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Dinner Party: Little Paris Kitchen & Cookbook Giveaway

by Maxwell Tielman

Late February marks the time of year when winter’s charms begin to wear out. Sweaters and scarves, once donned excitedly, are now put on begrudgingly. Snow, which once seemed magical as it fell to the ground, is now just an unwelcome reminder that cold days still lie ahead. While one might prefer to simply hibernate until spring arrives, there are things one can do to shake up the midwinter doldrums. You can, for instance, go winter camping! Or, if going out isn’t your thing, take the excitement indoors with a dinner party! Dinner parties are excellent cold-weather diversions — they bring your favorite people together in an intimate setting full of warmth, laughter and that winter-weather essential: libations!

To celebrate the simple act of dining with friends, we’re launching a new feature today. We’re calling it Dinner Party, and it will showcase a few delicious recipes from a brand new cookbook as well as beautiful tableware from a favorite shop or designer. To kick off the series, we chose Rachel Khoo’s charming guide to modern French cooking, The Little Paris Kitchen. Newly released in America, this delightful little volume contains dozens of recipes that taste just as good as they look. To complement the pared down beauty of Khoo’s book, we decorated our table with a few super easy DIYs, a lovely printable menu and pieces from one of our favorite new stores: West Elm Market!

Hopefully, these recipes and table-setting tips will inspire your own Parisian dinner parties and give you the push you need to get through the worst of winter. But — if that’s not enough — we’re also giving away two copies of The Little Paris Kitchen to two lucky readers! To enter to win one of these fabulous cookbooks, simply leave a comment on this post telling us your ideal dinner party for a cold winter day. We’ll choose our favorites! — Max

To see all the recipes, DIYs and photos, continue reading after the jump . . .

Above image: We fashioned a tiny Eiffel Tower out of a single piece of copper wire. Bend a length of copper wire so there are about 4 inches on one side. Twist at the bend about three-quarters of the way down. Twist the longer side of the wire upward from the bottom, curve it across to the other leg and twist back down. Cut off any excess. Red striped dinnerware set from West Elm Market.

Above image: We made each guest a customized menu, printed on plain card stock. Print your own by downloading our template here! Wine glasses from West Elm Market.

Above image: We displayed bunches of dried lavender in vintage tins and mason jars wrapped with twine. For an added touch, we painted a red stripe around the twine with regular acrylic paint.

Above image: Palmiers served on an enamel roasting pan from West Elm Market. Full recipe below!

Above image: Our main course — moules marinières — served in an enamel cast-iron Dutch oven from West Elm Market.

Above image: These easy-to-make seashell candles helped create a lovely atmosphere. Check out the how-to here!

Above: The dessert! Îles flottantes, or floating islands.

Above image: We dressed up a simple strand of string lights by wrapping the cord with regular brown twine. Simply knot 2 foot lengths of twine to the cord and wrap it tightly around. When you reach the end of the twine, knot it and begin again. Repeat until the entire cord is covered.

Above image: The entire table! We used a canvas drop cloth, available at most hardware stores, as a tablecloth.

Palmiers (Elephant Ears)
Makes 30

  • 4oz puff pastry
  • 1 heaped tbsp Meaux mustard (or another grainy mustard)
  • 2 handfuls of finely grated mature Comté cheese or a mature hard cheese of your choice


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a 8-by-12-inch rectangle.

2. Spread the mustard over one pastry rectangle and sprinkle the cheese on top. Take one long side of the rectangle and roll it into the middle. Repeat on the other side so that the two rolls touch each other. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes* before cutting into thirty 3/8-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices on one of the prepared baking sheets.

3. Bake the palmiers for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room

Moules Marinières (Mussels with White Wine)
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

  • 4 lb mussels
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced*
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup crème fraîche
  • a handful of chopped parsley


1. Clean the mussels using plenty of cold water. Pull out the fibrous beards and scrub off any barnacles. Toss any that have cracked or broken shells or that do not close when lightly squeezed.

2. In a large pot (big enough to hold all the mussels with some extra room to spare), soften the onion and fennel over low heat with the butter, bay leaf and thyme. When the onion and fennel are soft and translucent, add the wine followed by the cleaned mussels. Increase the heat to high, cover the pan and cook for 3–4 minutes or until the mussels open, shaking the pan a few times to help them cook evenly.

3. At the end of the cooking time, remove the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme (if used) and discard any mussels that have not opened. Stir in the crème fraîche and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Îles Flottantes
Serves 6

For the crème anglaise

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod*
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground long pepper or black pepper (optional)


For the praline

  • 6 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • scant 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds


For the islands

  • 2 egg whites
  • scant 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • a couple drops of lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt


1. To make the crème anglaise: Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape out the grains. Place the pod and grains in a pan with the milk and pepper and bring to a boil. Remove the pod, then pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg yolks and sugar, whisking continuously. Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, then pour the mix into a clean pan, set over a gentle heat and whisk constantly. Do not let the custard simmer at any point or it will split. After 5 minutes, it will begin to thicken slightly and become the consistency of half-and-half (it will thicken more when it cools down). Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make the praline: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the sugar and water into a large pan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then increase the heat to high. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the almonds and stir continuously for 5 minutes to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Once the sugar and nuts have become a dark golden caramel color, pour onto the prepared sheet and spread as thinly as possible with a palette knife (be quick, as it sets pretty fast). Leave to cool.

3. To make the islands: Put half the egg whites into a clean glass or metal bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and whisk until snow white. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks.

4. Gently drop six spoonfuls of meringue into a large pot of simmering water** and simmer for a few minutes or until they are slightly puffed up and just set. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a sheet of parchment paper until needed.

5. Pour a ladleful of crème anglaise into each of the six glasses and gently place a meringue in the center. Snap the praline into small pieces and sprinkle on top.

*The vanilla pod can be interchanged with different flavorings. Here are a few ideas to get your imagination going:

  • Winter warming: 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and a pinch of nutmeg
  • Chocolate chile: 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 pinches of chile powder, or to taste
  • Zingy citrus fruit: finely grated zest of 1 orange, 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime


**If you prefer, you can cook the islands in the microwave. Spoon six small heaps onto a plate, leaving at least 3/4 inch between each one, and microwave on medium-high for 30–60 seconds.

Suggested For You


  • I think a hearty minestrone with crusty bread and a gooey chocolate pudding (with custard) for dessert is the ideal dinner party meal for a cold wintery day! :)

  • My ideal dinner party for a cold, Winter’s day, would definitly be the classic taking the camping trip indoors; pitching the fort, needed in everyone’s home, in lieu of a canvas tent, and rugging up with my boyfriend, whilst eating heart-warming food, and drinking heart-warming mead, with our essential music playing, to the dancing light of the fireplace, whilst creating laughter and memories. All that’s missing, is the sky full of stars.

  • I love this new feature so much! I host a monthly Dinner Club, and being able to reference your themes (from design to food) is just going to be fantastic. Thank you so much!

  • Winter Dinner Party (Vermont Style)

    Selection of: Grafton Cheddar, Rupert Rising pain rustique, pickled red onions, grainy mustard, rabbit rillette.

    Roasted Rack of Venison
    Braised Leeks
    Gratin Dauphinois

    grand-pères (dumplings cooked in a reduced maple syrup) because this is Vermont and we love maple syrup.

    Booze: My homemade hard cider (strong enough to get you through a Vermont winter), The Shed Mountain Ale, hot toddys for after dinner

    And probably a fiddle. Inevitably, a bonfire.

  • My ideal winter dinner party would definitely involve mulled wine and tartiflette, which is a dish I enjoyed many a night when I lived in France. It’s potatoes, lardons, cheese, and onions…the ultimate comfort/cold weather food!

  • My friend and I just got together and made soup for our husbands on a cold blustery evening. We finished it off with 4 different chocolate ice creams. It was about as perfect – and simple – as you can get.

  • Obsessed with Rachel Khoo. Love love love the eggs in pots recipe. My ideal party would be a brunch with those eggs, mimosas, and french toast. Oh my goodness I want some now !

  • For two lucky years, I did have my ideal dinner party, every night. A gathering of friends who lived within a fifteen-minute walk of each other convened every night for dinners, most often at the house of two friends who were roommates. Meals were casually and spontaneously planned – the time was almost always the same and each of us brought the part of the meal that was most naturally our specialty. I, the Midwesterner and baker, brought desserts and breads, our Bulgarian friend brought salads and, always, a tub of yogurt (in case the resident tub waiting for her in our friend’s kitchen might run out mid-meal). Our Italian friend, if he hadn’t succumbed to his new love of fried chicken, most often made pasta, with which he filled our plates before the main dish, prepared by our Polish friend who trained in the French tradition, and who also always insisted on a post-dinner drink. The meals taught us a lot about how to read each other through our cooking, and provided us with a close-knit circle of support and love and a daily tradition that lent stability to our displaced academic lives. We now live, each, in a different city, but when we talk over the phone, we always ask, “what are you having for dinner?” When we started our tradition, we were new acquaintances, but we ended as family.

  • I would put the table near the fire to keep guests warm, then serve up crepes.
    For main course the fillings would be melted brie, buttered mushroom and spinache.
    Then for pudding there would a smores style filling. Crushed maltesers and melted chocolate, with marshmallows on sticks to heat over the fire.

  • My ideal dinner party for a cold winter’s night would feature a stew and a warm dessert.
    I would make a Bombay-style chicken with red split lentils. Nothing like piping hot stew warmed with some Indian spices and made hearty with the addition of lentils to keep out the cold! For dessert we would have berry cobbler topped with vanilla bean ice cream.

  • An ideal Parisian dinner party, French movies, music, eating food at a slow slow paste, being with friends, lots of random conversation, and everyone in socks.

  • My mum puts on dinner parties based on a certain country. We recently had a Spanish night where we dressed up Spanish-style (or at least, our interpretations of Spanish style) and indulged in Sangria, a ridiculous amount of tapas and the most beautiful almond biscuits for dessert. I’d love to do something similar.

  • I liked the effortless look, it adds such a big warm feeling. You think I can create that look and taste in red hot Western Australian summer? It would be a challenge I’d like to take :)

  • I absolutely love French cooking! Julia Child and Ina Garten got me obsessed and I would love to see this little lady’s take on it. My comfort food on a cold day is a one dish rosemary garlic lemon roasted chicken with root vegetables and potatoes underneath to soak up all those delicious juices. Easy and satisfying.

  • My ideal winter dinner party would include a hearty soup (chick peas/kale/tomato/potato/beef), roasted chicken with root vegetables, and ending on a perfect note with bread pudding.

  • Thank you for this lovely giveaway! My ideal dinner party is either a large roast of some sort, a big salad and a crowd-pleaser like mac & cheese, or a party with lots of little nibbles and an enormous cheese platter. Wine in either scenario, of course!

  • My favourite dinner party would include a salad with wallnuts, goatcheese and honey, followed by potatoes baked with mushrooms, tofu and cream finished by superchocolate cake with a cup of sourcream :-)

  • I love Rachel’s show and how she makes French cuisine simple to prepare!
    My ideal dinner party will include a handful of funny foodie friends. We’ll play nostalgic music, sit around a rustic table with candles and flowers from the deli.
    We’ll eat a stew and mop up the sauce with crusty bread. Then we’ll have some cake. Of course, one of the highlights will be a hot chocolate bar — with marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint stirrers and maybe a spike of liquor. :)

  • I live in Vermont so February dinner or brunch parties are a must for social events to survive the brutal winters. Each February I gather friends and colleagues together for an annual “French Brunch” that have included lovely recipes from my fav French cookbooks and blogs like Mimi Thorisson’s Manger recipe fromage blanc with almonds and honey (http://mimithorisson.com). I am so fortunate to live near Vergennes Laundry, a little french meets rustic Vermont bakery, recently featured in Times mag and Food and Wine’s America’s Greatest New Cooks (http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/30/edible-selby-french-laundry). I have been inspired by their recipes and attention to exquisite ingredients and presentation and this year I’m going to try my hand at making Petits Pots à l’Absinthe for the piece de resistance! The brunch always includes blood orange mimosas, local cheese board, local seasonal vegetable tart, pain grille with farm butter and mirabelle jam and a dose of Edith Piaf. Ooh la la localvore feast!

  • I’m a beginner at hosting. Ambiance and easy to prepare are where I spend my energy. I have beautiful rosemary bushes in pots for the winter. I’d start a fire early and have the rosemary close to where people would be sitting. I picked lavender this past summer in France. I still have the stems from making lavender pillows. I’d put that in a mason jar so that it can be thrown into the fire by the firebugs. Supposedly it smells nice.
    Lots of pots filled with hot coco and hot totty! I love to drink hot totty during the winter.
    For food… Well, that’s why i’m entering the giveaway. All I know how to make is Meatloaf and ribs. Both delicious when eaten with lovely company but I’d like to spread my wings and try something that is more than leaving something in the oven for 3 hours.

  • A barbecue party in the winter
    Hot drinks warm from the inside, and that, even if they contain no alcohol, but a tea with rum or a hot mulled wine increase the warming effect of course. Also a Feuerzangenbowle or a punch, which can be offered with or without alcohol, replace the traditional beer for grilling in the winter.
    Many typical winter spices that additionally provide heat to a typical winter and new year’s Eve punch include red wine and rum. Spices that fit into every winter punch are cinnamon, cloves, star anise, grated orange peel and some orange juice, brown sugar, grated lemon peel and a few drops lemon juice, cardamom, allspice, vanilla and peeled ginger.
    The streaky pork chop or the bacon slices, but also a strong crust roast or ham roast are offered in the winter. Such large fry must of course either already pre-cooked are or need some hours on the grill to get cooking. Slices of hearty Kassel meat can be quite fast to cook and taste great in the winter.
    Sauerkraut is very popular and can be prepared on the day before from the barbecue. It is excellent to prepare in large quantities. A more typical winter vegetable, suited perfectly to prepare in large quantities, is Collard Greens. Instead of cold mayonnaise salads is served warm potato salad and as warm bread in the winter.

  • French cuisine is so rich and delicious :) my ideal dinner party would include a codfish lasagna, good white wine, coconut mini pies and lots of fun and joy :)

  • It’s a bit cheesy (no pun intended) but I love doing fondue. You can get creative with the dipping items (lamb or potatoes, for example, not just breads and fruit) and paired with luscious wine, it’s a casual crowd pleaser and ice breaker. Can’t beat “hands on” dinner!

  • Definitely Chicken and Chorizo Paella. it is amazing, delicious and my guests are always asking for seconds. For dessert my favorite is White Chocolate Scones with a Maple Glaze. :-) AMAZING. ( Great, now I’m craving it )

  • Ideal dinner party for the cold weather? Something cozy, with close family. Start with oinon soup for an appetizer. Then follow with a cheese fondue as a main. Conclude the dinner party with a warm chocolate cake for dessert.

  • I really enjoyed this post, and I want to get this Paris Kitchen Cookbook asap!
    My ideal diner party during the winter would be small and cozy, best friends and family. I would serve foods that everyone could just help themselves to. There is a fire in the fireplace, the old records (vinyl) would come out for everyone to play throughout the evening, the lighting is low, flowers and candles everywhere. The food would be simple, good red warm California wine, (white too). An antipasto of cheeses, breads, crackers, olives and marinated veggies would be ready to serve, a pot of homemade wild cream of mushroom soup hot on the stove with assorted garnishes, fresh green onions, smoked bacon, lump crab meat, sour cream etc., a fresh mixed green salad tossed with simple vinaigrette and for dessert we would have freshly baked, served Warm, mixed berry pie with vanilla ice cream followed by after dinner drinks, good conversation and laughs all night long, maybe a game would be played. Charades? The food could be changed to fit the guests, but basically the same simple ready to eat, help your self style. My Favorite way to entertain!

  • Lillet Rosé spring cocktails, celeriac soup with maple roasted carrots topped with “meat sprinkles’ (crispy pancetta), thin pizzette with prosciutto, arugula, shaved Parmesan, light green salad, and brownies.

  • I’ve never done it but for me the best winter dinner party would have to be a barbecue and eating outdoors.

    Stews etc are all good fun but it’s so expected. Firing up a chiminea, getting some mulled wine and cider on the go with some sausages, love it!

    The novelty would probably wear off pretty quickly but the idea of a fire to warm you and cook food on a nice clear winters night just does it for me.

  • My ideal winter dinner party would be an Italian family-style meal. It could start around lunch time on a Sunday and guests could arrive as they please and get home before nightfall if they wish. It would involve some good wine, simple but delicious appetizers, and conversation by the fireplace as well as a beautifully-set table with some candles and winter greenery. Bellissimo!

  • Oh, for a main course I prefer something lighter so as to be able to go heavier for dessert, I’m all about the sweets! Tiramisu is my fave, made with amaretto of course! Or anything with chocolate. Candles and flowers are also musts! I love Rachel’s cooking and she has really opened my eyes to french cuisine made easy! I would love to win her book!

  • Braised oxtail stew with crusty bread and red wine. Next we would bundle up and walk over to our local ice shop and order double scoops on a cone! Yummy winter evening…

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