I have to say that one of my favorite things about my time in France is hosting my friends for a weekly apèro. For the people who aren't sure what an apèro is, it is a sort of, kind of (but not quite... you'll see) like going out for happy hour after work back in the States, but MUCH, MUCH better!
For starters, there is always some sort of alcoholic drink. Since we are in Provence and are usually hosting in the summer, we normally offer a glass of rosé or a spritz; something light and refreshing. These are accompanied by small nibbles such as olives, nuts, crudité or different fruit. Just something light before you head to dinner, which happens much later here than back at home.
Sidenote for Americans who have been invited to an apèro... don't show up on time! If guests are late to a get together in the U.S., we'd be sending out a search party, trying to figure out where they were. In France, however, it is customary to be NOT be on time. When I host, my guests come about 10-15 minutes late.
I remember my first apèro at a French friend's home. She and I had met while working at the same middle school. Agnès was an English teacher and I was her T.A.P.I.F (teaching assistant program in France) assistant. We instantly hit it off and kept in touch and visiting each other when we were in our respective countries. Andy and I had come to France to do a small tour of the North (where I taught and where she lived) and were invited over to Agnès along with the other English teachers I had worked with at the school. Not sure exactly what we were about to partake in, Andy and I sat down at the long patio table along with the other teachers, each with a glass of wine in hand. On the table were small bowls filled with fresh cherries from Agnès' garden, a mix of nuts, cherry tomatoes, chips (or crisps as she called them, using the English translation), and a few other nibbles and bites. We grazed lightly, since we did our research and knew this was essentially like the appetizer course before dinner.
The light grew dimmer and bottles were emptied and we waited and waited a little more, but no one mentioned dinner. Slowly guests started to leave and empty bowls and glasses were removed from the table.
We both sat for a moment, unsure if we had missed something and, in fact, we had!
Without fully knowing it, we had attended our first apèro dînatoire, though we wouldn't realize this until much, much later.
I'm not sure if it is the heat in Provence or the *sometimes* excruciatingly slow pace of things here, but I have only been invited to this type of apèro, which can be considered the uber relaxed, incredibly casual cousin of the traditional apèro (which is already pretty laid back!)
The apèro dînatoire is essentially a meal that is more than a snack but less than dinner and is used in place of a full, large scale dinner. The apèro dînatoires I have been invited to have had homemade tomato tarts and quiches, small portions of chilled soups, and savory palmiers, along with the usual suspects of the olives, crudité, nuts and fruits.
But it wasn't until I started hosting our French neighbors to our home for apèros that I realized how they had unintentionally become the talk of our small town.
When chatting with a local artisan ice cream maker and an art gallery owner, the gallery owner mentioned an apèro he had attended at my house days ago. Without missing a beat, the ice cream maker said, "I know, I heard all about it." I gave him a playful, skeptical look.
Hmmm...word was getting around.
Not wanting to serve my guests the exact same things they had experienced at every other apèro, I decided to hit my over laden Pinterest page to see what inspired me from my saved pins. There, I found a lot of recipes that had their roots within the dusty pages of old school French cookbooks, but with a twist.
From that deep dive, I've tried (with much success) the following three American/French inspired apèro recipes. Try one of these for your next apèro to spice things up and see if anyone around town mentions it randomly. If so, I think we're on to something!
For my most recent apèro, I served a caramelized onion baked brie in a bread bowl. These were all ingredients that were very easy to find in France, but the bread bowl really threw my guests, which I found charming. The bowl itself can be absolutely any time of round bread. My local baker only had a multi-seed bread, so that is what I used. It's typical to find some dips in the U.S. served in a round loaf of bread that has had the middle carved out and all of the goodies placed inside. The sides are cut into strips so that pieces of bread can be easily torn away. This is placed in the oven until the cheese has melted and everything is gooey and browned. The photo below is provided by BakerbyNature.com to show you how delightful this recipe really is! For the full recipe, click the photo!
The next recipe I tried was so incredibly easy and happened to be the star of the show! Stuffed Endive with blue cheese, pecans and cranberries wouldn't be something that I think people would be fighting over, but my guests literally were arguing who was going to get the last one! In the recipe, the three ingredients are just sprinkled in the endive leaves. In my rendition, I creamed all of the ingredients together lightly and then spread them on the leaves. Everyones top comment was the textures are so perfect together! This recipe is from fullbellysisters. I fully recommend clicking the photo for the full recipe and trying this out!
And lastly, I made a round of peach skewers with prosciutto, basil and mozzarella. Ok, so this one is perhaps more Italian than American or French, but I could easily find all of the ingredients (which can sometimes be a feat when trying to recreate a recipe abroad) and it created a fun way to eat fruit, meat and cheese! They're easy to eat and add a light component to the dînatoire. Also, they are very bright, colorful and fresh. It also has a light citrus dressing that adds a little tang to the savory and sweet. This photo is provided by foodnessgracious.com. Click the photo above to be taken to the full recipe!
I'm interested to see how these go over with other people here in France. If you end up trying any of these at your next apèro, please let me know below how it goes!
Bon appétit! -R
Bonjour, Ciao, Salut! My name is Rachel and I am a part-time resident of Provence that splits my time between Pittsburgh, Pa and Vaison la Romaine. Come take a deep dive with me into Provençal culture, food, history, villages, markets and all of the quirks that come along with them!