5 Traditional French Dishes

The French are known for their spectacular cuisine, including these 5 traditional French dishes.  What sets French cooking apart?  The French are experts at pairing scrumptious flavors together with fine texture.  French food is rich and sumptuous, tempting the palate with simple ingredients that have been changes into works of art.

  1. Escargot  Most people unfamiliar with French cooking are quick to turn up their collective noses at this dish.  Perhaps the most widely know of the traditional French dishes, escargot is a delicacy made from snails.  Served as an appetizer, escargot is usually prepared in a garlic butter sauce.  The snails themselves are first removed from the shell, cleaned, and then placed back inside the snail shell after preparation.  Escargot generally come served with an herb butter sauce for dipping.  This traditional French dish even has its own utensil; escargot comes to the table with special tongs designed for holding the shell.
  2. Coq au Vin  Literally “chicken and wine”, this dish is a combination of braised chicken served in a special wine sauce.  Coq au vin, like many traditional French dishes, varies slightly by region.  Wine sauce preparation depends upon the area, though a burgundy is the most common choice.  After the chicken marinates in the wine, it is seared in a hot pan.  Small mushrooms, onions and salt pork are added to the chicken and allowed to simmer.  As the sauce thickens, salt, pepper, thyme and other savory herbs are added to the pot.
  3. Bouillabaisse  Hailing from the French Provençal region, bouillabaisse is soup made from vegetables and a variety of fish and is one of the most familiar of the traditional French dishes.  Three kinds of fish usually go into this traditional French dish, including scorpion fish, conger and monkfish.  Cooked with special herbs like saffron and garlic, as well as orange zest, bay leaf, and fennel.  Leeks, tomatoes, celery, and onions simmer together with the fish and spices.  Bouillabaisse is served with crusty French bread topped by rouille, a mayonnaise made with olive oil, cayenne, garlic and saffron.
  4. Tuna Niçoise  Salads in traditional French cooking are never as simple as just a few leaves of lettuce and sliced tomatoes.  Tuna Niçoise originates from the city of Nice and contains specially prepared tuna steak served over raw vegetables.  Some versions call for boiled potatoes and green beans, cooled quickly and arranged on lettuce beneath the tuna.  Tarragon,  capers and black olives give the dish its tangy flavor.
  5. Crèpes  A standout favorite among traditional French dishes, crèpes can be served either as a dessert or a savory dish.  Crèpes are made from a very thin batter of eggs, flour and milk.  The crèpe is allowed to cook in a skillet for about a minute, flipped to cook for another minute, and then removed.  The result is a paper thin shell that can be stuffed with fruits and cream.  Some recipes call for a potato batter and are generally served with savory fillings.

Try your hand at some of these traditional French dishes.  The secret to successful French cuisine is usually found in careful attention to technique.  Expand your palate and try a little French cuisine on your next night out.    

Source: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child

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