“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY
There are countless reasons why I can’t stand away too much from French food. It’s not because I’m pretentious and snobbish, high-maintenance and weird. Gun to the head, French food is this good. You can quit cigarettes, coffee, give up junk food, but you could never run away from such a worthy guilty pleasure. If you haven’t tried it yet, think of it as something Dali would love eating: the food is not only tasty, it’s beautiful. It has all sorts of textures and layers, one for every different flavor. It’s not just appetizing, it’s addictive. Here’s the deal – there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself some hedonistic treats from time to time. And trying all these foods of the gods somewhere else is nothing like actually experiencing them in their mother country – France.
They’re called Gratinéed Scallops, and the American chef epitome is often associated with the old French scallop fish poached in white wine, placed on the top of a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell. Covering it with sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid makes it a signature of the French cuisine, a classic, very rich recipe which started to leave its mark on New York since the 1950s. Although you’ll find the dish prepared in restaurants all over the globe, the French make it taste different and more authentic. Despite being a pretty heavy food, its popularity shows how a truly appetizing dish never goes out of taste. Extra tip: if you’re undecided about the wine that would go best with the coquilles, choose between a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chablis.
Being easy to make is just a secondary argument why you should try it at least once while you’re in France. Everything else fades around the incredible flavor, making every bite heavenly delicious. Although every restaurant makes it differently, the olive oil is never absent from the dish.
Extra tip: ask for garlic bread to serve the warm cheese with – you’ll remember this dish for years to come. Because France is the country of assortments, you should remember to ask for an old, red wine (Bordeaux, for instance). You’ll soon find out that this is what heaven tastes like.
They’re a great vegetarian meal, especially if you’re going for something light. Try a green salad with it, and you won’t be disappointed. The crêpes are delicious especially in the Northern part of the country, where the restaurants serve them with wild mushrooms and gruyère. The wine makes the dish even more elegant, like a chic, tempting lady.
Extra tip: The wine used for preparing the dish is never enough, so try this food with a glass of white Sauvignon. If you don’t feel like drinking wine, apple cider is what you’re looking for.
Blanquette de Veau
If you’re in France, walking down Champs Elysées, enjoying the fresh air and thinking what quintessential dish to try, something to make you remember such a wonderful day, you just found it. The mere thought of it is mouthwatering, this veal ragout where the butter and the don’t change their color during the cooking process. The taste of the aromatic flavorings such as coriander or fennel used in preparing the sauce will make you understand the why it’s an example of classic bourgeois cookery. You should try it with a red Bordeaux.
Soupe à L’oignon gratinée
It’s one of the strangest dishes you’ll ever eat, but I strongly believe that it’s the queen of all soups. It looks like a savory bread pudding with a golden crust and it’s tastier than you could ever expect. It does take talent to mix savory and sweet foods without disappointing people and their expectations. And although most of the people still have issues in eating bacon ice cream or pineapple tartare with chili and salt, it’s impossible not to love this dish. There are recipes from the beginning of the 20th century where you won’t know if you’re eating dinner or dessert, but until you’ll make up your mind you should drink a beaujolais.
Think of it as the French version of shepherd’s pie, as it’s often described like this. Two layers of marvel: mashed potatoes and juicy ground beef. An Alsacian Pinot Noire is the excellent match for this food, every authentic restaurant in France will recommend it. Hachis means chopped (or minced) and the name Parmentier is a reference to the 18th century nutritionist who promoted potato as an edible crop. Concerning the great secret of this recipe (any traditional French dish has at least one), it’s using the stock resulted from braising the beef in the meat base of the finished dish. Some restaurants use tomato sauce to give it a slightly sweeter flavor.
It follows the Hanchis Parmentier on the list because it’s the best combination of food and it would really be a pity not to have it for dessert after a well cooked parmentier. Full fat milk, vanilla pod, eggs and golden caster sugar are the only things you need to taste the ultimate French bonté. The caramelised sugar will take you to a decadent place where guilty pleasures are all that life’s about.
The thing with French food is that it doesn’t only speak of cuisine, but of the whole cultural heritage. Everything’s a metonymy when it comes to France, and food makes no exception. Just like Versailles tell a story of grandeur (and not just historical, or cultural – but grandeur in itself), Crème Brûlée will speak of hedonism.
The French basque country contributed to the national culture in many aspects, but this recipe’s my top favorite. Marzano tomatoes, sweet red bell peppers, Spanish paprika, chili powder, bay leaves and (of course) the eggs are all it takes to make a paradise of your own. Of course, although the recipe is easy to make, I’d recommend trying it in a restaurant first. You’re going to have a hard time looking fore something as simple (recipewise, budgetwise) to impress you as much.
Soupe de Poisson à la Rouille
It used to be nothing but a fishermen’s dish in Marseille. Although it was quite a long soup in the past, now it’s usually made with extra fish at the end and it’s a little more chunky and filling, something to separate it from the herd. You’ll be served this soup with bowls of gruyère, croûtes and rouille on the side.
Gigot D’Agneau Pleureur
The crying lamb gigot is baked slowly in the oven on a grill, while the potatoes are put on a rack underneath it. The meat juice gives the potatoes a special flavor. A red Médoc wine is perfect for this dish. And if I were to recommend a dessert, this would have to be profiterole: ice cream and hot chocolate sauce as a top – a cream puff for a blissful meal.