French food delicacies and regional specialities of French cuisine
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France is one of those countries that takes its food very seriously and there are many gourmet delicacies that are incorporated into the French food, along with different specialities of cuisine and signature dishes from the various regions in France, which is why experiencing different restaurants while on holiday is a must for most people.
Frogs legs in French are known as les cuisses de grenouilles and this is something that most people think of as a delicacy, but is not as popular as many may think, especially since the frog is a protected species in France, yet they are very popular in some other countries in the world.
But because of their mild flavour and texture, they are often considered similar to chicken and feature quite regularly in Asian cuisine, yet within Europe are normally served fried or deep fried, although other variations do occur, such as in a soup in China, but within France you will often find them served fried with garlic.
Snails in French would be shown on the menu as les escargots and this is one particular delicacy that is truly appreciated by the French.
In fact, more snails are eaten in France than in any other country in the world and most are from the retrieval of wild snails, rather than those bred for food.
Snails are normally prepared with a sauce, which apparently is essential, and the most famous preparation is called les Escargots a la Bourguignone, which basically translates to snails with butter, garlic, parsley and other spices.
And in fact, escargot in garlic butter normally arrives at your table accompanied by a specially designed utensil like tongs for holding the snail shell snugly, while you use a long two pronged thin fork for obtaining the snail and dipping in the sauce. But, another way you can serve snails is in a flaky pastry, which is another firm favourite in French cuisine.
Oysters are a very popular in France, being they are the main producer in Europe and in French are called les huitres. They are especially popular during the festive season and on National French holidays and are classed as one of the true French delicacies of cuisine consumed as a treat.
Oysters can be eaten raw or cooked, but they are also graded on their size. However, even though they can be eaten raw or cooked, there are precautions that have to be taken to ensure that they are even fit for human consumption, and it may sound daunting to some, but oysters must either be eaten alive or cooked alive.
From eating raw, maybe just adding a little lemon and a vinegar, through to steaming, frying, roasting, baking and more, oysters are prepared in a wide variety of ways, and many of the finest restaurants around the world will have an oyster dish available, not forgetting that oyster sauce is also a speciality in Asian cuisine.
Le Foie Gras
Foie gras is a French specialty, which is exceedingly popular during the festive season and through the New Year celebrations and France was actually the first producer of foie gras in the world.
The most common foie gras is duck foie gras known in French as foie gras de canard although you can also get goose foie gras, which is basically obtained from the force feeding of either ducks or geese.
Foie Gras will be found on the menu of many restaurants, especially the restaurants in Paris and other main cities, yet because it is an extremely delicate piece of meat that can be destroyed easily when cooking, it normally costs around eight to ten times more than the rest of the bird.
And depending upon the quality, Foie Gras is either served whole often accompanied by toast, etc, yet it can be made into mousses and the lowest qualities are made into pates.
The French for mustard is moutarde and it is used a lot in French cooking, especially for sauces like mayonnaise and vinaigrette.
Most French mustards are made with white wine, which is why they can be quite strong in taste, especially compared to those made with water and sugar.
The most famous French mustard is the Moutarde de Dijon from the Burgundy region of France, which is made with white wine, however there are many types available and often those that you can only find within certain areas.
Crepes are a traditional French dish that originally comes from the Bretagne region of France or as we know it, Brittany.
They can be served as a base for a whole meal right through from an entrée-crepe to a dessert-crepe and you will find that there are restaurants in France called Creperies that only serve Crepes!
Crepes that we may know as pancakes are made from a very thin batter of flour, eggs and milk and are normally cooked in a skillet or flat pan, for a very short time on either side, which make a paper thin shell that can be filled accordingly depending upon whether it is as a starter or as a dessert.
However, some recipes even use a potato style batter for savoury fillings, which is why they can even be used in a main course and these savoury crepes are sometimes known as savoury galettes or crepes saleese, whereas the sweet variety of crepes is known as crepes sucrees.
You may also recognise the term Crepe Suzette, which is where the crepe has orange peel and a liqueur, normally Grand Marnier, and this is often lit when it is brought to the table in a good restaurant, or even cooked in front of you.
In French mussels are known as moules and are a reasonably priced shellfish and a dish from the Normandy region is called Moules Mariniere cooked with wine, challots, garlic, herbs and cream.
However, another dish traditionally served is Moules frites, which is basically the mussels served with French fries and this can be found in many of the European countries.
The French confectionary of a macaron has been around for many years, and there are many places throughout France that claim a long tradition in this almondy treat.
According to history, it was Catherine de Medici and her Italian chefs that brought the creation to France, yet in Paris the famous Laduree has sometimes been credited with its creation, but there is also a museum dedicated to them in the Poitou Charentes region.
Traditionally there are two parts and the macaron is served with jam or butter cream, but more recently they can be seen on menus with Foie Gras and other delights, plus they come in a variety of colours and numerous flavours, with shops dedicated to selling these and many top restaurants serving these like the Fauchon in Paris.
Ceps or Cepes
Ceps are wild mushrooms that are edible and can be found throughout France and are expensive compared to normal mushrooms with the most expensive sort being the Tete de Negre.
They have a distinctive woody type flavour, and although they can be eaten raw with a salad, they are usually found within certain French dishes such as cooked with potatoes and garlic.
Truffles, spelt Truffe in French are a fungi found growing close to certain trees and are a highly prised and sought after French delicacy that are reported to have aphrodisiac effects and are held in high esteem throughout France.
The Tuber Melanosporum or black truffle is the most sought after, and demand for truffles and truffles products with the top gourmet restaurants is high, where you will often find them combined with certain dishes, and in fact there is even a dedicated truffle shop and restaurant in Paris called the Maison de la Truffe.
Yet truffles are very costly, due to the fact that there are only certain regions in France such as the Dordogne in Aquitaine where these are grown. Specially trained harvesters along with their trained pigs or dogs for sniffing them out are also required to find this prised fungi and only at certain times of the year, and they cannot be preserved for very long either, which makes them even more expensive.
There are estimated to be over 400 different viarieties of cheese that are produced in France, which come in a wide variety of different tastes, textures and colours, not forgetting some of these are produced from cows milk, others from sheep and others from goats.
There are also different grades and categories for cheese, just as there is for wine, oysters and other French food delicacies, and some French cheeses are protected and have an AOC label as well, just like Brie.
And probably one of the most famous cheeses is Brie, yet has a full name of Brie de Meaux, which is an ancient cheese dating back to around the 700s, and this is produced from cows in the Ile de France region just outside of Paris.
Another you may well have heard of is Camembert, that is probably the most famous of all French cheeses, even though it only dates back to around the 18th century, and it became more well known after Napoleon experienced it in the 1850s.
Then you have a blue cheese called Roquefort, which is made from Ewes milk and it takes its name from the village where it is produced in the Midi Pyrenees region, and traditionally would be matured within the caves of the village, which is where the mold came from, although the mold is normally produced in laboratories these days.
So as you can tell, there are lots of delights on offer, and these are just a few, but there are also the regional dishes and other produce found in France that we will cover in the next article.