16 April 2006

Menu #7: Classic Bistro Fare

[Posted by Colin]

For the most part, all the recipes I've posted so far have been rather extravagant, time intensive examples of French regional cooking. Today, I thought I'd change things up with three of my favorite bistro recipes.

#1 Chocolat chaud à la français à la Maggie (Maggie's French Hot Chocolate)

I have to give credit where credit's due. Our friend Maggie analyzed the hot chocolate that you can find in any good Parisian café or bistro or brasserie. Then experimenting in her kitchen, she reverse-engineered the taste and texture to create the ultimate hot chocolate recipe. Needless to say, Amy and I have this recipe pretty much every day (sometimes, twice on Sundays!).

Serves: 2
Time to prepare: about 5 minutes

  • 1 bar of dark chocolate (we actually get "melting chocolate," fondant de noir)
  • 2 cups of milk
  1. Heat up the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, break the chocolate bar into squares.
  3. When you see steam starting to come up off the milk, add the chocolate.
  4. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate has completely melted into the milk.

#2 Croque-monsieur (usually translated in bistros as a "Welsh rarebit")

This is one of the classics of French bistro fare. When I was here two years ago, I fell in love with croques. Sadly, with the introduction of pain américain (square, bland, American sandwich bread) croques seem to be usually served just like an American grilled-ham-and-cheese sandwich. This makes Colin very, very sad, so now he makes his own croques the old-fashioned way!


  • Bread--here I go with a pain Poilain, a boule de campagne, or a boule fermier. In the US, look for a hearty bread that's baked round, rather than in a loaf.
  • Grated cheese--here I usually go with Emmental (Swiss), but you should definitely experiment with this.
  • Meat--ham, prosciutto (my favorite), bacon, chicken, turkey, etc. etc. Just take your pick (though thin slices are best).
  • Vegetables--you can order a variety of croques that tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, or whatever you feel like (with or without meat).
  • Egg--if you want to make a croque madame.


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C (350 F).
  2. Arrange the meats and/or vegetables on a slice of bread.
  3. Bake for 5 minutes.
  4. Pull out the bread and cover it in grated cheese (I usually use about 50 g per sandwich, mainly because we buy our grated cheese in 100 g packages).
  5. Bake for 5 minutes.
  6. If you are making a croque madame, fry an egg (sunny-side up or over-easy). Place the egg on top of the sandwich when it finishes baking.
  7. Serve with fries or a salad.

#3 Assiette berger (Shepherd's plate)

This is a quick, simple, and hearty meal for those times when you just don't want to cook (for example, a night like tonight, after taking a five-hour hike in the Bois de Boulogne). Like the croque monsieur, there are hundreds of variations, so feel free to substitute. This recipe reflects a lunch I had at a bistro on the rue de Rome, across the street from the Gare St.-Lazare.


  • Hard-boiled egg
  • One wedge of cheese (Amy and I love Cantal for this, usually splitting a half-pound wedge between the two of us)
  • Prosciutto
  • Salad


  1. Artistically arrange the food on the plate.
  2. Eat cold. Ideally with a nice beer or wine.


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