Dinner Chez Moi

50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining


By Elizabeth Bard

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Tips, tricks and recipes to make your feasts and fetes more French, from the New York Times bestselling author of Lunch in Paris and Picnic in Provence.

When Elizabeth Bard, a New Yorker raised on Twizzlers and instant mac and cheese, fell for a handsome Frenchman and moved to Paris, she discovered a whole new world of culinary delights. First in Paris, then in a tiny village in Provence, Elizabeth explored the markets, incorporating new ingredients and rituals into her everyday meals and routines.

After 15 years of cooking in her own French kitchen, making French friends — and observing her slim and elegant French mother-in-law — Elizabeth has gathered a treasure trove of information that has radically changed her own eating habits for the better. She realized that what most Americans call “dieting” — smaller portions, no snacking, a preference for seasonal fruits and vegetables, and limited sugar — the French simply call “eating.” And they do it with pleasure, gusto, and flair.

With wit, sound advice, and easy-to-follow recipes, Bard lets her readers in on a range of delightful — and useful — French secrets to eating and living well, including hunger as the new foreplay, the top five essential French cooking tools and 15 minute meals popular throughout France, and the concept of benevolent dictatorship: why French kids eat veggies, and how to get yours to eat them, too. Whether you’re ready for a complete kitchen transformation or simply looking for dinner party inspiration, Dinner Chez Moi is a fun, practical, and charming how-to guide that will add a dash of joie de vivre to your kitchen — and your life!




Bonjour! Before we begin, a word—and it's an important one: I'm an American. Though I've lived in France for fifteen years and now hold two passports, I grew up in Bruce Springsteen's U.S.A. of the 1980s, eating instant macaroni and cheese, General Tso's chicken, and Pillsbury vanilla frosting out of the can. I did not have a French grandmother who made me leek soup or served me fish with the head on. Like almost everyone I knew, I ate baked beans and fish sticks. Cheese meant fluorescent orange Kraft singles. I did not know anything about the pleasures of champagne cocktails or the digestive benefits of herbal teas. The radical change in my eating habits came when I moved to France, at the age of twenty-eight, to be with my French husband, Gwendal. I discovered a culture of fresh seasonal ingredients, the pleasure of cooking for and eating with family and friends, and ingredients I'd never thought about, like lentils and almond flour, that have become staples of a heartier—and healthier—diet. I'm not a chef; I'm a home cook who was delighted to discover that good things don't take all day to prepare, and that if you start with great ingredients, a great dinner is almost inevitable. I'm writing this book because I know it is possible to change ingrained eating habits, even in adulthood, and because I know these are changes a lot of people are trying to make—in ways big and small—in their own kitchens. I hope this book is equal parts inspiring, helpful, and fun!

   Part One   


I will never forget my first trips to the Tuesday-morning market on the rue de Belleville in Paris. The fishmonger asked me for a date over glassy-eyed whole mackerel, and the man who sold me green beans called me his gazelle. I bought myself a bouquet of fresh herbs instead of flowers and tasted a plump fresh fig for the first time—an almost religious experience. For the first few weeks I stayed away from the hairy beige bowling ball that turned out to be a very tasty celery root. There was definitely some impatient foot-tapping behind me at the local butcher as I slowly mastered the vocabulary necessary to order my épaule d'agneau désossée, deboned shoulder of lamb.

Unless you're a born cook, or a bit of a mad scientist, most of us have a fear of new ingredients. We cook what we know. This chapter breaks down the essentials of my French kitchen; some of them will be familiar, some more mysterious. I've divided my list into pantry staples, a few things I always have in my fridge, and some new things you should try the next time you see them (in season!) at the market. I've provided an easy-to-follow recipe for each to help you along in your culinary discoveries and, where appropriate, some ways to dress things up for guests. Where relevant I've also recommended brands that will get you as close as possible to the authentic French taste.


I'm a cook who likes a full pantry. I love to go hunting through my cabinets on a rainy day and see what I can create without a trip to the store. Here are some of the things I always have in stock:


I buy my olive oil in three-liter jugs from my local butcher (it's cheaper that way) and decant into a smaller bottle. I recommend having one bottle of fruity extra-virgin olive oil for sauces and salad dressing and one bottle of milder ordinary olive oil for everyday cooking and baking.


Haricots verts à l'huile d'olive

Serves 4 as a side dish; if doubling, make two batches (the beans won't char if they are crowded

Many of our weekday meals include a single serving of protein and a big heap of seasonal vegetables (green beans, leeks, brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, or spinach) cooked with olive oil. My method is somewhere between steam and sauté—I find this keeps the fresh taste and gives you the delicious charred bits everyone loves. In my humble opinion, slim French haricots verts beat the pants off regular old green beans and are worth searching around for. They cook quickly yet retain their signature snap. If you decide to use thicker, American-style green beans, you may want to blanch them in boiling water for thirty seconds (then run them under cold water to stop the cooking) and proceed with your recipe from there.

1½ pounds haricots verts (extra-slim French green beans), topped but not tailed

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse trimmed green beans in a colander—no need to dry them. In fact, you want some water clinging to them; it will help them steam.

In a large frying or sauté pan with a lid, heat oil. Add green beans and stir to coat. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Stir and add a good sprinkle of sea salt.

Cover and cook for 4 to 6 more minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so. Don't worry if you see some charred bits—that's my favorite part. Taste and see if the beans are cooked through. If not, give them another 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Add a pinch or two of salt to taste and a good grinding of black pepper.

Serve warm or at room temperature. If you have leftovers (doubtful), eat them topped with big chunks of tuna or a poached egg for lunch the next day.

Dress Up: If you want a gussied-up version of this dish for guests, replace one tablespoon of the olive oil with walnut oil and top with some toasted walnuts before serving.

Try this

Substitute olive oil for all or part of the vegetable oil in your favorite banana bread (or zucchini bread, or carrot cake—you get the idea). I use olive oil to make my French yogurt cake (see here). I recently started using olive oil to make my stovetop popcorn!

When I used to give tours at the Louvre Museum, I would stop to admire an ornate gold-and-agate saltcellar that once belonged to Louis XIV. (The French have always taken their tableware very seriously.) A saltcellar is a small bowl of sea salt that the French often put on the table instead of a shaker. When I got married, my friend Amanda's mom sent me a crystal saltcellar complete with miniature wooden spoon. This may seem old-fashioned, but hey, I'm an old-fashioned girl, so of course I loved it. It also turned out to be one of my most useful gifts. I use salt sparingly in my French cooking; if my guests want to add salt, the tiny spoon lets them see exactly how many grains they are adding to their plates. Next time you are looking for a hostess gift for a foodie friend, why not arrive with a small jar of exotic sea salt and a wooden saltcellar!


Vinaigrette à l'ail

Dresses I average-size head of lettuce

When I arrived in France, I was floored by the number of different kinds of lettuce—delicate mâche, frilly violet Batavia, spiny bitter frisée.

French vinaigrette is like your favorite lip gloss; it should add the merest shimmer of flavor. Above all, you want the taste and texture of the salad leaves to shine through. This is the way Gwendal's grandparents made vinaigrette. Don't be scared of a little raw garlic—the French certainly aren't—but don't overdo it either. I've given quantities here for one average-size head of lettuce to be mixed directly in the bottom of the salad bowl.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar (in the summer, I often use fresh-squeezed lemon juice)

2 generous pinches of coarse sea salt

A good grind of black pepper

½ teaspoon whole-grain or Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely grated or pushed through a press

Pinch of herbes de Provence, ñora pepper, or smoked paprika (optional)

Whisk all the ingredients together directly in the bottom of your salad bowl. Just before serving, add lettuce leaves and toss until lightly coated.

Trick: You might measure at first, but you'll soon be eyeing it like a pro. I think of vinaigrette in terms of concentric circles: If the disk of olive oil in the bottom of my bowl is the diameter of a softball, I want my disk of vinegar to be about the diameter of a quarter. Add a pinch of salt, whisk, taste, and see how you feel.


If you are opening the 1953 Château Margaux your parents have been saving for a special occasion, the French would tell you to dress your salad with only olive oil and a little salt. Vinegar will alter the taste of the wine.

Tip: I use a dribble of white wine instead of water to add flavor and moisture when defrosting soup or lentils.



  • "Bard's inspiring cookbook explains how to cultivate French-style eating habits that encourage healthy thinness along with essential joie de vivre. Bard (Lunch in Paris), raised in an American home where processed cheese and bottled salad dressing were staples, has the enthusiastic zeal of a convert to her French husband's ways...Sitting down to eat together and not snacking through the day are approachable goals; conquering American portion sizes will be the real French revolution."—Publisher's Weekly

On Sale
Apr 4, 2017
Page Count
208 pages

Elizabeth Bard

About the Author

Elizabeth Bard is an American journalist and author based in Provence, France, where her second book, Picnic in Provence: A Memoir With Recipes, took place. Her first book, Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes has been a New York Times and international bestseller, a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick, and the recipient of the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best First Cookbook (USA).

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