France is not just about the breathtaking locales and the Eiffel tower, but also makes a special mark when it comes to presenting mouthwatering dishes. French cuisine bears the influence of foods of several other surrounding locations including Spain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The country has shown versatility in its culinary presentation as vegetables, meat, seafood, herbs, and a whole lot of aromatic spices find a special place in most of its dishes. Each season has a specialty food to offer like salads for summer, shellfish for spring, soups for winter, and so on.
This one is a delicious soup made with caramelized onion and meat stock. The unique part is the gratin technique followed in its preparation, which involves adding croutons (baked or sautéed bread pieces) on top. The platter is covered with a generous coating of cheese before being put into the oven.
The dish has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages though its popularity peaked in the 1960s, particularly in the United States when the demand for French cuisine was on the rise. A sought-after item in most French restaurants, soupe à l’oignon is mostly eaten as a starter, though one can even have it as a wholesome meal. The beef’s richness and the soft, sweet taste of caramelized onion, teamed with the bread topping’s crispiness, makes its flavor a delicious and comforting one.
Coq au vin translating to ‘rooster with wine’ sums up the contents of this dish. Though a rooster would be a perfect pick for this dish since it is the best for braising, chicken may serve as a perfect substitute. The meat pieces are chopped into sections and then braised with red wine alongside other ingredients like thyme, parsley, carrot, onion, mushroom, pepper, salt, and bay leaves. Slow cooking the ingredients helps the meat attain a soft texture. Adding flour or even the chicken’s blood to the gravy thickens its texture.
According to many, this dish might have originated during Julius Caesar’s reign. However, it was documented and known to people, not before the 20th century. American author and cooking teacher Julia Child included it in her cookbook and made it one of her signature dishes.
This mouthwatering platter has a complex taste, with the herbs’ aroma, tanginess of the red wine, and richness of the chicken forming a perfect fusion. Team this flavorful dish with buttery mashed potatoes or noodles.
Cassoulet is a meat and bean dish, named after the round, earthen pot, or casserole used to prepare it. There is a tussle between the three cities regarding its place of origin. It is said to have its roots in Castlenaudary, but Carcassonne and Toulouse also claim its origination.
The dish also has three unique versions, with the first one having pork and beans as the prime ingredients. The second one, named Cassoulet de Carcassone, has mutton, quail, lamb, or partridge besides the beans. The third version, called Tolousain has geese or duck to complement the beans. The richness of the meat, alongside the sweet earthy flavor of wine, makes it a perfect comfort food mostly relished in the chilling winters. A glass of full-bodied red wine teamed with it would for sure provide one utmost pleasure.
Beef bourguignon or beef burgundy is a delicious stew having red wine as its main ingredient alongside the beef. Other components include onion, carrot, garlic, potato thyme, and mushroom, which further intensify this dish’s flavor. Some versions even have dried orange peel strips to enhance its deliciousness further. Every bite of it would melt in your mouth at an instant, all because of the soft, tender texture of meat attained by simmering the dish for a long duration. The sweet-tart taste of wine combined with the richness of the various ingredients that go into its preparation gives this dish a unique flavor.
A specialty of northern France’s Picardy, flamiche is a tasty pie having chopped leeks and butter as its ingredients. Its origination dates back to the latter part of the 18th century when the dish’s details were documented in a French soldier’s notebook. Besides leeks and butter, present versions also have several other fillings, including bacon, cheese, nutmeg, and vegetables. It is closely similar to pizza in its presentation, having a mildly sweet and buttery taste. The flavor, however, alters as per the ingredients. The addition of meat gives it a rich and luxurious taste.
This dish’s star is duck, as evident in the name, roasted and then seasoned with pepper, salt, herbs, and spices like bay leaf, thyme, shallot, and garlic. It is typical of Gascony, a southwest France province where a whole duck is cut into pieces and used in making this dish. Traditionally the duck is cooked in a pot, preferably copper ones, for up to 24 hours to help the fat get absorbed into the meat giving it a thick texture.
Confit is a French verb meaning to preserve, and that is what many do to this dish. The steaming hot meat and the fat are stored in jars and even refrigerated for about a month. This rich, salty and savory dish does not need any sauce as an accompaniment, though one could serve it with a lentil or bean stew.
Salad nicoise originating in France’s Nice city is a colorful salad, comprising several vegetables like beans, black olives, anchovies, and potatoes. Seasonings of basil, garlic, and olive oil, and a drizzle of lemon juice makes it all the more flavorful. Besides the veggies, hardboiled eggs and potatoes are also a part of the dish, with canned tuna sometimes substituting the anchovies.
Ratatouille, also originating in the Nice region, is a stewed vegetable platter having garlic, tomato, zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, and onion as its main ingredients. The addition of herbs and spices like basil, thyme, and bay leaves gives it an added aroma. The overall taste is a complex one—the richness of eggplant, sweet-bitter flavor of zucchini, alongside an acidic touch with tinges of tartness. Slow cooking ratatouille would help it attain a smooth and creamy texture. Many team it with brown rice, bread, or pasta for a sumptuous meal.
Foie gras is a meat dish prepared from the liver of a duck or geese. However, this dish has come under the scanner because of the force-feeding process involved in its preparation. The geese or ducks are forced-fed to get plump and produce a buttery fat when cut. The livers are melted with their juice and sprinkled with salt. It has a rich and buttery flavor with a pinkish color mostly teamed with bread slice or baguette. Foie gras goes into the making of rolls, steaks, pasta, mousses, or parfaits.
Several countries, including Australia, India, and certain EU countries, have imposed a ban on this dish.
Gratin dauphinois made by baking thinly sliced potatoes in cream or milk traditionally emerged as a peasant’s dish in southeastern France’s Dauphine region. The gratin technique used in its cooking gives the platter a crusty appearance when baked, adding to its USP. One could eat it as a main dish teamed with salad or even as an accompaniment with a fish or meat curries. A cheesy, buttery delight, its taste alters according to the potato that goes into its preparation. For instance, Charlotte makes it soft and sweet, while Monalisa gives it a crispy, crusty touch.
Tartiflette from the French Alps’s Savoy region is a cheesy potato delight also having lardon (bacon cube), onion, white wine, and cream as its other ingredients. Invented during the 1980s, this dish’s popularity spread to other parts of the world, particularly Italy and Switzerland. It is served hot, teamed with a green salad and white wine.
A fish stew originating during the 18th century evolved when the fishermen of Marseillaise made something similar to it with whatever remained in their net at the end of the day. It eventually became one of the priciest seafood dishes making its way into every plush restaurant in the seaport cities. Blended with white wine, this platter comes in two distinct courses. The soup is teamed with rouille (an olive-breadcrumb-garlic sauce) and bread, while the fish is separately served.
Quenelle is a lip-smacking dumpling filled with vegetables, poultry, meat, or fish teamed with breadcrumbs, cream, flour, and eggs. Oval in shape, this delicious dumpling is poached in stock or water. Presently quenelle is also referred to dumpling-like ice cream, sorbet, or mashed potatoes. The assortment of all the ingredients would create a cheesy, spicy, juicy fire in your mouth.
A delicious French Pie, quiche comprises a pastry crust stuffed with many things like egg, cheese, vegetables, seafood, mushroom, and leek. Served in slices, one can eat it hot or cold. Of the several quiche varieties, quiche Lorraine made with bacon is the most popular. The other quiche types include quiche Provencale and quiche Florentine. The first bite would give an impression of a fluffy, crusty savory. As you chew more, you would get the feel of a spicy, eggy, meaty snack, with the taste altering as per the ingredients.
The country’s love for snails is not unknown, and this dish is a perfect example of the same. This cooked snail platter mostly goes as an ideal appetizer. The snails are first killed, and then the shells are removed. They are cooked with wine or chicken stock, and garlic butter for an added flavor, while thyme, parsley, pine nuts, and garlic go as extra seasonings.
When serving, the cooked snails are placed back in the shells and teamed with sauce, and butter. The soft texture and woody flavor of the snail, when combined with an aromatic, buttery finish, would surely create a sensation in your mouth.
Pain perdu or French toast is a popular breakfast dish. The preparation involves dipping sliced bread in a mixture of beaten eggs and milk and then frying it till it attains a crispy golden color. You can eat it as a savory or sweet dish, depending on the ingredients.
The addition of salt and pepper makes it a spicy snack often teamed with ketchup or mayonnaise. On the other hand, sugar, cinnamon, or vanilla added to the milk and egg batter converts it to a sweet platter. Traditionally, stale bread ready to make its way to the bin went into its preparation. Its French name, pain perdu, justifies this notion that stands for stale or lost bread in the local language.
French toast has become a global sensation, known by a host of different names like Bombay toast, German toast, and gypsy toast. Besides the tinge of crispiness and creaminess that dominate the dish, the taste varies as per the ingredients.
Croque monsieur is a ham-and-cheese sandwich famous as finger food in most French bars and cafes. It first made its appearance in a Paris café in 1910, though many claimed its invention as accidental. In fact, French workers had mistakenly kept their sandwich near a radiator only to find the cheese filling within to have melted upon their return.
A traditional croquet monsieur has boiled or baked ham and cheese slices inside the bread with toppings of grated cheese, salt, and pepper. Baking the bread in an oven or frying it would help it attain a brownish, crusty texture.
The dish has several versions, such as croque madame served with a topping of poached or fried egg. Croque mademoiselle is the vegetarian version with cucumber and chives alongside the cheese, filled in the bread.
Bisque is a smooth and creamy seafood soup made with shrimp, crayfish, lobster, or crab. The addition of wine used for simmering the soup alongside spices makes its taste all the more appealing. The soup’s name has evoked a lot of debate as some feel it originated in the Bay of Biscay. As per another section, the name justifies the cooking method of the soup. Bis cuties mean twice-cooked, adhering to the soup’s traditional preparation process, made by sautéing the shellfish first and then simmering them in wine for an added flavor.
Of all the varieties, lobster bisque is the most popular. Each bite of it creates a buttery, meaty, and sweet sensation in your mouth.
The name might appear a jargon, but the dish is not. It is your very own French fries, with potato being the star ingredient. Deep-frying freshly cut thick potato strips till they attain a golden-brown color result in these soft, crispy fries. They can be teamed with spicy dips, tomato sauce, or mayonnaise that varies from one region to the other. Many controversies exist of its place of origin, as the Belgians credit themselves behind the discovery of French fries, while France has a different story to tell. The dish has several variants like poutine comprising French fries with cheese toppings.
Tapenade is a delicious condiment prepared by chopping and crushing black olives, capers, and anchovies and seasoning the mixture in olive oil to prepare a fine paste. Besides the essential ingredients, the paste also has additional ones like herbs, garlic, brandy, or lemon juice. Southern France’s popular food, it is used as a bread spread or even as a dip to eat with breadsticks, vegetables, or crackers. It mostly has a sweet, buttery taste, with tinges of tartness because of the lemon juice, and an aromatic fusion due to the several herbs.
French immigrants have been instrumental in introducing meat pies to Canada, and this dish bears testimony of the same. Tourtiere, originating in Canada’s Quebec, is one of the many Canadian-French dishes mostly eaten during the Christmas-New Year span.
Besides minced beef or pork, the other ingredients include mashed potatoes, vegetables, herbs, and spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It has a spicy, meaty flavor, alongside an aromatic tinge because of the herbs involved in its preparation. Sides of cranberry sauce, pickled sauce, or sweet and sour dip would perfectly blend with this savory dish.
This one is a clear soup having clarified stock as its main ingredient. A lot of time and energy goes into its preparation, mostly serving as a delightful appetizer on several formal occasions. Mild garnishes of egg yolk and vegetables are added on top so that they do not overpower the soup’s delicate flavor. It even forms the base of several other soups like French onion soup and consommé brunoise.
A beefsteak covered in a coating of crushed peppercorns and then cooked, is all that this lip-smacking dish is about. It mostly teams with a spicy sauce made on the same pan as the steak, with sides of potatoes and salads going as accompaniments. The pepper corn’s spicy aroma, blended with the savory, buttery taste of beef, takes its taste to another level.
France’s popular finger food, canapé, comprises a cracker or bread with several savory foods like sausage, cheese, seafood, or olives sitting on top of it. Its name alludes to its presentation as canapé in French translates to a sofa. The bits of food on top of the bread resemble people relaxing on couches. Canopies served hot or cold, mostly at parties or special occasions, have a varying flavor from sweet to spicy, depending on the ingredients.
A specialty of France’s Nice region, Socca is a famous street food made from chickpea flour, pepper, salt, and olive oil. The batter is fried on a pan or skillet at a high temperature and then baked till it hardens with the edges getting a little burnt.
Socca is cut into pieces and seasoned with pepper salt and a dash of olive oil. Mostly an appetizer, sides of cheese, olives, and a glass of wine serve as great accompaniments. When you take the first bite, you will come across a crispy, nutty, savory platter, while as you go into the depth, the earthy flavors get more prominent.
In Moules farcies, the mussels are stuffed and then either baked or grilled. The other ingredients include parmesan cheese, black pepper, parsley, nutmeg, and butter.
Daube, a tasty stew of France’s Provence, is made by simmering beef or lamb in wine, alongside adding vegetables and seasonings of cloves, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Its preparation is time-consuming as the meat remains at the bottom and the vegetables and spices on top. Its name stems from daubiere, a vessel used to make this dish, which helped prevent the liquid from evaporating.
Paté de Pâques of West Central France’s Poitou is made by encasing ground pork and beef alongside hardboiled eggs within a pastry. It is baked, sliced, and then served hot or cold with salad or pickle. This serves as a tasty platter for Eastern dinner, eaten as a starter. The meaty delight would have touches of spiciness when eaten with hot sauces.
Pot-au-feu is a meat-vegetable stew dish traditionally eaten in winter by peasants. In French, the dish’s name translates to pot on fire that justifies its preparation in the olden times. Meat and vegetables like carrots, onion, leeks, and potatoes were taken together and boiled in the open fire. The outcome was a savory stew. Since it has a long cooking time, the result is a soft meaty soup with aromatic essence.
Gougere is a tasty cheese puff mostly served cold with wine or champagne, or even warm when eaten as an appetizer. The dish’s invention dates back to the 17th century in the French town Burgundy. Though gougere has a cheesy, savory flavor, there is also a sweet version filled with fruit jams.
Aligot made from melted cheese, mashed potato, crushed garlic, and cream is a fondue-like dish with a creamy, velvety texture. Popular in southern France’s L’Aubrac region, many eat it as a dip with roasted meat or sausages.
Terrine is a meatloaf prepared by marinating the meat in wine and herbs and then leaving it to cool until the dish attains a jelly-like texture. It gets its name from the earthenware vessel, named terrine used in its preparation. The choices of meat used include pork, boar, goose, or duck. Modern-day terrine is not always made with meat but substituted with mushrooms and fruits. Initially a poor man’s dish, it has made its way into most upscale restaurants’ menu cards in recent times.
This is another unique breakfast dish, alternately known as eggs in a pot, justifying its serving method. Cocotte refers to the baking vessels as well as the baking technique involved in making this dish. Toppings of cheese, cream, fresh herbs, and bacon intensifies its taste more.
Jambon beurre is a ham sandwich made by filling a baguette (thin loaf of French bread) with ham and butter. Sold like hotcakes, France recorded a sale of over a billion jambon beurre in 2013.
Besides the ones that made it to the list above, there are yet more. Not to forget, the aromatic Berchamel sauce (white roux –milk combination) and many other delicious platters. Besides the foods, France also stands out for its fabulous desserts and beverages that you ought not to miss on your next visit to the country.
Best French Fast Food: Socca, Escargot, Terrine
Best French Street Food: Socca, Jambon Beurre , Pommes Frittes
Best French Breakfast Foods: Oeufs cocotte, Pain Perdu, Jambon Beurre
Best French Appetizers/Finger Foods: Canape, Escargot, Consomme
Best French Christmas Food: Tourtiere, Escargit, Foie Gras
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