It will not be a secret to anyone that French cuisine is one of the most popular in the world. It is renowned for its unusual combination of flavors, abundance of ingredients and special preparation methods. Legends are made about the skill of French chefs.
Features of the national French cuisine
All French cuisine can be divided into 3 styles:
- Cuisine de terroir (regional) is more rustic. This culinary style places particular emphasis on local produce and cooking traditions.
- Cuisine bourgeoise (classic) – includes dishes that use creamy sauces.
- Haute cuisine (restaurant) – offers elegant and sophisticated food. The recipes use expensive and unusual ingredients. Much attention is paid to the presentation of the dish.
French cuisine is considered one of the finest in the world.
Each region of France has its own peculiarities of food preparation. In Mediterranean cuisine, dishes are cooked in olive oil, tomatoes and herbs. In the northwest, they prefer butter, sour cream and apples, and in the northeast, beer and sauerkraut. Southerners actively use fresh vegetables and fruits.
Another distinctive feature of French cuisine is the special presentation of even simple dishes.
The French pay attention not only to the taste of food, but also to its appearance.
Meat is often the key ingredient. There are many recipes that use beef, pork, poultry, and game meat.
Wine and cheese are a standard accompaniment to a French meal. Wine in France is inexpensive. Also, it is not reserved for special occasions like in other countries. Regular varieties are served with everyday meals. The French make sure that the style of the drink matches the style of the food.
Vegetables are carefully selected. They should be ripe and fresh. The French often use them to make side dishes.
Popular cooking methods
France is famous for its cooking methods, many of which have been borrowed from other cuisines in the world:
- Mise en place, which means “everything in its place” in French, is the main concept of French cuisine. Its essence lies in the preparation of the room before cooking: spices are at hand, ingredients are cut and portioned, and the necessary tools for the entire upcoming process are within reach.
- Knife work – Some French recipes require specific knife work. The vegetables are cut into thin strips or small cubes, and the herbs are torn by hand.
- Sautéing (translates to “jump”) is a cooking method in which plant foods are quickly fried in a pan over medium to high heat using a little olive oil or butter.
- En papillote (translated means “in paper”) – the essence of this method is that fish, chicken breast or vegetables are baked in parchment paper or aluminum foil. This will bring the food to the desired texture and degree of doneness.
- Flambing is a culinary cooking technique. This method is mainly used for desserts. Before serving, the dish is doused with alcohol and set on fire. As a result, the spicy taste of alcohol is passed on to the food.
History of formation and development
The French did not always use garlic, mushrooms and truffles in their dishes. Until the XV century. spoiled food was masked with seasonings and decorations. All over the country, dishes were prepared that today belong to such a style as Cuisine de terroi. It was a simple meal with no extravagant decorations or cooking techniques.
In the middle of the XVI century. Catherine de ‘Medici moved from Italy to France to marry the future King Henry II of Valois. She took Florentine chefs and cooks with her. In the years that followed, French cuisine evolved into a magical art of beautiful presentation and innovative flavors.
XX century led to changes in the gastronomy of France. The traditional haute cuisine has appeared – it is a popular food famous for its complex preparation and unusual presentation. But the style was soon criticized for being too inflexible.
The new bourgeoise cuisine was a 1970s response to haute cuisine. It was distinguished by the use of fewer ingredients in the preparation of dishes and more creamy sauce. These features are also manifested in modern general French cuisine.
French cuisine traditions
The French cook their food exclusively from fresh ingredients. They believe that due to this, after heat treatment, food retains most of the nutrients.
Dairy and fermented milk products are practically not used in food preparation. An exception is cheese. It is added to hot and cold dishes, used as an appetizer or even a dessert.
The French love to add alcohol while cooking. Basically, these are different varieties of wine and cognac. Thanks to this cooking technique, piquant flavoring notes appear in dishes.
France is considered the birthplace of sauces. In this country, they are served with almost every meal in order to enhance the taste of the dishes.
What national dishes to try
French national dishes have become very popular. Today they are served in cafes and restaurants around the world.
French cuisine is popular all over the world.
Despite the fact that French onion soup originated as a peasant dish, today it is considered one of the most valuable ingredients of French cuisine. A dish is prepared from caramelized onions in vegetable or meat broth. At the end of the process, it is sprinkled with grated cheese. Traditionally, onion soup is served with croutons in the pot in which it was cooked.
The croissant was first made in 1683. Austrian chefs made crescent-shaped buns to celebrate the victory over the Ottoman Empire.
However, the croissant became French the moment people started making it from puff pastry. Today, tender, airy bagels are filled with chocolate, jam, raisins or even cream cheese and served as breakfast.
Rooster in wine
This quintessential French cuisine was popularized by Julia Child as one of her signature dishes.
The dish is a rooster stew with wine, mushrooms, salted pork or bacon, onions, garlic and sometimes even a drop of brandy. Wine is taken from Burgundy, although local varieties are used in regional variations of this dish.
This colorful Provencal vegetable stew is traditionally made with simple, affordable ingredients: courgettes, eggplant, green and red peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and parsley. The name “ratatouille” comes from the old Occitan word ratatolha and the French touiller: to throw and to interfere.
All ingredients are laid out in overlapping layers, seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, and then baked.
Ratatouille is served both hot and cold as a side dish for meat fried in a pan or grill. A slice of homemade fried garlic bread is a great addition to this dish.
Ratatouille and Nicoise salad are French dishes that are cooked all over the world.
The traditional Nicoise salad is a real national treasure. It was named after the Nice resort.
The salad can be served as a main course, but it is more often used as a side dish to various meat or fish treats. It is prepared from fresh tomatoes, anchovies, olives, capers, beans and lemon juice. The dressing is often the traditional Provencal seasoning of olive oil, garlic and basil.
A real Nicoise should always be made from the freshest raw vegetables.
Tarte Tatin – French pie with apples, caramelized in sugar and butter. This dessert is named after the Taten twin sisters, the owners of the hotel, who invented the recipe in the early 1900s.
Pour the apples over with biscuit dough and bake. Then the cake is turned upside down and carried to the table. Tarte Tatin is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
There are different versions of this recipe: with apples, pears, peaches, and even tomatoes and onions.
Cordon Blue is a popular dish. It is a schnitzel stuffed with ham and cheese, which is first breaded in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried or fried in a pan. Served with French fries or vegetable garnish.
The first mention of “Cordon Blue” is found in the cookbook of 1949. Today, there are several varieties of this dish: with veal, chicken or mushroom sauce.
Cordon blue and julienne are national dishes of French cuisine.
French julienne is made from fried vegetables or mushrooms. This dish is often seasoned with white wine, nutmeg, and ground pepper. Although traditionally served as a snack in small ceramic or metal tins / cocotte dishes, it can also be used as a filling for meat.
Escargot, or boiled snails, is a favorite French delicacy served as a snack. This dish is made from Burgundy snails.
First, the clams are removed from the shells and cleaned. They are cooked with garlic, olive oil, chicken broth or wine.
This dish is served as follows: a paste of garlic, parsley and butter is placed on the bottom of the shell, then the meat of the snails and a layer of paste again on top. Eat Escargo with a two-pronged fork and tongs.
Potato gratin is a dish enjoyed all over the world.
Tubers, peeled and cut into thin slices, are poured with cream and garlic, and then slowly baked until melted. It is better to use special varieties of potatoes that are capable of absorbing the creamy-garlic mass. In some variations of the recipe, potato rings are pre-breaded.
Serve gratin with a green salad with lemon dressing and main dishes such as fried chicken, pork or ham.
“Bouillabaisse” is a French fish soup native to Marseille.
There is no clear recipe for the dish. Marseille fish soup recipes and techniques are passed down from family to family. But at the same time, French chefs adhere to a single rule: there must be at least 3 types of fish in the soup. In some restaurants, you can watch this soup made from 40 or more types of seafood. In addition, mayonnaise is served in olive oil with spices and garlic on a piece of fried baguette.
Bouillabaisse is an expensive dish. In some establishments, its cost reaches 200 euros per serving.
Cassoulet is a chowder with beans and meat. Traditionally it is cooked in special deep pots – cassulets.
There are 3 variations of the recipe:
- With white beans and pork.
- With lamb, partridges and quails.
- With duck or goose meat.
The dish is stewed for several hours in a saucepan at low heat, until the meat and beans are tender enough.
Cuisine by regions of France
France is interesting in that each region is the birthplace of a certain food or drink.
Aquitaine is a picturesque region in the south of France. Bordeaux is considered the wine capital. There are many vineyards in this area. Bordeaux and Burgundy wines are considered the best. If you wish, you can visit a museum dedicated to winemaking.
The world famous foie gras and confit are dishes from the Aquitaine region.
Here you can taste the following dishes:
- Foie gras with truffles (Pate de Foie Gras aux Truffes) is an exquisite French delicacy prepared with the addition of noble truffles. It is eaten at Christmas as a special occasion treat.
- Confit de Canard is a popular dish in the region. It is used with potato sarladez and green beans.
Brittany is located in the northwest of France. The region is the main supplier of seafood. The area’s menu features fresh fish and seafood, especially mussels and oysters. Here you can taste the co-triad, a Breton fish stew.
Brittany is famous for its cider production. Here, this drink is often used instead of wine in cooking.
Gascony is an ancient historical region of France, the birthplace of Armagnac (a subtype of brandy based on white wine).
Gascony cuisine is simple and the food is always filling, high in protein, fat and salt. The signature dish is Garbur, a thick soup made from cabbage, potatoes, beans, vegetables, herbs, spices and meat (duck, goose or pork).
Historically, Lorraine has been home to most of the pastries. Here the Madeleine biscuits, the Macoron cake, and the baba rum were invented.
Another dessert of Lorraine is Dragées de Verdun, or dragees. Originally they were made with only almond cores, but now they are made with different fillings. Today, this French delicacy is served at weddings and christenings.
But the region is best known for its quiche Laurent pie filled with eggs, cheese and bacon.
Normandy has fertile soils, which is why there are a large number of apple orchards. The most delicious apple pies and rolls are prepared in this region. Also, the fruits are used in the manufacture of cider and calvados (fire brandy).
Dairy production is also developed here. Norman cream is used to make some of the region’s finest cheeses, such as Camembert, Pont-l’Eveque and Livaro.
Breeding geese and ducks is a centuries-old practice in Perigord. For this reason, the region is home to dishes such as foie gras, goose confit and stuffed neck. Foie gras festivals are held in Périgord every year.
The area is rich in black truffles, the most valuable ingredient in haute cuisine. Mushrooms begin to be harvested as soon as the first frost occurs in November. The harvest season continues until the end of February.
Provencal cuisine has been influenced by Italian influences for centuries. Here, as in Italy, it is customary to season dishes with herbs. The famous Herbes de Provence is a dried herb blend that includes savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano and is a great addition to grilled meats, fish and vegetable stews.
Most popular snacks:
- tapenada is a puree of the region’s aromatic Mediterranean olives, made by crushing them with a mortar and pestle;
- anchoada is a similar dish made by chopping anchovies and garlic.
The recipes for both dishes are not exactly known, but they are eaten with small pieces of toast or raw vegetables.
The most popular aperitif in Provence is anise liqueur diluted with water.
Champagne is famous for its exquisite sparkling wine of the same name, game and ham. It also produces Chaource cheese, which is definitely worth trying on a visit to France.
Chaource is a soft cow’s milk cheese with a creamy, slightly crumbly texture. It ripens in 2 to 3 months, but many people like to eat it when the rind is barely formed. Chaource is a good addition to champagne and delicate white wines.
The Alsatian region is under strong German influence. Therefore, one of the main dishes here is Choucroute, or sauerkraut. It is served with sausage, jerky and potatoes. The meal is traditionally accompanied by dry white Riesling wine or beer.
Alsace is also known for its dish called Coq au Riesling, or rooster in wine.
A rooster in wine is a visiting card of the French province of Alsace.
Most French dishes can be made at home using what you have in your fridge.
- potatoes – 1 kg;
- grated cheese – 100 g;
- sour cream – 50 g;
- butter – 30 g;
- garlic – 1 slice;
- cream – 150 ml;
- salt, pepper – to taste.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into thin rings.
- Chop a clove of garlic finely.
- Lubricate the pan with butter.
- Place potato rings, grated cheese and garlic in succession.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Pour cream over everything.
- Bake for 1 hour in an oven preheated to 200 ° C.
Potato gratin is served with main dishes like fried chicken, pork or ham.
- eggs – 3 pcs.;
- flour – 200 g;
- sugar – 50 g;
- ghee – 200 g;
- baking powder – 10 g;
- milk – 1 tbsp .;
- lemon zest to taste
- Grind sugar and eggs.
- Add flour and baking powder.
- Mix thoroughly until smooth.
- Add milk, ghee and lemon zest.
- Stir again thoroughly.
- Divide the resulting dough into the molds.
- Bake in an oven preheated to + 200 ° C for 5 to 8 minutes.
Madeleine biscuits dry quickly. Store it in an airtight container or plastic bag.