French food and regional specialities of French cuisine
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We mentioned in our other article some of the French delicacies of cuisine that are found within the different regions of France. But there are also many different signature dishes that come from certain areas, so we will take a look at some of these briefly, along with some other produce that can be found in France, which is used in the French food at many restaurants in Paris and around France.
Now we are sure that you have heard of Boeuf Bourguignon and it takes its name from the French spelling of the region in France of Bourgogne.
Well, it is the white Charolais cattle, which can be seen in the green pastures on the hill slopes in the Burgundy region, which are bred to give a remarkable quality of beef, which is the most important ingredient within Boeuf Bourguignon.
However, originally it was one of the typical peasant dishes served, but has become something served in top haute cuisine restaurants throughout France. And although it used to contain lardons to make the meal more tender, this is not needed with the quality of beef now as we mentioned above, but this is still a traditional aspect and normally constitutes simmering the meat to make it more tender.
Coq au Vin
This traditional French dish translates to rooster or cock and wine, and although the dish varies from region to region, chicken with a Burgundy wine is normally the popular choice for the wine sauce, where the chicken is marinated in the wine for around a day prior to cooking.
The chicken is seared and then mushrooms, garlic and bacon or lardons are added followed by other herbs added to the pot when the sauce is thickening.
This is a very traditional French fish soup that comes from the Provence region and in particular Marseille, which is now known as the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region of France or the French Riviera.
The dish then spread to Paris and from there it has gone worldwide and traditionally Bouillabaisse contains three kinds of fish that are scorpion fish, monkfish and conger eel. However, the dish may also contain gilt head bream, turbot or mullet.
It also often includes other seafood and shellfish like mussels or spider crab, and depending upon the type of restaurant you are dining at, there are more elaborate fish stews made with ingredients such as langoustines.
However, it is the spices and herbs that also make this dish different from other types of fish soup along with how it is prepared and served, for example the broth is served as a soup and the fish is served separately, normally on a platter with the accompaniments like vegetables.
Cassoulet is a traditional dish that originated in the south of France in places such as Toulouse and Carcassonne and it takes its name from an earthenware pot called a cassole.
One of the main ingredients in this stew are white beans alongside meat, with sausages, goose and duck being the traditional choices, although sometimes mutton is used.
And you will often find the basic ones available pre done in jars in supermarkets however these normally only contain sausages and bacon, yet a Cassoulet is also served in haute cuisine restaurants with duck confit and other more expensive ingredients.
This is a traditional French dish utilises sole or other flat fish, although Dover sole is the preferred choice for this particular dish, preparation for cooking the fish is lightly coated in milk and a seasoned flour that then protects the sole when cooking, yet does not retract from its flavour.
It is cooked in a frying pan with oil and then a butter browned in the pan through cooking along with lemon and capers, is how it is normally served accompanied by potatoes and parsley.
Ratatouille originates from the French Riviera and is generally classified as a stew with vegetables and the main ingredients is tomatoes, then it requires vegetables such as aubergine or eggplant, courgette or zucchini, bell peppers, garlic, onions and mix of different herbs.
Ratatouille can be presented as a side dish, on a savoury crepe or even as a main meal accompanied by rice, and it is a popular dish with many varients in different countries such as Italy, Spain, etc and it is consumed a lot by people who need good nutrition, yet low calories.
However, there are many different ways of cooking Ratatouille, and even if you take the advice of top gourmet and Michelin starred chefs like Joel Robuchen who runs restaurants in Paris, you will find differences on how it is cooked and presented. For instance, some say the vegetables should be cooked separately, others say certain ones combined, while others say that they should be layered, and so on.
So, even though it is a popular and reasonably simple traditional dish that was immortalised through the film Ratatouille based around Paris, there does seem to be no right or wrong way, and families from different areas pass down their own methods.
Other Regional Specialities
Regional specialities from the Aquitaine region of France include Patés and the famous fois gras, plus crepes are commonly used in the region's cuisine, and as we mentioned in the our other article, the Dordogne is famed for its truffles.
Also, the Aquitaine region grows half of France's kiwi fruit, almost half its strawberries, and most of its prunes, so you will find these are incorporated into the cuisine quite frequently.
Alsace is a very varied region that has changed hands between Germany and France several times, so the cuisine has a mainly German influence with sausages featuring heavily. In fact it is also the area that produces over half of the French beer especially in the vicinity of Strasbourg, with the most commonly known one being called Kronenbourg.
Wild boar is a delicacy of the Limousin region and this region also is famed for some of the best beef farming in the world. You will see herds of Limousin cattle, which are a distinctive chestnut red, and hence beef is also something that is served frequently, as is quail and other game.
Another regional speciality of cuisine that comes from the Correze area of Limousin is black sausage, plus lentils and chestnuts also play heavily within the dishes served at restaurants.
Bar the wine, the major crops produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region are apricots, peaches, melons, nectarines and rice, and having a Mediterranean feel to the area, these ingredients feature heavily within the cuisine.
The Poitou-Charentes region is most well known for its cognac.
Quiche Lorraine is, as you would expect, is the well known speciality of the Lorraine region of France.
We all know that wine and cheese go together and the varieties of cheese on offer throughout France are amazing and those in the Burgundy area are incredible. They come in all different styles from strong in character or mild and fresh, so a visit to Burgundy or any other region is not complete without trying a cheese board with your wine of choice.
The Auvergne region is also famous for its cheeses and the export of mineral waters, with one in particular that you may know of, which is called Volvic.
And as before, these are just some of the delights on offer that you may be able to experience, but there are far more, and depending upon what region in France you visit, the cuisine always tends to reflect what produce is available in that area.
However, if you decide to go on holiday to the capital city of France, then you will find an even wider variety of dishes available, as there are even restaurants in Paris that are dedicated to certain types of French cuisine, like the Aux Charpentiers that incorporates recipes from the Limousin region.