We have a love affair with France’s creamy and crumbly cheeses, crusty baguettes with their soft centers, and swoon-worthy fragrant sauces, not to mention their many stunning desserts, from the complicated to the delightfully casual (clafoutis, we’re looking at you). So we hardly need another reason to make some tantalizing French food, but come July 14, we have one: France’s Independence Day celebration, Bastille Day. Also known as Le Quatorze Juillet (the 14th of July) and La Fête Nationale (the national celebration) in Francophone countries, this day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, and is a great excuse to pack up a French-inspired picnic. (It also happens to be Grand Marnier Day, in case you want to make an orange-accented cocktail to bring along.)
There are plenty of French dishes you could make to honor the holiday (Salmon en Croûte, Chocolate Soufflé, and Potato-Leek Soup to name a few), but since it’s summer, here are some lighter, travel- (and heat-) friendly dishes ideal for dining in le parc.
Haricot verts are such a tender, delicate-tasting variety of the green beans you see flooding the farmers markets in the summer. Toss them with a top shelf Dijon, shallots, garlic, and capers, and you’ve got a sophisticated side dish for a French picnic. Get our French Green Bean Salad recipe.
A halved sweet baguette spread with fresh fig jam, topped with salty ham and creamy Camembert cheese, and garnished with spicy arugula is a perfectly balanced sandwich for any day, but it’s especially fitting for Bastille Day. Get our Ham and Camembert Baguette Sandwich recipe.
Duxelles spread on top of crostini make a perfect picnic snack that’s simple and packed with umami earthiness of the French countryside. There’s not much to it, but make sure you don’t over-blend. Little chunks are good, and don’t forget to top it with slices of your favorite French cheese. Get our Duxelles recipe.
To add a little variety to your spread, include a healthy fish sandwich in the mix. Inspired by the classic French salad, this one has caper mayonnaise serving as a briny base that pairs traditional niçoise ingredients such as olives, red onion, and hard-cooked eggs with ahi tuna fillets. If you’re a vegetarian, no problem. Thanks to the addition of protein-rich eggs, this dish is hearty enough without the tuna. Get our Salade Niçoise Sandwich recipe.
Tangy, crunch carrot slaw would be a simple French side dish for all that bread and cheese. A good country-style Dijon, chives, parsley, orange zest provide complexity to the shaved carrots. Get our Carrot Slaw recipe.
Make a quick bread and savor the slices dotted with ham and olives as you sprawl out on the blanket at the park. Simplicity is sweet. Get our French Ham and Cheese Quick Bread recipe.
Little jars of carrot custard topped with lentils, zucchini, leeks, and chèvre are a mini meal on their own, and an impressive dish to serve at brunch, or of course, on a picnic. Get our French Lentil Terrine with Savory Carrot Custard recipe.
End your picnic on a sweet note with colorful white chocolate macarons. Even though these are one of the more difficult French pastries to master, Bastille Day is just the reason you need to push your baking boundaries. Bon appétit! Get our French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache recipe.
Or, if that’s too daunting, make these easy pots de crème—individual servings of rich chocolate pudding, basically. As long as you wrap them well so they’re totally water-tight and don’t jostle your cooler too much, you can tote them along anywhere. Get our Chocolate Pots de Crème recipe.
Related Video: 3 Underrated French Cheeses to Eat on Bastille Day
Photos by Chris Rochelle