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French-Inspired Girls Night Menu

For the last four years I've been getting together with essentially the same little group for a girls night. We do this every couple of months, most often at my house, but occasionally at one of the others. We all cook something and then usually watch a movie. Any boys around get the boot. So we can talk about them, of course.


Last weekend I hosted my last girls night in Chicago (get ready Los Angeles) and this time we went with a French-inspired menu. (We've also done several rounds of chocolate-making nights.) It was fitting that this was our last night because we seriously outdid ourselves. The menu was so astoundingly good that I had to repost it here.

Warning: There was A LOT of cheese involved. In the best way possible, of course.

Here's the menu. (Recipes below)

  • Cheese Fondue
  • French Onion Soup
  • Salad of Mixed Greens & Sheeps Milk Cheese
  • Fresh Grape and Champagne Sorbet Palate Cleanser
  • Cassoulet
  • Celery Root Puree with Truffle Butter
  • Lemon Tart
  • Creme Caramel 

We started with Ashley's cheese fondue and cubed bread for dipping, which she says is really very simple. You just buy a pack of Emmi at any grocery store, melt it and enjoy. Hers was made all the better by her lovely fondue pot.


Next Emilie made her first ever French Onion Soup and it was absurdly good. She used this Julia Child va Smitten Kitchen recipe. We had to blowtorch the top because I didn't have oven proof bowls, but I don't think that even Julia herself would have complained.

After that we feasted on Joi's salad of mixed greens and sheep's milk cheese. It's been 5 days since I ate this and I haven't stopped thinking about it. That's due in part to the Petit Basque cheese she cubed up for it, and partly because of the honey vinaigrette.

We paused here, because we had just had three courses of cheese, and dug into Jess's Fresh Grape & Champagne Sorbet. It was so clean and refreshing and she even claims that it was easy to make, although I don't believe her because frozen desserts intimidate me.


I only made one thing — the cassoulet. I'd been to Maude's recently, a very sexy little French place down in the West Loop and actually had cassoulet for the first time that night. It was so good that I had one of those food moments. You know the kind where everything kind of fades away, even your tablemates, and all you can concentrate on is the heavenly taste of whatever it is that's in your mouth? It was one of those.

A cassoulet is a very simple French country dish consisting of white beans, carrots, onions, white wine and a couple of different kinds of meat. Sounds like no big deal, right? But because it's French it's divine, of course. I riffed off this Thomas Keller recipe but made mine with chunks of local, organic chicken and organic chicken andouille sausage. Although it wasn't the same as the one at Maude's, it was still pretty incredible.

Along with the cassoulet we had another of Joi's contributions: A Celery Root Puree with Truffle Butter. Um, need I say more about that one? I think the title alone does it justice.

Finally we left all the dirty dishes where they were and adjourned to the living room where Erica wowed all of us with her lemon tart and her creme caramels. She got the recipes from friends, not the internet (gasp!), but I have them. If you're interested just ask nicely, I'll email them to you.

After that we all kind of nodded off to Amelie before Greg came home and shooed everyone home.

I keep trying to write some wrap-up sentence about my Chicago girlfriends and this being our last gathering is making me emotional, so I'm not going to write anything at all.

Bon Appetit!


(See all the photos from that night here.)




  1. Wow, these are great recipes! Looks like a fun night. I might actually plan something similar with my friends!

    Comment by Emma on April 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

  2. Let me know how it turns out!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on April 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  3. All of the recipes sound amazing! So this is me asking very nicely, of course, for the lemon tart and creme caramel recipes. Can’t wait to try them.

    Comment by Wendy on April 22, 2011 at 10:39 am

  4. Ha, Ill email them now!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on April 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

  5. I think this is a really great idea!!! My girlfriends and I are always so busy but I think it’s super important to take time out and spend quality time. I think I shall definitely be sending out some emails soon!

    Comment by Lindsey on April 24, 2011 at 7:40 am

  6. Good!! Its such a fun way to gather your friends together.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on April 24, 2011 at 7:52 am

  7. Ever since you first mentioned your cooking parties I’ve wanted to have one. Haven’t quite got around to it yet. But soon!
    It looks like you had a really lovely night.

    Comment by Sophie on April 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm

  8. You should do one!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on April 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

  9. Where did you find the cool glass thing hanging over the dining table? Its beautiful.

    Comment by nicole on May 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

  10. Theyre from CB2!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on May 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

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