Assiette de crudités


French vegetable plate

There are as many varieties of this dish as there are vegetables in the garden – and even more. A plate of crudités may include mounds of grated carrot, tomato rounds, green beans, beets, sliced potatoes, radishes, olives, chopped fennel, sliced celery, celery root in remoulade sauce, Belgian endive, raw mushrooms, cooked lentils, steamed leeks, steamed or raw cauliflower,  chopped green or red pepper, asparagus tips, peas, melon … whatever!

When you compose the plate, pay attention to color. In the same way that the French trim the trees in their formal gardens into geometrical shapes, they prepare this salad with an eye to aesthetics. The vegetables are not mixed together but set out prettily in little mounds, then dressed with a vinaigrette sauce. There is usually a boiled egg to brighten the plate. You’ll find this pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

Crudités is a dish for all seasons — and I try to keep it seasonal, i.e. I wouldn’t put a spring vegetable like asparagus on a crudités plate in the autumn. The recipe below is one version of a winter vegetable plate. Don’t hesitate to improvise and create your own.

1 large carrot
1 cooked beet
2 small potatoes

1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
2 handfuls lamb’s lettuce or arugula
1 egg
fresh herbs, finely snipped: parsley, cilantro, dill, chives or basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. mustard vinaigrette or lemon-olive oil sauce

Prepare the vegetables: Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the beet, mix with the minced garlic. Peel the potatoes, boil or steam until just tender, slice into rounds. Wash the lamb’s lettuce or arugula and spin dry.

Place the egg in a pot of cold water over high heat. From the moment the water boils cook exactly 5 minutes, then drain and cover the egg with cold water. Repeat. Let the egg rest a few minutes. Peel and slice in half.

Place small mounds of each vegetable on individual plates, with the egg halves in the middle. Season with salt, pepper and vinaigrette. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Serves 2.

You can make your assiettes de crudités as simple or elaborate as you like. Using just 2 veggies is fine — simple bistros often do it this way. On the other hand, on special occasions you may want to create a beautiful megaplate with 6 or 8 different elements.

When in a hurry, I sometimes don’t bother to make a vinaigrette but just spritz the veggies with lemon juice, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and pour on a fine stream of olive oil from a small beaker. Not quite as elegant, but just as tasty.

* Chosen by FrenchEntré to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

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8 Responses to Assiette de crudités

  1. Lisa says:

    I love this!!! I will feature it in a kids’ cooking class at the Brattleboro Food Coop. Such a great way to include kids in the kitchen as the holidays approach.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Thank you for presenting the true French crudites appetizer. Apparently the Americanized version is quite different. I am writing my memoirs about living in Paris in 1973 in 1974. I also traveled quite a bit with a friend on his motorcycle through the countryside. This was a very common appetizer, no matter what part of France we explored. Merci!

    • Meg says:

      Kathryn, thank you for this delightful note! I would love to read your memoir when it’s completed. I’m sure it would spark many memories, as I arrived in Paris myself in 1974 (and basically never left). Things were very different then, but happily the assiette de crudités still appears on bistro menus. It is one of my favorites to this day. Cheers, Meg

  3. I remember when crudités was the only starter in most bistros..
    Which dates me back to Detective Jean Gabin probably,but it was the best and simple.
    Thanks for this

    • Meg says:

      You’re welcome! Assiette de crudités was then, and remains, one of my favorite bistro starters. The problem these days is that it’s getting harder and harder to find a proper crudités plate, with Paris bistros serving imports like Caesar salad or mozzarella and tomatoes instead. I still prefer the real thing.

  4. ben says:

    thank you for this wonderful article. crudites here in the US just means a couple of dried out carrot sticks and celery. this sounds like a dream!

    • Meg says:

      Thanks, Ben. Yes, crudités French style is a great dish that used to be served in every bistro in Paris but is now rarely seen in its original glory. So the best plan is to make it at home. Happy cooking!

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