Getting into French cooking can be an intimidating prospect. After all, some of the most famous chefs in history come from French, and even more of them were trained there. Indeed, for decades, if not centuries, French cuisine was considered the epitome of food preparation (at least by those living in the West). Perhaps for this reason, French cuisine has had an unparalleled influence upon other cuisines around the world, and all you have to do is pick up a cookbook to see French words and techniques all over the place.
But what is French food? Sure, you can load up a bunch of YouTube videos of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin (and, indeed, we urge you to do so), but it’s good to have a bit of background information before you do that. But really, we urge you: every aspiring French chef should be familiar with the great works of Ms. Child and Mr. Pepin, two of the most famous chefs ever to live.
For instance, did you know that France has many regional styles of cooking? In Paris and other cities, it’s common to have foreign influences, especially from North Africa and West, due to France’s history of colonialism there. In the countryside, the situation is much more traditional, focusing on more traditionally French ingredients.
Northern France, with its Germanic influence, tends to focus on dairy, apples, pork, potatoes, and many different sausages. Southern France, on the other hand, possesses its own rich heritage of cooking, influenced by its proximity to the Mediterranean—fresh herbs, tomatoes, olives, and olive oil. But enough introduction. It’s time to get into some real French food, mastering the art of French cooking. Bon appetit!
Classic French Coq au vin recipe
Is there any dish more characteristically French than coq au vin? If it’s not the most famous French dish ever, it has to be in the top five. But just what is it? Traditionally, coq au vin was peasant food: an old rooster (the coq), braised in red wine for many hours with traditional French vegetables. What’s not to like?
These days, coq au vin is not usually made with a rooster. It might be that a rooster has a special flavor, but they aren’t readily available, so a chicken will have to do. One of the most important parts of making coq au vin is the daylong marination step. This allows the red wine flavor to soak deep into your chicken, turning the flesh an interesting shade of purple. Then it’s just a matter of getting a nice sear on the marinated chicken before adding the marinade back in along with some tasty vegetables. Potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and turnips are all traditional, onion and leek are also recommended. This coq au vin recipe is a visual stunner and well-known enough that your guests will be suitably impressed. Give it a shot the next time you’re trying to show off!
Cassoulet de Toulouse recipe
Coming from the ancient city of Toulouse in southern France, cassoulet is a famous bean dish made with meat. In some ways, this could be seen as the spiritual ancestor of the Midwest’s famous green bean casserole, but it’s so much more than that. Creamy white beans are surrounded by an array of meat—pork belly, lamb, sausages, and whatever else you want, really. In the way of many classic French dishes, this takes a while: the ingredients are all stewed together for a long time, and if you use dried beans, this can take most of a day to cook properly. But it’s incredibly rewarding at the same time. The beans take on all of the meaty flavors during the long cooking time, and the breadcrumbs on top get crispy and delicious. This cassoulet de Toulouse recipe is long and involved, but your guests will thank you!
Angelina’s Mont Blanc dessert recipe
One thing that the French are indisputably famous for is their fabulous pastries and desserts. Like much French cooking, the making of these desserts tends to be relatively time-consuming and involved, but the results sure are rewarding. In this Mont Blanc recipe, the characteristic sweetened chestnut puree is topped with a delicious meringue—an ensemble that gives the dessert its name. The chestnuts topped with pure white meringue look a little bit like the famous mountain with its snow covered summit… a fitting dessert course for the ultimate French multi-course dinner!
Classic French chocolate Christmas cake recipe
Known as the Cotillon or the queen of all chocolate cakes, this cake mixes together a ton of different types of chocolate. White chocolate, chocolate sheets, dark chocolate, bittersweet, cocoa… they all make an appearance. Also featuring cognac, this dessert more or less beats you over the head with richness. Try this French Chocolate Cake at your next Christmas event, but be ready to take a rest afterward: though this recipe includes espresso, we don’t think you’re going anywhere.