As you know, I’ll be heading back to France this coming year. It has been a long, testing few months, but in any case, I’m glad to go back (for the full story, read here).
That said, in honor of my return to France, I’ve decided to compile a list of my French dishes that I was fortunate enough to taste and consume in detail during my time in the country last year. However, they won’t be your stereotypical, touristy French plates like escargots or crêpes (although I love them, too), but rather more specific ones that you can only get in certain regions…not just Paris!
So prepare to feast your eyes on some mouth-watering French dishes (I know I surely will!). Let’s go! 😛
1. Carbonade flamande (Nord-pas-de-Calais region). Similar to the classic beef bourguignon, the carbonade flamande is also a beef-based stew, but is instead soaked in beer (the bourguignon is traditionally cooked in red wine). It’s a classic in the French Flanders, which is near the French-Belgium border; since it’s always cold up there, what better way to cook a rich, hearty meat stew that’s served with fries and, of course, beer? This dish is certainly not for people on a diet!
2. Moules marinières (Normandy region). All right, so technically, les moules marinières can also be found all over northwest France (in the Britanny and Nord-pas-de-Calais regions, too)- but in any case, they are delicious! If you’re a huge seafood lover like me, then you’ll have a blast cracking open each shell for that tiny gem of food heaven. They’re often paired with French fries, which is also a Belgian thing, but still, what more do you need besides a boat-load of mussels?! 😉
3. Omelette à la mère Poulard (Le Mont St. Michel). Known as a “puffy omelet” in English, this dish is certainly puffy to say that least! If I’m not mistaken, l’omelette à la mère Poulard is made from whipped egg whites, hence giving it an inflated appearance. It’s only found in Le Mont St. Michel in the Normandy region and is named after the eponymous cook “la mère Poulard” (née Anne Boutiaut). While puffy, the omelet certainly isn’t as light as you might think it is; after all, there’s still enough whole eggs and cream inside to fill you up!
4. Galette saucisse (Brittany region). A galette is a buckwheat crepe which is almost always on the savory side, so une galette saucisse is literally a buckwheat crepe with sausage. I had it while visiting Rennes (the capital of the Brittany region) and it was a food game-changer. I’m not exaggerating (well, maybe a little); the combination of sausage, cheese, and onions wrapped in a toasty tender, crispy crepe was a symphony in my mouth of just pure savoriness. I don’t usually even like sausages, but that one in the galette was heavenly! Definitely the ultimate comfort food for cold, wintry nights.
5. Raclette (Alsace region). This actually originated from Switzerland, but has since become popular in parts of France bordering the country, including Alsace. I had this for the first time in Strasbourg, and I found it to be quite ingenious with the raclette contraption you see pictured above. Essentially, it’s fondue, but fancier with meats and mushrooms and onions added in. There’s so much cheese as well, so it’s sure to stuff you silly afterwards!
6. Choucroute garnie (Alsace region). Choucroute means “sauerkraut,” so you can bet that there are tons of it in this dish also from Alsace! It’s heavily influenced by German-Alsatian cuisine (since the region borders Germany), as a ton of sausage, ham, and bacon accompany the sauerkraut. It’s a meat-lover’s paradise, for sure!
7. Tartiflette (Pays de Savoie). If the other dishes haven’t destroyed your diet yet (let alone your health), then you certainly haven’t tried la tartiflette! It’s a potato gratin with bacon, onions, and of course, tons of cheese (specifically, Savoie). You might find it disgustingly creamy and fatty, which I admit it is true, but once you get over how artery-clogging inducing it is, you’ll be stuffing your face with it guaranteed.
8. Quenelle lyonnaise (Lyon). Generally speaking, une quenelle is a puff pastry with meat inside, and is drenched with a ton of dark, rich sauce over it. The one that I had in Lyon, however, was still in puff pastry form, but was distinctive in that it contained fish paste wrapped inside of it. For some *not-as-adventurous* folks, it might be a turn-off, but I personally don’t mind it, considering that it’s evident in a lot of Chinese dishes (fish ball soup and whatnot). Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of my quenelle lyonnaise, but here’s one from the Internet!
9. Bouillabaisse (Marseille). Pronounced “boo-ee-ah-bez,” this tricky-sounding dish from the south of France is a fish-lover’s delight, as it’s essentially a saffron-infused stew with different types of fish native to Marseille (as it’s located beside the sea). What makes this dish different from the others on this list is that it does not contain cream or cheese in the recipe. Overall, the south of France tends to use more fresh produce and cooking techniques as it’s warmer climate (by the Mediterranean), so you see things such as this kind of dish in its cuisine!
10. Croque madame (Paris). You can find the croque madame anywhere in France, but it, along with its “husband” the croque monsieur, were first seen in Parisian cafe menus back in the early 20th century. Think of this dish as grilled cheese sandwiches on steroids, as the sandwich bread is battered in egg and cream, toasted to a crispy brown in the oven, then smothered with a ton of cheese on top- as if the cheese inside the sandwich wasn’t enough! The ham inside the dish certainly doesn’t help to combat the calories in it already. And it definitely is not any better to add a fried egg on top for the croque madame (my personal favorite), but hey, who’s complainin’? 😉
…that’s about it for me! Hope that I didn’t make you go hungry just from looking at these drool-worthy photos. Any case, I’m looking forward to trying more dishes when I’m back in France, as well as revisiting old ones (I’m seriously craving une galette saucisse right now!). Let me know what are your favorite French dishes you’ve tried before or, more generally, your favorite food from any country! Bon appétit! 😛
— The Finicky Cynic
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