C’est si bon! 10 French foods to try

C’est si bon! 10 French foods to try

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

There is something special about French food. The love affair between the gastronomic delicacies of France and her people is one of utter devotion. Sitting at a cafe for hours on end enjoying intricate dishes and, of course, a little imbibement is something of a national pastime. Thanks to movies such as “Ratatouille” and “Julie and Julia,” trying out French flavors isn’t quite as intimidating or inaccessible as you might have thought. Aside from the usual baguettes, macarons and, yes, escargot, there are plenty of other plates of deliciousness to taste.

Boeuf bourguignon. One of my favorites during the colder months, this dish is full of tender beef chunks simmered with stock and red Burgundy wine. Combined with carrots, onions, garlic and often garnished with mushrooms, this is a classic recipe. If you decide to try making this at home, just take your time and be patient. The out-of-this-world flavor will reward you at the end.

Coq au vin. This quintessential French recipe dates back thousands of years. Braised chicken is seared and stewed with crispy bacon lardons, mushrooms, onions, carrots and wine. The traditional dish usually calls for red wine; however, any French wine will do.

Bouillabaisse. With miles and miles of coastline, it’s no wonder this seafood dish is worth a try. Originating in the southern city of Marseille, bouillabaisse was created to use up the less desirable bonier fish that were difficult to sell. The result is a savory stew of tomatoes, garlic, onions, saffron and chunks of tender fish. Served with a hunk of crusty bread with rouille, a garlic mayonnaise spread, this meal will keep you satisfied.

L’escargot chocolat-pistache.” Don’t let the name fool you — it’s not actually a snail. Instead, this flaky pastry is filled with a sweet pistachio paste and dark chocolate chips, then wrapped into a spiral resembling a snail’s shell. This pastry treat is a perfect grab-and-go breakfast treat.

Cassoulet. Another southern French classic hailing from Toulouse and Carcassonne, cassoulet actually derives its name from the baking dish it’s served in. The best part about cassoulet is you can use whatever you have on hand. Meats such as sausage, chicken and duck are mixed with white beans, tomatoes, pancetta and broth, and simmered to create this rustic meal.

Gratin Dauphinois.” As a lover of all things potato, I adore “gratin Dauphinois.” Similar to scalloped potatoes, this French side dish consists of thinly sliced potatoes, cream, garlic, nutmeg, butter and more cream. If you’re feeling a little rebellious, add a little Gruyere for extra cheesy goodness.

Croque monsieur or madame. Who knew a humble ham and cheese sandwich could have such an epic French transformation? The Croque monsieur is made with smoky ham and cheese (think Emmental or Gruyere) piled between two thick slices of a brioche-type bread, dipped in an egg mixture and grilled until golden brown. More cheese is added to the top and browned to form a deliciously gooey crust. Adding a fried or poached egg on top creates a “Croque madame.”

Jambon-beurre. This is quite possibly one of the easiest and tastiest sandwiches you’ll come across during your French adventures. Found in almost any cafe and convenience store, the “jambon-beurre” is simply layers of sliced ham and butter in a freshly baked baguette. My favorite version includes slices of Brie on top of the ham.

Duck confit. This meaty dish is one for special occasions and doesn’t skimp on the calories. Traditional recipes call for using a whole duck rubbed with aromatic herbs and spices, although you can also use duck legs and thighs if you prefer. Cooked low and slow in duck or goose fat (it needs to be completely submerged), the resulting meat is exquisitely tender.

All the pastries. From the vibrant rows of colorful macarons to fluffy, pillow-like meringues and cream-filled chocolate eclairs, trying to pick just one French pastry is nearly impossible. Some of my favorites include sinfully decadent chocolate cakes and fruit tarts with a rich custard and flaky crust. You really can’t go wrong.

Feeling adventurous, my friend? Try your hand at something a little more outside of your comfort zone. Steak tartare is raw, finely-chopped beef mixed with seasonings topped with an egg yolk served as an appetizer. For a main meal, sample “Cuisses de Grenouilles,” or frogs’ legs. Marinated in citrus juice and milk, this delicacy is often fried and resembles poultry meat in taste and texture.

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