Host a French Dinner Party with This Sophisticated Menu and Tablescape

green, gold and white porcelain plate
Photo: Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Dine at designer Timothy Corrigan's French château.

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Elevated Menu

timothy corrigan dining table
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

When Los Angeles-based designer Timothy Corrigan bought his French château in 2004, he knew two things from the get-go: First, a complete restoration was in order. Second, the home would be a gathering spot for a wide variety of celebrations with friends and family, not a museum setting that lacked personality. In his new book, An Invitation to Château du Grand-Lucé, Timothy captures an array of dining situations, from casual outdoor luncheons and Christmas cocktails to notable formal dinners in the dining room.

"There is something extra-special about a formal dinner because there is an elevated level of attention, not only from the host but from the guests as well," says Timothy. "Conversations are at their best, and guests make the effort to dress elegantly."

Backed by stately original 18th-century paneling, a Louis XVI sideboard, and a gilded English mirror, Timothy's dining table shines, subtly establishing a regal ambiance. Atop white linen placemats embroidered with pomegranates, the designer placed selections from his inventory of luxurious tableware, including green Limoges dinner plates with gold embellishments, lion's-head soup bowls, and cut-crystal stemware. Votive candles—randomly placed throughout the centerpiece of greenery, oranges, pomegranates, and silver Jordan almonds—provide elegant light.

"When people travel to France, they visit châteaux with a 'Don't Touch' policy," says Timothy. "I want my guests to experience my entire property and really live there."

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Green, Gold, and Glass

green, gold and white porcelain plate
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Limoges porcelain dinner plates edged with green and gold bands mix with "Bernadotte" crystal stemware from Villeroy & Boch. Embroidered with pomegranates, linens designed for Timothy Corrigan Home represent good fortune.

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Ultimate Organizer

walnut seating chart
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

In England, seating charts are popularly used by hosts to assist with the placement of guests around a table. Timothy prepares for dinner parties in the same manner, assigning his guests to specific spots on a walnut chart, the gift of a grateful visiting diner.

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Beautiful Bounty

greenery, pomegranates, oranges, artichokes and almonds
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Greenery, pomegranates, oranges, artichokes, and silver almonds fashion a centerpiece that nods to the abundance that guests have in their lives. "Being grateful shouldn't be reserved only for Thanksgiving time," Timothy says.

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Elegant and Grand

ivory placecards
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

As an elegant remembrance of the dinner party, ivory place cards are graced by a refined architectural drawing of the château's grand presence. Below the drawing, each card is handsomely printed with a dinner guest's name.

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Wine Notes

bordeaux blend wine
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

A Bordeaux blend, typically a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, is characterized by dark fruit and berry flavors and a firm structure. This complex wine makes an admirable companion to rich braised short ribs.

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Homeowner Portrait

los angeles designer timothy corrigan
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Los Angeles designer Timothy Corrigan is pictured here in his Loire Valley château.

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Cocktail Nouveau

cocktail nouveau
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 ounce Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Kina L'Avion d'Or aperitif or Lillet Blanc
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange twist or brandied cherry

In cocktail shaker combine bourbon, orange juice, vermouth, and Kina L'Avion d'Or. Add ice cubes. Cover; shake until very cold. Strain liquid into double old-fashioned glass or chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange twist or brandied cherry. Makes 1 cocktail.

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French Onion Soup

french onion soup
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Enjoy this classic French onion soup as a main course for lunch on a chilly day.

* 1/4 cup butter
* 6 to 8 medium-size onions, halved and thinly cut lengthwise (about 6
* 4 garlic cloves, smashed
* 3 cups chicken stock or broth
* 3 cups beef stock or broth
* 3/4 cup dry white wine
* 1/4 cup dry sherry
* 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
* 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
* 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
* Salt and ground black pepper
* 6 sourdough bread slices cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
* 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
* 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
* Shredded Gruyère and/or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In 4-to 5-quart stockpot or Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, uncovered, until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes,* stirring occasionally. Carefully add broths, wine, sherry, red wine vinegar, thyme, and mustard. Bring just to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.**

When ready to serve, preheat oven to broil. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Broil 3 inches from heat 1 to 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Sprinkle bread slices with 1/2 cup Gruyère and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Return to boiler; broil about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Divide soup among 6 crocks or bowls. If desired, sprinkle with additional Gruyère and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; add bread slice to each. Makes 6 servings.

* If you don't have this long to cook onions, cover and cook them about 10 minutes. Remove cover; continue to cook until golden.

** May be prepared one day before serving. Reheat before toasting bread.

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Pear and Walnut Salad

pear and walnut salad
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt


  • 4 cups mâche lettuce or butterhead lettuce, torn
  • 2 cups hydroponic watercress, torn
  • 2 Belgian endives, sliced lengthwise
  • 3 ripe red pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds*
  • 4 to 6 ounces Comté cheese, cut into 8 small wedges
  • 1/4 cup walnut vinaigrette
  • Cracked black pepper

Walnut Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup sherry or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For salad, in large bowl, place mâche, watercress, and Belgian endive leaves. Toss. Arrange salad on 6 individual plates. Surround with pears, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and Comté cheese slices. Drizzle 1/4 cup Walnut Vinaigrette over salad. Sprinkle with black pepper. Pass additional dressing, if desired. Serve immediately. Store any remaining dressing in refrigerator up to a week. Makes 6 servings.

For Walnut Vinaigrette, in small bowl whisk together vinegar, salt, and mustard. Slowly add walnut oil, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before using. Makes 3/4 cup.

*To remove pomegranate seeds, cut pomegranate in half through skin. Break fruit into sections. Place sections in bowl of ice water; separate the seeds from membrane. Discard membrane. Drain seeds. Place seeds in storage container. Store in refrigerator up to one week, or freeze up to a month.

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Burgundy-Braised Short Ribs with Cipollini Onions

burgundy-braised short ribs
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Short Ribs

  • 4-1/2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups dry red wine (such as burgundy)
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock or broth
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cipollini Onions

  • 1 pound cipollini onions or frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Short Ribs: Preheat oven to 350°F. In 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven, brown short ribs on all sides in hot oil. Remove ribs and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons drippings in Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to drippings. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add wine, stock, mustard, thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper.

Return ribs to pan. Bring to boil; cover. Bake 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until ribs are very tender. Remove short ribs from Dutch oven. Skim
fat from cooking liquid. Bring liquid to boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to approximately 3 cups. Strain cooking liquid through fine mesh sieve; discard solids. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Return ribs to pan; heat through. Garnish with Cipollini Onions. Makes 6 servings.

To make Cipollini Onions, clean and peel cipollini. In very large skillet, cook onions in hot oil over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Once tender, serve immediately.

Whipped New Potatoes with Crispy Leeks

  • 1-1/2 pounds tiny yellow new potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk, half-and-half, or light cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • Salt and ground white pepper
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leeks (4 to 5 large
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

In medium saucepan cook potatoes in lightly salted boiling water, covered, about 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Mash slightly with potato masher.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine milk and butter. Heat over medium heat until butter is melted, and mixture is steaming.
Gradually add hot milk mixture to potatoes, beating with wooden spoon until just combined. Season to taste with salt and ground white pepper. Cover and keep warm.

In large skillet, cook leeks, half at a time, in hot oil over medium-high heat 5 to 10 minutes or until browned and crisp. Remove leeks with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. To serve, top mashed potatoes with crispy leeks. Makes 6 servings.

Braised Heirloom Carrots and Peas

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds heirloom yellow and orange carrots, peeled if desired
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh thyme or parsley

Cut any large carrots in half, lengthwise. In very large skillet bring water, butter, and honey to boil over high heat. Add carrots. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; simmer 2 to 3 minutes more or until carrots are tender and liquid has almost evaporated. Add peas; simmer 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh thyme or parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

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Oeufs à la Neige (Floating Islands)

oeufs a la neige
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Crème Anglaise:

  • 6 egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for Meringue*)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups milk, half-and-half, or light cream, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla

Spun Sugar:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light-color corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • 4 egg whites
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

Crème Anglaise

In top bowl of double boiler combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Beat with electric mixer on high speed 3 minutes or until fluffy and pale yellow. Slowly whisk in hot milk or cream. Place over gently boiling water (upper pan should not touch water). Cook and stir until mixture just coats metal spoon.

Remove from heat; stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla. Transfer to small bowl. Cover surface of cream with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Spun Sugar

Meanwhile, line baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat paper with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In medium saucepan combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons corn syrup and 3 tablespoons water. Cook and stir over medium high heat until mixture boils. Attach candy thermometer to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium. Continue boiling at steady rate until thermometer registers 310°F (about 8 minutes). Remove saucepan from heat; cool 5 minutes or until mixture has reached the consistency of honey.

Drizzle mixture on prepared baking sheet in crisscross pattern. Let stand until completely cool. Break into shards.


Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line another baking sheet with parchment. Coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In large bowl beat egg whites, 1 teaspoon vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Add superfine granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Spoon 6 mounds onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until tips of meringue are golden.

To serve:

Spoon crème anglaise onto dessert plate or shallow dish. Top with meringue. Garnish with fresh raspberries and shards of spun sugar. Makes 6 servings.

*Cover and refrigerate egg whites until ready to prepare Meringue recipe.

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Fleur-de-Lis Cookies

fleur-de-lis cookies
Eric Plasecki and Peter Krumhardt

Packaged in gold boxes and ribbon trim to coordinate with dinner plates, fleur-de-lis-shaped sugar cookies make lovely gifts for guests.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Coarse white decorating sugar
  • Purchased vanilla frosting

Preheat oven to 375°F. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough into 3/4 and 1/4 portions.

On lightly floured surface, roll 3/4 of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use 4-inch Fleur-de-Lis cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Roll remaining 1/4 portion dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use 1-1/2 inch Fleur-de-Lis cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle cookies with decorating sugar.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm and lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. When cookies have cooled, attach smaller cookie to larger with dab of frosting. Package as gift, if desired. Makes about 21 gift cookies (you will have about 24 additional smaller cookies).

To store, layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month.

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