We Brits feel like we know French cuisine quite well. The destination itself is right on our doorstep and many of the dishes we would regard as quintessentially French have made it onto the menus of our finest restaurants. Nevertheless, there is no better place to sample these morsels than in their home country and there are also plenty of gastronomic delights that we don’t know so well. So what are some of the dishes you should definitely try if you are planning a city break in Lyon, Paris or Bordeaux?
Let’s start with a classic, shall we? Nothing says fine French dining like confit duck, or canard as you will see on menus. Originally from Gascony, this dish and some that are very similar can be found all over modern day France. It may seem like you are rubbing the poor duck’s beak in its misery by cooking its leg in its own fat but, hey, it tastes delicious and the duck wasn’t going to get far with one leg anyway. The best confit duck is salted and left to marinate in garlic and herbs for a day or two before being pan-fried to perfection.
This is something that you may be less familiar with, but what it lacks in familiarity it will make up for in flavour. The name refers to a species of scallop, larger than those we are used to in this country, which is lightly poached in white wine before being served in its shell on top of some mushroom puree. The liquid used to cook the scallop then gets liberally splashed over the top of the dish to make you re-evaluate your thoughts towards the deliciousness of this seafood.
This healthy snack is a great choice for lunch on the go, especially if you find yourself in Provence - particularly on the streets of Nice, where it originates. It is essentially a sandwich but one which is both tasty and good for you in equal measure. Served in a rustic roll or between two slices of country bread, the filling is made up of everything you would find in a Niçoise salad (egg, anchovies, tuna, tomatoes). It can also be made by stuffing the filing into the middle of a hollowed-out round loaf and then serving slices.
Profiteroles, crêpes, macaroons, crème brûlée – these are all great French desserts, but here’s one that may not be on your radar. This classic, sweet delight is made up of a ring of puff pastry that is topped with crème patisserie and then adorned with profiteroles that have been glazed with sugar. The mini structure is then embellished with whipped cream to create an indulgent treat that is always a winner. The name refers to the patron saint of bakers who was once the bishop of Amiens.
Cassoulet is another dish you are likely to be aware of before your trip to France, but one that definitely tastes better once you cross the channel. This winter warmer is made by stewing meat (usually duck but often pork or lamb too) and beans with onion, carrots, white wine and herbs until it is bursting with flavour. First made in southwestern France, it has warmed hearts across the country and is a firm favourite with many home cooks. A chunk of rustic French bread is a must-have accompaniment.
If you would like to travel to France and try some of these dishes in their own back yard, we can arrange a holiday to suit you. From Paris city breaks to multi-centre trips in rural regions, we will tailor-make everything so that it’s just how you like it – much like the perfect cassoulet.