You probably already know how good French food is, unless you’ve been living under a giant wheel of Camembert your whole life. Which, to be fair, wouldn’t be the worst place to live (unless you suffered from lactose intolerance, and providing you had regular access to fresh crusty baguettes).
But on the off-chance you have been living under a giant wheel of Camembert and have somehow missed out on the glory of French cuisine, then grab yourself a glass of Pinot Noir and pull up a chaise-longue, you need to see this list of incredible French food you absolutely have to try in your life*. And bear in mind – with our cheap flights to France, your Ryanair savings might just mean the difference between one of these French meals and a bag of crisps from the hypermarché down the road.
Bon appetite, Ryanair ramblers. Bon appetite.
*Yes I know there are no pastries and cakes here. The sweet stuff deserves its own post entirely.
“certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man” – Julia Child.
This is peasant food, but fit for a king. Or queen. Princes and princesses will probably like it too.
If you’ve ever seen Julie and Julia, you’ve probably dreamed about making and/or eating Boeuf Bourguignon, but there is no comparison to tasting the real thing in a little bistro somewhere in Bourgogne. Braised beef in rich red wine, sweet pearl onions, and sautéed mushrooms (yes, un-crowded, thank you Julia) cooked really, really slow until the beef is like butter. If this is peasant eating in France, I might just quite the day job and find me some French farm work…
This is, essentially, a giant pot of molten French (and Swiss) Alpine cheeses, flavoured with white wine, garlic, onions and seasoning, among other wonderful things.
This bubbling vat of cheese is then transported from the pot to your watering mouth via the best vessel imaginable; hunks of fresh, crusty French bread. If you fly to France for the snow, we assure you that there is no better way to wind down and warm up after a day of sliding down the French Alps, than with one of these bad boys. Make sure you eat all the melted stuff to make sure you get to the crispy toasted cheese on the bottom of the pot…
Lord have Marseille on my soul, this is delicious. What goes into a ‘real’ bouillabaisse is a hotly debated subject between the folks of southern France, but it’s agreed that a proper stew has Mediterranean fish, saffron (which we are obviously just mad about), olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, fennel, and a bouquet garni. As to how it’s served, which fish are used, and what else can be added – well, you can fight that delicious fight amongst yourselves.
Yeah, snails. These aren’t the regular old common-or-garden snails that plague the compost bin and go on kamikaze footpath missions after it’s rained, though – these are proper, farmed, fat, juicy snails that are bred specifically for eating. These are the snail version of those Japanese cattle that are fed beer, massaged, and get read bedtime stories. Escargots a la Bourguignonne is the recipe you want. Butter, garlic, wine, more butter…
Lyon take a bow, for you have bestowed unto us this cheesy, oniony, meaty, brothy bounty. This is another peasant’s dish that has risen to the ranks of culinary royalty.A hot, beefy, salty broth full of soft, sweet caramelised onion, topped with a thick slice of slightly stale baguette, smothered in a thick layer of melted and slightly grilled cheese. It’s soup, but for people with no health concerns whatsoever.
Crying lamb gigot. Not crying because of any particular cruelty done to the poor, delicious little things, but because of the way this incredible dish is cooked – on a grill, with potatoes beneath it, so that all the fat and juices from the roasting lamb ‘cry’, or drip, from the meat down onto the sizzling potatoes beneath, giving them a flavour that will bring tears to your eyes. So there. Bet you never thought the idea of crying baby sheep would make your mouth water this much.
From lamb that’s been cooked until it cries we go to steak that hasn’t been cooked at all. Not even a little bit. And it’s bound together and topped with a similarly uncooked egg. Look, don’t freak out. It does sound a bit scary, but I say face your fears! Go to one of Paris‘ many wonderful little brasseries and order it. When it’s done well, it’s sublime. This isn’t mince. This is finely-chopped, high-quality fillet steak – seasoned and flavoured to perfection. There will be something crunchy in there – shallots maybe, or capers – and something green and fresh; scallion or chives maybe. This is posh food. It’s delicious. You’ll feel fancy. Do it.
Brittany‘s finest. This is simple seafood at its very best. I don’t know who was brave enough to first eat a mussel, but every time I sit down with a steaming bowl full of those bad boys with shallots, white wine and butter, served with chips, and – of course – a heap of toasted bread to soak up the broth, I silently thank them for being hungry/stupid enough to give them a try.
Peasants throw your hands up, you’ve gone and done it again!
Cassoulet is a down-to-earth stew that comes from the Languedoc region that, if I were a pretentious food person on the telly, I would describe as rustic as all hell. It’s just a hot pot of beans, meat and veg that have cooked together for hours, to get as soft and comforting as food can get, just for you. Gamey, meaty, beany yummy cassoulet is about as close to having a cuddle as your stomach will ever know.
Ok. This one’s controversial; it involves the not-very-nice practice of force-feeding geese. Which is basically the goose version of the ‘gluttony’ murder in Se7en. Which was definitely the most disgusting of all the Se7en murders. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but whatever your moral stance on the matter, there’s no denying that it’s famously French food, of the Alsace region. So it’s going on the list. Hug the next goose you meet for me and apologise on my behalf.
This tomato-ey treat from French Basque country is a bit like Ratatouille, but with a little something extra brought to the plate.
A delicious, hot, chunky tomato and vegetable sauce is always a wonderful thing, this is true. But with a few fresh eggs baked right into it, it becomes something reeeeal special. Look, I don’t mean to keep banging on about French peasants here but, well, yeah – they’re responsible for this little dish full of heaven too.
These often come on the side of steak and other meats in restaurants, but I defy you to find me ONE rational human who wouldn’t devour an entire lasagna dish of these bad boys all on their own. Thinly sliced potatoes cooked in butter, milk, and garlic, topped with a cheesy breadcrumb crust. It sounds so simple when you lay it out like that, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it first. But I didn’t think of it, French peasants did. Again.
In fact, I think I may have discovered the secret of French food…
Cheese, and peasants.
Flights to Paris
- Dee Murray