1. Soupe à l’oignon
This is a traditional French soup made of onions and beef stock, usually served with croutons and melted cheese on top. The soup’s origins can be traced as far back as the Romans – typically a poor dish – although the current version dates from the 18th century. The remarkable taste in French onion soup is from the caramelisation of the onions, to which sometimes brandy or sherry is added at the end of the slow-cook process. The liquid is typically meat stock, although variations include using just water, adding milk or thickening it with eggs or flour.
2. Coq au vin
This quintessential French food was popularised by Julia Child through her television show and book and seen as one of her signature dishes. It is a dish of chicken braised (pot roasted) with wine, mushrooms, salt pork or bacon (lardons), mushrooms, onion, often garlic and sometimes brandy. Although the name translates as ‘rooster or cock in wine’ – and braising is ideal for tougher birds – the recipe usually uses chicken or capon. A red Burgundy wine is typically used, although French regional variations exist using local wines, for example coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coq au pourpre or coq au violet (Beaujolais nouveau) and coq au Champagne (Champagne).
Cassoulet is a comfort dish of white beans stewed slowly with meats, typically pork or duck but also sausages, goose, mutton or whatever else the chef has around. This peasant dish originates from southern France and is popular in Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. The name of the dish comes from the pot (cassole) it’s traditionally baked in, which is typically shaped like an inverted cone to give the greatest amount of tasty crust. This is a rich, hearty meal perfect for colder months.
4. Chocolate souffle
The word souffle derives from the French word to ‘breath’ or ‘puff’, and it is an airy, baked egg dish with origins in early 18th-century France. Souffle is eaten savoury or sweet in France, and you’ve likely found chocolate souffle on desert menus worldwide. The crispy chocolate crust with an oozing, creamy chocolate centre gives this desert a sweet suprise.
Flamiche means ‘cake’ in Flemish and this dish originates from northern France, near the border with Belgium. It is a puff-pastry crust filled with cheese and vegetables and resembles a quiche. The traditional French filling is leeks and cream. There is also a pizza-like version of flamiche, which is without the top crust of the pie. For a southern French twist, try the thin crusty pissaladière which is topped with anchovies, onions and olives.
6. Confit de canard
Confit de canard is a tasty French dish of duck – although goose and pork can also be used – and is considered one of the finest French dishes. The meat is specially prepared using a centuries-old preserve and slow-cook process (confit), where the duck meat is marinated in salt, garlic and thyme for up to 36 hours and then slow-cooked in its own fat at low temperatures (an alternative to deep-frying). It is typically served with confit roasted potatoes and garlic on the side. Today this French dish is served all over France, although it is considered a specialty of the Gascony region.
7. Nicoise salad
Salade niçoise is a typical French salad from the Provence region, which can be served as a side dish or a meal on its own. It’s typically a filling salad of lettuce, fresh tomatoes, boiled eggs, canned tuna, green beans, Nicoise Cailletier olives and anchovies, although many variations exist.
Ratatouille is another globally known French dish, hailing from the southeastern French region of Provence. It is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat with a small amount of fat, and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and other green herbs, such as Provence herbs.
9. Tarte tatin
They say this French apple tarte was made by mistake in 1898 by Stephanie Tartin when trying to make a traditional apple pie. When she accidentally left the apples in sugar and butter too for long in the pan, in a hurry to rescue the desert she put the pastry base on top of the burning fruits and placed the pan in the oven. She supposedly served the upside-down tart to her guests at Hôtel Tatin and the result turned into the hotel’s signature dish. Although the tarte’s origin is disputed, the delicious result is not.
10. Roasted Chicken and Garlic
Roasted chicken with potatoes is the traditional Sunday lunch in France, whether you buy it already roasted at the local farmers market or you make it at home. There are several recipes, but my favorite includes whole garlic cloves roasted with the chicken. When you eat the chicken you crush the roasted cloves on the meat. It’s unbelievably good.
11. Navarin D’Agneau
It’s kind of a lighter (but equally delicious) version of boeuf bourguignon. Except that it’s made with lamb, white wine, and spring vegetables.
A classic and one of the easiest recipes on this list, it is always a hit. The secret is to achieve the perfect balance between the soft and creamy batter and the salty and crunchy bacon. Perfect if you feel like cooking but don’t have much time.
Gougères are cheese puffs. If you need any more convincing then maybe you don’t deserve to try them.
As a friend of mine puts it: “No one really likes cod but somehow everyone loves cod accras.” These deep-fried French Caribbean specialties can be served as appetizers or in a sandwich. They are very good and highly addictive.