I recently hosted a dinner party for four Franco-American couples living in Chalon-sur-Saone.  I wanted to get us all together to speak Franglais, our secret language. It's like pig latin only instead of inserting "ay" on the end of words, you randomly substitute French when you can't remember the English word, making the conversation impossible for bystanders to follow, and quite confusing for ourselves.

When we have French friends for dinner, I don't usually cook American cuisine, unless specifically requested.  I don't believe there is a culture in the world that is more proud of their cuisine than the French.  It makes them inordinatlely happy when I explain how much I love French cooking, and serve them chocolate mousse, beef burgundy or gougeres. The 2010 Unesco World Heritage Listing for the "gastronomic meal of the French," gives them ample grounds for gloating, and media coverage of that event did nothing to dislodge the French reputation for arrogance. I usually prefer to make them happy by serving my French friends what they prefer to eat: traditional French food.  Let's face it, the USA has a bad reputation for cuisine.

For this dinner however I wanted to make down-home American dishes for my American friends, but I also wanted to please the French guests, or at least not disappoint them too much. The intersection in tastes between these two groups is pretty narrow. It felt like I was planning a country line dancing demo for theTwyla Tharp Company.

In the end, I decided to let my inner kid go crazy with nostalgic appetizers and desserts from my Girl Scout days.  My brilliant French husband came up with the idea of Chicken Mole for the main course.  Simple, elegant and flavored with chocolate - chicken is the Coco Chanel little black dress of main courses.

I could not locate free range chicken wings so I improvised and we had fun making jokes about "buffalo balls".  The corn dog muffins made with poultry weiners were a big hit, but next time I will use more dog and less corn.  The mustard recipe was just right.

My friend Pascal Laville of Cellier Saint Vincent recommended a wonderful wine to accompany the Chicken Mole, a powerful southwestern wine from Cahors. Here is the perfect wine that went well with my Mexican entrée:

For dessert, I ripped a page from the August 2006 Fine Cooking magazine for an upscale "S'mores" dessert:  sort of a baked alaska of chocolate ice cream on a graham cracker base, topped with italian meringue 'marshmallow' broiled in the oven.  I used miniature animal cookie cutters to make animal crackers with half the graham cracker dough, and arranged them around the base of the giant S'more.  I don't have a large enough ice cream maker so I caved and used a good quality store bought chocolate ice cream.  On the top of the cake I made a 'campfire' of cinnamon sticks soaked in moonshine and lit them on fire when I brought it to the table.

There were cries of delight when I brought my "Faux-Oreos" cookies to the table at the end of the meal.

"Those look like Oreos…Oh my gosh, you made HOMEMADE OREOS?!"  

"Well, it  was kind of an accident actually."

"An accident? How do you make oreos by accident?  Like you were making chicken cacciatore and whoops, you end up with Oreos?"  This was Jason, who should be working the audience of an LA comedy club instead of teaching English to French university students. Pearls before swine.

So, Jason, here's how I accidentally made oreos:

I saw a recipe for homemade all natural thin mint Girl Scout cookies on Heidi Swanson's blog. (OMG I have got to make those for my dinner!) So I baked the chocolate wafers, which were fairly easy to roll out and bake.  Dipping them in chocolate, on the other hand, proved to be an absolute nightmare… 

My first mistake was leaving the dark chocolate and all-natural organic mint syrup in a double boiler over simmering water.  I only left the kitchen for a few mintues, but then I started chatting with my daughter on Facebook about her upcoming internship at a local veterinary clinic.  I had forgotten to send some insurance paperwork, so I took care of that and by the time I finished and remembered the chocolate melting on the double broiler -  well, you get the picture.  When I peeked in the pan, it looked okay at first, but then I stirred and it was a thermo-nuclear chain reaction, like when the Hulk turns green. The chocolate seized and formed into a giant grainy mass. The more I stirred, the more awful it got.

An hour and one 13x9 pan of mint-chocolate brownies later, I managed to melt some fresh chocolate and flavor it with mint. I began to dip.  Dip would be a misnomer, it was more like frosting, each cookie taking about 10 minutes to coat on all sides.  I did 24 of them, loooked at my watch and did some quick calculations.  At this rate I'd be frosting all night.  Maybe I could crush them and make an oreo cookie pie? Eureka!  Vanilla sandwich cookies. Foreos? Faux-Reos?

Here's the menu that my American friends loved and the French didn't hate:

Poultry "Corndog"  Mini muffins with ketchup & 'ballpark style' mustard

buffalo balls - free-range chicken meatballs with home made buffalo dipping sauce

Locally grown celery sticks and Bleu Cheese (Roquefort Cave des Abeilles) dip

Chicken Mole with Bernardaud chocolate (from The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook, Wise & Hoffman 1990)

Basmati rice

Avocado pumpkin seed guacamole (from The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook, Wise & Hoffman 1990)

Fresh Drome valley hothouse tomato salsa with locally grown leeks and chives (recipe below)

Giant S'mores chocolate ice cream cake on homemade graham cracker base, italian meringue marshmallow topping and animal graham crackers - based on Stephen Durfee's recipe in Fine Cooking Aug/Sept 1997

Caramel corn (my Mom's recipe below)

Thin Mints - homemade natural recipe from Heidi Swanson (who, like me, obviously has too much time on her hands!)

Faux-Oreos - filling recipe below, because chocolate dipping was taking too d---- long!

Buffalo balls - chicken meatball appetizers - serve with celery and roquefort dip

(buffalo sauce)

4 boneless chicken breasts, about 500 gr (1 1/4 lb)

1 egg

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 cup parsley

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 small onion an, diced and sautéed in 2 tsp duck fat

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

2 oz (60 gr) pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, finely grated

Chop the breasts in small squares, removing anything that doesn't look like meat (tendons etc) and place in food processor with all the other ingredients.  Pulse on low until the mixtures is uniform.  Use a teaspoon and a small plastic knife or spatula to form little meatballs, about 2 tsp in size.  Place on a baking sheet greased with duck fat or oil.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350 F / 180 C.  Turn the meatballs over and bake 15 more minutes.  They can be chilled or frozen at this point and reheated later.

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Leeks and Chives

6 tomatoes, finely diced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 Tbsp chopped chives

1 'baby leek', white part only, chopped fine

1/4 lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for an hour.

Homemade Faux-Reos Filling

2/3 cup lightly salted butter

seeds scraped from one vanilla been

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp Jack Daniels Whisky (or rum/other spirits)

2 or 3 tsp water, as needed

Caramel corn

4-5 cups plain popped popcorn (1/2 cup kernels popped in 2Tbsp corn oil)

1/2 tsp baking soda (set aside in small dish)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp corn syrup

1 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp butter

Place popcorn in a heat resistant bowl.  Have ready a heat-proof spatula and non-stick sheet pan or line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment.  In a small saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and butter.  Boil until the mixture turns a nice dark brown caramel color.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in baking soda so the caramel bubbles up.  Immediately pour it over the corn, stirring quickly to mix it and evenly coat the popcorn.  Spread the mixture in a thin layer over the cookie sheet.  Let cool and separate into small pieces.  Store in a tight closed tin.