Growing up in a small city in Ukraine with my grandmother I was lucky to have a great meal basically every day. My grandma would use seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits that she had grown in her backyard (more like a small farm I must say) with no chemicals. Therefore, I am used to having good quality simple food, perhaps not very fancy, but very tasty. That of course, affected my choice of food when I left my hometown. Until recently I did not eat burgers, but then I met Cody (he is American), who’s hobby is to cook, and he makes these delicious burgers that are hard to resist. I still do not like pizza very much (please don’t hate me). I mean I would eat a thin crust pizza, because I like the bread part, but I would definitely choose to eat an apple instead of a thick crust, full of tomato sauce and different meats pizza. So, when Cody and I decided to go to France I was not that excited about French cuisine, knowing that they like to eat (to me) weird stuff. Although, as always, I was open to try everything. After a month in France I realized that French cuisine is very complex and has many amazing dishes. So, here is my list of 12 dishes that made me fall in love with French cuisine.
Well, we all know what a croissant is and we all have tried one. I can’t say that I was a big fan of this type of pastry. A croissant with no filling is a super boring dish and would not be my first choice, except if I am in France.
Before going to France, my friend told me: “You have to try croissants there, they are amazing”. “Just plain croissant?” – I asked her. “Yes, that is right” – she told me. Of course, I said that I am going to, but really don’t see what the fuss is about.
We arrived to Paris and the next morning went to a cute café to get coffee and croissants (Cody got eclairs for himself as well). I don’t know if it was because it was my first meal that day, or because we were in Paris, or because it is really that good, but the croissants were amazing. So soft and at the same time flaky, it tasted very creamy and buttery. I could not understand how come all the other times I have tried croissants they tasted so much worse; nothing like in France. Since than every morning in France started with coffee and a croissant.
French onion soup or “soupe à l’oignon” as people in France call it. This is a traditional dish made from meat stock and caramelised onions and covered with cheese. French people usually serve this soup with croutons.
I have tried onion soup before and I liked it, so when we came to France I got a “soupe à l’oignon” to compare if I would like it more than before. And yes, I did, no wonder it is such a popular dish. Really filling and tasty, great to have as a lunch in a cold day.
So first you need to know that “Confit” is a way to cook something in fat or syrup on a low temperature. “Confit” also comes from the French word that means “preserved”. Therefore, Duck Confit is duck meat cured with salt, stored in fat, and then slowly cooked in its own fat.
How does it sound? Fatty and delicious I would say, and probably not the healthiest meal to have for dinner, although that is what we had for dinner three days out of each week for a month in France.
The meat is so tender and kind of melts in your mouth and the skin is super crispy, isn’t it just the best? There is nothing like Duck Confit and I fell in love with this dish. Probably good that I don’t live in France, since I most likely would get fat there.
Do you remember that I told you that I started to eat burgers? Do you know why? Because I love tartare and Cody makes just the best rare cooked burgers. It is basically like eating burger tartare. I know people are against rare burgers, but if you clean and grind the meat yourself there is nothing wrong with it.
And of course, tartare was high up on my “must-eat foods in France” list. The dish comes from the North of France and became extremely popular. It is made of fresh raw beef mixed with spices and sometimes with onion. And I know that many of you right now are thinking “Oh my, how she can eat raw meat?”. Well what can I say, I love raw meat and raw fish as well and don’t know why. My family never cooked anything like this, and I have tried tartar the first time when I was 20 years old, so I cannot say that I am used to it.
Anyway, Beef Tartare is another dish that makes French cuisine incredibly special and one of the best in the world. And if you have never tried this dish, I say give it a try and maybe you will fall in love with it like me.
During our month in France, we visited a few cities and one of them was Marseille. It is an utterly charming city with many things to do and taste. Marseille is a port city and it is located on the south coast of France. Historically it was a popular spot to buy fresh fish off of fishermen who just came back from the sea. I guess it affected the local cuisine, and restaurants still offer a big selection of fresh seafood in Marseille.
You can try a delicious grilled or baked fish of course, but if you are really a fan of fresh seafood get yourself a seafood plate full of oysters, sea snails, clams, and other amazing stuff that is hard come buy in your country.
Even now sitting at home and writing this article I remember how fresh and delicious everything was.
Beef Bourguignon is a beef stew made in a beef stock and red wine, usually a red Burgundy (which is where the name of the dish coming from). The dish is flavored with carrots and onion, and sometimes garlic.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yes, and taste even better. The meat is so tender, it is full of rich flavor that explodes in your mouth. Beef Bourguignon is fantastic, and I even tried to make it at home myself, although I am a terrible cook and of course my Beef Bourguignon was inedible. So, while you are travelling in France enjoy this amazing dish.
Eating mussels in France is like eating burgers in America or dumplings in China. French people don’t categories it as a high cuisine and for them it is a simple everyday dish, but not for me, especially Moules Marinieres.
I must say the first time I have tried dish was in Odesa (city on the coast of the Black sea in Ukraine), and I immediately fell in love with it. Naturally I was planning on getting this dish in France as well. Moules Marinieres are mussels cooked in a liquid made of white wine and onion. The dish is fantastic, and the flavors will make you forget every other meal in the world. This is a dish that will make you a big fan of French cuisine. The picture above is Moules au Roquefort, a marinieres variation with Roquefort cheese added to the liquid.
Escargot is a dish that not everyone would want to try, and I can relate to this. When I was living in China I tried lots of weird things like scorpions (the small brown ones are very tasty, don’t eat the big black ones, they are not good), grasshoppers, snakes and even tarantulas, but I could not eat frog’s legs (this dish is popular in China as well) at all. I just have tried a small piece and ran to the bathroom right away.
So back to escargot, if you are one of the people who would not eat snails I can understand, but if you like it or willing to try, then where is the best place if not in France.
Before France I also tried snails in Vietnam (which is an authentic part of Vietnamese cuisine) and I was excited to try it in France as well. The dish did not disappoint me at all. We got snails already without a shell and cooked in different sauces, served with French bread.
I am not a fan of the whole idea of Foie Gras and how it is “made”, but it is incredibly delicious. Foie Gras is a French delicacy that has this amazing buttery taste. It is usually served with toasts or as an addition to steak or other dishes.
And since Foie Gras is one of the most famous French delicacies, I decided to give it a try. I kind of hoped that I would not like it, but the truth is – I loved it. And of course, to stay true to myself I could not leave this dish off my list of 12 dishes that made me fall in love with French cuisine.
French Cheese is another love of mine. Every evening in France ended up the same, with French cheese and a bottle of French wine. There are so many types of cheese in this country that I really can’t say which one is my favorite.
Every day we would choose a new type of cheese in the supermarket or local farmer’s market, and every day I would say that this is my favorite cheese. What does it say about me I don’t know, but one thing I know is that French cheese is amazing and it is a part of my life now.
Have you ever heard from your friends that went to France: “The bread is different there, so much tastier”? I have, and do you want to know what I though about these people? I thought that they are weird and bread is bread and it is the same everywhere. Now can tell you that it is not, especially not the French baguette.
It is a thin long loaf of bread that is super crispy from the outside and amazingly soft inside. And if you are having it in combination with prosciutto or foie gras it is “to kill for”.
Where I am from we do fantastic dark breads like rye, but something about picking a baguette from the market and snacking on the tip while walking home is something I still remember from my time in France.
And of course, the famous dessert “Macarons”. Macarons are made of almond flour, egg whites, cream, and sugar, but believe me if I say that despite the small list of ingredients, this dessert is exceedingly difficult to make. In France I tried macarons for the first time ever, and I liked them so much that I even read the history of the creation of macarons. Have you heard that this dessert is originally from Italy? It was brought to France in 1533 by one of the members of the Medici family (Catherine di Medici), who later married the king of France. I guess French people also fell in love with this sweat creation.