One of the things we love about traveling is getting a taste for a region’s authentic dishes—no matter how foreign or strange they might seem at first. French cuisine has long been revered as some of the best in the world, and we think these classically French dishes are worth a try (even if snails weren’t part of your tasting plan).
Other sparkling white wines pale in comparison to the heady bubbly produced in France’s Champagne region. Champagne was actually born of an effort to eliminate the drink’s famous bubbles, but when Dom Perignon realized that the bubbles produced a pleasing effervescent sensation when sippped, he realized he might be on to something. We think he was right—over 300 million bottles of French champagne are sold around the world each year.
Pain au chocolat
Sometimes the best pastries are deceptively simple. In the case of pain au chocolat, the French rely on high-quality ingredients rather than flashy baking techniques. The recipe is simple: take a small piece of chocolate, place it in the center of doughy puff pastry, bake and enjoy. Of course, as anyone who’s tried baking pain au chocolat will tell you, the devil is in the details, and achieving the perfectly flaky, buttery crust is no easy task.
Croque-Monsieur is what the French consider fast food, but we’ll take this over a lackluster hamburger any day. While its preparation may be quick by French standards, the creation of the requisite Bechamel sauce—a white sauce made with flour and milk—can prove challenging for the inexperienced cook. The original Croque-Monsieur recipe features thinly sliced ham layered with Emmental or Gruyere cheese between two thick-cut slices of bread. The sandwich is then grilled until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese has melted, at which point the sandwich is plated and smothered in the creamy Bechamel. Over the years, dozens of variations on the Croque-Monsieur have been created, but in our eyes, nothing beats the original.
Not a defining feature on the majority of U.S. menus, escargot (snails) are practically a staple of French cuisine. Considered a delicacy from the early Roman times, escargot have the added benefit of being high in protein and low in fat. They’re typically served as an appetizer, removed from their shells, prepared in a garlic broth and then poured back into their shells prior to plating.
One of the most complex (and flavor-packed) French dishes is bouillabaisse, a rich fish soup with a presentation that is nearly as important as its preparation. The dish was created in Marseille and highlights both the fresh herbs of Provence and the bony fish of the Mediterranean. Traditional recipes call for simmering fish with herbs at low heat while the chef prepares a roux. The fish are then removed and served on a separate plate while the intensely flavorful broth is dotted with croutons before serving. The necessary ingredients for an authentic bouillabaisse are hotly debated, but everyone can agree: the fish used must be from the Mediterranean.
Nothing beats a slice of Brie cheese on a hunk of fresh French bread. Named for it’s region of origin, this soft, buttery cheese is made with cow’s milk and pairs well with sweet jams or spreads.