From haute to humble, French cuisine has it all -- the complex creations of Parisian chefs to Provence's simple, rustic fare redolent of herbs and olive oil.
While French food doesn't always have to be multi-sauced and complicated, each ingredient is lavished with respect and care. Moreover, shortcuts in preparation are frowned upon. Every region has its specialties, based on local products: fish, herbs and olives in Provence; butter and apples in Normandy; wine-simmered stews in Burgundy and Bordeaux; sausages and beers in Alsace. And, of course, cheese, cheese and more cheese.
With such luscious ingredients, how do the French stay so slim? First of all, they don't rush through their meals. They take longer to enjoy their food and, as a result, don't tend to eat as much as we Americans often do. Snacking between meals is rare. Alcohol is enjoyed in moderation, and almost always with a meal. The French eat less red meat and more fish and vegetables than we do, and while butter is used in quantity, many dishes are prepared with olive oil instead. Cheese is the preferred source of calcium, not milk.
Traditional French food is served a la russe (Russian-style), meaning in separate courses. Hors d'oeuvres are followed by soup, an entree, salad, cheese and dessert. A meal is often preceded by a light aperitif to whet the appetite and ends with a digestive to aid digestion.
But don't feel you must always enjoy French food in the traditional manner of separate courses. Opt for satisfying bistro fare instead, in which dishes are served in an unpretentious atmosphere at reasonable prices. Bistro food isn't fancy, but the aromas and flavors keep you coming back for more.
Know Your Menu Thousands of books have been written about French cuisine, and the variety and interpretation of dishes numbers in the thousands. But most French restaurants are likely to feature several of these classic favorites, which never go out of style:
Soupe a l'oignon: onion soup. The onions are cooked in broth until the liquid is infused with their flavor, then it is ladled into individual bowls, topped with a large crouton of toasted crusty bread and Gruyere cheese. The dish is run under the broiler until bubbly and melted. Ask for your soup to be made without the bread. Coq au vin: Chicken simmered in wine sauce. There are many versions of this dish made with either red or white wine. Simply avoid any potatoes or carrots. Caneton a l'orange: Whole roast duck served in a sweetened sauce, flavored with orange juice and orange sections. Other ways in which duck is enjoyed are with prunes (au pruneaux) or cherries (aux cerises).
Navarin d'agneau: Leg of lamb, usually larded with slivers of garlic and rubbed with fragrant olive oil and fresh rosemary before roasting or grilling. Roasted rack of lamb is called carre d'agneau. Cassoulet: A specialty of the ancient region of Languedoc. This is a long-cooking casserole including duck confit (preserved duck), pork loin, bacon, lamb, garlic sausage, white beans and other ingredients. It is particularly soothing on a frigid winter day. Boefe bourguignon: Another long-cooking dish of cubes of beef simmered in red wine with beef broth, garlic, tiny onions and herbs. A version of this dish is boeuf en daube, in which the beef is simmered with orange rind and more than 40 cloves of garlic, which take on a sweet, nutty flavor. As with most stews, these dishes are even better served the day after preparation, when the flavors have mellowed. Ratatouille: A Provencal casserole of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers and zucchini. This Mediterranean classic is delicious either hot or cold.
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At French Restaurants -- Choose frisee salad with lardons (thin strips of bacon) and poached egg instead of Alsatian tart (bacon, onion and egg pie) Choose coquilles St. Jacques (scallops in cream sauce with cheese) instead of langoustine en croute (lobster in puff pastry)
-- Choose moules mariniere (mussels in white wine and herbs) or bouillabaisse (fish stew) instead of vichyssoise (cream of potato soup)
-- Choose coq au vin (chicken in wine sauce) instead of caneton a l'orange or aux cerises
-- Choose entrecote or tournedos Bordelaise (steak in reduced shallot and red-wine sauce) instead of croque monsieur (egg-dipped fried ham-and-egg sandwich)
-- Choose veal marengo (veal stew with tomatoes and mushrooms) instead of veal Prince Orloff (veal roast stuffed with rice, onions and mushrooms)
-- Choose haricots verts au beurre (buttered young green beans) instead of pommes Anna (upside-down potato cake)
-- Choose assorted cheese plate instead of crepes Suzette (crepes with orange butter and orange liqueur, served flambeed).
-- Don't turn down dishes cooked in wine, even though wine is not an option during the Induction phase. When wine is cooked, the alcohol burns away, leaving just the flavor.
-- It is OK to order the butter-and-cream dishes, but simpler dishes, such as fish Provencal with tomatoes and herbs or steak au poivre (steak encrusted with peppercorns, pan-seared and served with a cognac sauce), are smarter choices. In bistros, hanger steak is a good choice: It is a tender cut of beef prepared in a reduced wine sauce. -- Beware of frites. These are what we call French fries; they are practically irresistible and heaps of them often accompany steak dishes.
Your post is really awesome. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I like french cuisine food very much and i have tried many recipes which i got from youtube and many other website. I like visiting French restaurants in weekend.