Taste of France Recipes
Thom's Recipe File
French cooking brings to mind a lot
of wine, sauces and gravies full of fat and great taste.
also strikes fear in the best of chefs to achieve a measure of perfection in
each dish prepared in the French methods of cooking. Not me, I try my
best to simplify any dish I find to my liking of French origin. Simple
is my motto.
To state the obvious, meals range from the very basic, such as the
traditional baguette plus cheese plus inexpensive wine, to very elaborate
affairs than can involve a dozen courses and different wines consumed over
several hours. Therefore, the latter type of dining is exceptional for
most people. However, it is this more sophisticated dining which is
typically found in "French restaurants" outside
giving many foreigners the mistaken impression that French food is heavy and
complicated. In fact, much of the French cuisine is fairly simple,
relying on high quality fresh ingredients and loving preparation rather than
Like most European countries the cuisine in France is
regionalized. The French Mediterranean uses olive oil, herbs and
tomatoes in many of its dishes. The cuisine of northwest France uses
butter, soured cream (crème fraiche) and apples. The cuisine of
northeast France (Alsace, and to a lesser extent Lorraine) has a strong
German influence which includes beer and sauerkraut. Throughout the
south in general there tends to be more use of vegetables and fruit (in part
due to the favorable climate). Near the
Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean there is a greater consumption of sea
food, while inland areas favored by rivers (e.g. the Loire valley) use more
fresh water fish.
Aside from bread and water, the most common accompaniments to a French meal
are wine and cheese. Unlike other countries, in France wine is
considered a standard part of everyday meals, and is neither expensive nor
reserved for special occasions. With everyday meals, ordinary wines
are served, although it is expected that the style of wine match the style
In addition to its use in cooking, cheese is often served
as a course in itself. In this case, it is
served after the main meal but before dessert. This
typically consists of a platter with three or four different cheeses, from
which guests can slice pieces according to their preferences.
Sliced bread (e.g. slices of a baguette) are typically
provided at the same time.
|What is Bouillabaisse?
Bouillabaisse is usually a fish stock
containing different kinds of cooked fish and shellfish. These
are complemented with a variety of herbs and spices such as
garlic, orange peel, basil, bay leaf, fennel and saffron.
Classically, there are usually a half dozen or so kinds of sea
food such as turbot, monkfish, clams, mullet, mussels and conger
eel; other kinds of fish may also be used. Vegetables such as
leeks, onions, tomatoes and celery are boiled together to
produce a rich flavor. The exact proportions vary by cook and
region. For example, in Marseille intense arguments rage between
different restaurants, all of whom claim to make "authentic
The stew and the fish are usually served in
separate bowls, with the stew poured over slices of French bread
seasoned with a spicy sauce of bread crumbs, olive oil, and
chilis called rouille, although sometimes an aioli is served.
Bouillabaisse is often only served when there are large groups
of people, as it is time-consuming to prepare and some of its
ingredients may be expensive; it is also generally available
from restaurants along the coasts of Provence.
The origins of the dish date back to
the time of the Ancient Greeks, when they founded Marseille in
600 BC. Then, the population ate a simple fish stew known in
Greek as 'kakavia.' Bouillabaisse also appears in Roman
mythology: it is the soup that Venus fed to Vulcan, to lull him
to sleep, so that she could cavort with the god Mars.