When you think about France, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the French Lavender fields come immediately to mind. You can almost sense the aroma of flowers, and taste the delightful pairing of good wine accompanying a cheese table. Your mind makes you travel anywhere you want, and your sense of taste can make you feel exquisite flavors.
It is surprising how a meal can take you to some places, and how you can identify a location for the food prepared there. Going back to France, you can easily picture yourself eating a delicate Soupe à l’oignon, relishing the strong flavors of Coq au vin, and the freshness of Salade Niçoise.
Getting closer to French cuisine
France has a special place in the top list of the most renowned cuisines worldwide. The combination of Italian, Spanish, Swiss, Belgian, and German influences, made French create the finest and most delicate taste food.
All French dishes are characterized by using local and seasonal grown ingredients and maintaining old and original recipes. It’s a blend of natural flavors with ancient cooking techniques that have endured over time.
People see French gastronomy as a complete package. But in fact, it is well distinguished among provinces. You will find local specialties that are different in every region.
Despite some differences in dishes, common ingredients are used in all provinces, such as:
- Vegetables: potato, wheat, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, leek.
- Fungi: truffle, champignon, oyster mushroom, porcini.
- Fruits: tangerine, peach, pears, orange, plum, strawberry, cherry.
- Meat: duck, squad, chicken, beef, veal, lamb, pork.
- Fish: salmon, tuna, mussel, sardine, shrimp, oyster.
- Herbs: herbes de Provence, fleur de sel, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender, tarragon.
With all these ingredients, they prepare the most recognized dishes in the world like: Tarte Tatin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Moules Marinières, Blanquette de Veau, Blanquette de Veau, Confit de Canard, and so much more.
A secret in French cuisine
Unlike other European countries, France does not use rice as a usual complement in its preparation. They have some traditional dishes including rice, but they prefer to use other starchy ingredients to complement the meals.
However, there is a region where rice is the star in some local dishes: Lyon. Rice arrived in France through Lyon, thanks to trade fairs with Italy back in the fifteenth century. There, not only rice was adopted as a staple, but the way of cooking it too.
They cooked a specialty like a pilaf that resembles Italian Risotto. This traditional Italian dish needs cooking Arborio rice al dente to get that iconic creamy texture. Risotto recipes usually include onion, olive oil, white wine, butter and parmesan cheese.
The French version may use either Arborio rice or long-grain rice like Basmati or Jasmine, and instead of onions, they use shallots. In some regions, people adapted this simple recipe and added other ingredients like mushrooms, porcini, thyme, and some vegetables or different kinds of meats.
Cooking risotto de Provence
Among all French risottos, here you have some recipes for you to try and enjoy the way France cooks a traditional Italian dish.
Lyonnais Risotto (4 Servings)
- 1 ½ cups of Arborio rice or basmati rice.
- 3 cups of chicken stock.
- 6 tablespoons of butter.
- 2 diced shallots.
- ½ cup of white wine.
- Parmesan cheese.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
How to prepare:
- In a saucepan, pour butter and cook at medium heat.
- Once butter is melted, add shallots and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Incorporate rice and combine very well.
- Pour all the white wine, and cook until the rice absorbs it completely.
- Then, cover the rice with chicken broth. When it reduces, keep on adding more broth each time.
- Continue cooking until the rice is tender. Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
Risotto à la française (4 servings)
- 1 cup of Arborio or jasmine rice
- 4 tablespoons of butter.
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
- 4 to 6 cups of vegetable broth.
- 1 cup of diced onion.
- 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.
- 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme.
- 2 teaspoons of fresh parsley.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
How to prepare:
- In a saucepan, add butter and onion. Sauté at medium heat until the onion gets slightly brownish.
- Incorporate the rice and stir thoroughly to get it completely coated with the butter.
- Add vegetable broth, little by little. Pour broth each time it is completely absorbed.
- When rice is tender, add lemon juice, parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese.