is too much, I serve them as plat principal in my family. In a way un soufflé can be une entrée or an entrée! (still with me??)
This little entrée en matière (introduction) to make you feel more comfortable when you want to cook an easy "four-course menu". When I cook our daily four-course meals, the only thing I really focus on is le plat principal. Because l'entrée is going to be some sort of crudités (or a soup); the fromages (or in our case, mostly yogurts) require extremely limited, if any, preparation; and if dessert is a piece of fruit, then it's easy. N'est-ce-pas?
Carottes rapées (shredded or grated carrots) are a very traditional French entrée. As I already mentioned on my post on coleslaw, French eat a lot of carottes rapées. It is fairly common to see them on the lunch menu in a café/bistro or in school/workplace cafeterias. I started serving shredded carrots to my children when they were about two. Before age one, I tried to limit the amount of raw vegetables (the only thing they ate raw was avocado, which does not have a really raw-texture to me)... but after that, once they were used to chewing, I introduced other raw vegetables for their entrée. I like my carottes rapées very very thin (I shred them using my hand grater as I find that my food processor does not shred them thin enough; but for the sake of speed, I have used my food processor as well!). Shredding them really thin is the key to enable your children to chew and swallow the carottes. Since they taste a little bit sweet, children generally like them.
The traditional French dressing for crudités is a vinaigrette. I serve carottes rapées with a tratitional vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Some people add black olives, shallots, green onions, lemon juice, garlic or other ingredients to their carottes rapées... I generally add some fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh cilantro or, when lucky, chervil (one of my favorite herbs) for the taste and contrasting color.
The only thing I try to pay attention to is the quality of carrots. I have tasted the difference between the fresh carrots bunch and the other loose carrots. And since you are going to serve them raw, it might just be a good idea to spend a little bit more money and more time selecting them. Because, even if your four-course menu is simple, it would be a pity to spoil l'entrée! Bon Appétit!