For the 2015 film, see French Cuisine (film).
French cuisine consists of the cooking traditions and practices from France.
In the 14th century Guillaume Tirel, a courtchef known as "Taillevent", wrote Le Viandier, one of the earliest recipe collections of medieval France. During that time, French cuisine was heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. In the 17th century, chefs François Pierre La Varenne and Marie-Antoine Carême spearheaded movements that shifted French cooking away from its foreign influences and developed France's own indigenous style. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine. They play different roles regionally and nationally, with many variations and appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.
French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Auguste Escoffier to become the modern haute cuisine; Escoffier, however, left out much of the local culinary character to be found in the regions of France and was considered difficult to execute by home cooks. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to acquaint people with the rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of the French countryside starting in the 20th century. Gascon cuisine has also had great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in variations across the country.
Knowledge of French cooking has contributed significantly to Western cuisines. Its criteria are used widely in Western cookery school boards and culinary education. In November 2010, French gastronomy was added by the UNESCO to its lists of the world's "intangible cultural heritage".
- 1History (Histoire)
- 2National cuisine
- 3Regional cuisine
- 3.1Paris and Île-de-France
- 3.2Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace
- 3.3Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany
- 3.4Loire Valley and central France
- 3.5Burgundy and Franche-Comté
- 3.7Poitou-Charentes and Limousin
- 3.8Bordeaux, Périgord, Gascony, and Basque country
- 3.9Toulouse, Quercy, and Aveyron
- 3.10Roussillon, Languedoc, and Cévennes
- 3.11Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
- 3.13French Guiana
- 4Specialties by season
- 5Foods and ingredients
- 6Structure of meals
- 7Beverages and drinks
- 9Food establishments
- 10See also
- 12Further reading
- 13External links
In French medieval cuisine, banquets were common among the aristocracy. Multiple courses would be prepared, but served in a style called service en confusion, or all at once. Food was generally eaten by hand, meats being sliced off in large pieces held between the thumb and two fingers. The sauces were highly seasoned and thick, and heavily flavored mustards were used. Pies were a common banquet item, with the crust serving primarily as a container, rather than as food itself, and it was not until the very end of the Late Middle Ages that the shortcrust pie was developed. Meals often ended with an issue de table, which later changed into the modern dessert, and typically consisted of dragées (in the Middle Ages, meaning spiced lumps of hardened sugar or honey), aged cheese and spiced wine, such as hypocras.:1–7
The ingredients of the time varied greatly according to the seasons and the church calendar, and many items were preserved with salt, spices, honey, and other preservatives. Late spring, summer, and autumn afforded abundance, while winter meals were more sparse. Livestock were slaughtered at the beginning of winter. Beef was often salted, while pork was salted and smoked. Bacon and sausages would be smoked in the chimney, while the tongue and hams were brined and dried. Cucumbers were brined as well, while greens would be packed in jars with salt. Fruits, nuts and root vegetables would be boiled in honey for preservation. Whale, dolphin and porpoise were considered fish, so during Lent, the salted meats of these sea mammals were eaten.:9–12
Artificial freshwater ponds (often called stews) held carp, pike, tench, bream, eel, and other fish. Poultry was kept in special yards, with pigeon and squab being reserved for the elite. Game was highly prized, but very rare, and included venison, wild boar, hare, rabbit, and birds. Kitchen gardens provided herbs, including some, such as tansy, rue, pennyroyal, and hyssop, which are rarely used today. Spices were treasured and very expensive at that time – they included pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and mace. Some spices used then, but no longer today in French cuisine are cubebs, long pepper (both from vines similar to black pepper), grains of paradise, and galengale. Sweet-sour flavors were commonly added to dishes with vinegars and verjus combined with sugar (for the affluent) or honey. A common form of food preparation was to finely cook, pound and strain mixtures into fine pastes and mushes, something believed to be beneficial to make use of nutrients.:13–15
Visual display was prized. Brilliant colors were obtained by the addition of, for example, juices from spinach and the green part of leeks. Yellow came from saffron or egg yolk, while red came from sunflower, and purple came from Crozophora tinctoria or Heliotropium europaeum. Gold and silver leaf were placed on food surfaces and brushed with egg whites. Elaborate and showy dishes were the result, such as tourte parmerienne which was a pastry dish made to look like a castle with chicken-drumstick turrets coated with gold leaf. One of the grandest showpieces of the time was roast swan or peacock sewn back into its skin with feathers intact, the feet and beak being gilded. Since both birds are stringy, and taste unpleasant, the skin and feathers could be kept and filled with the cooked, minced and seasoned flesh of tastier birds, like goose or chicken.:15–16
The most well known French chef of the Middle Ages was Guillaume Tirel, also known as Taillevent. Taillevent worked in numerous royal kitchens during the 14th century. His first position was as a kitchen boy in 1326. He was chef to Philip VI, then the Dauphin who was son of John II. The Dauphin became King Charles V of France in 1364, with Taillevent as his chief cook. His career spanned sixty-six years, and upon his death he was buried in grand style between his two wives. His tombstone represents him in armor, holding a shield with three cooking pots, marmites, on it.:18–21
Paris was the central hub of culture and economic activity, and as such, the most highly skilled culinary craftsmen were to be found there. Markets in Paris such as Les Halles, la Mégisserie, those found along Rue Mouffetard, and similar smaller versions in other cities were very important to the distribution of food. Those that gave French produce its characteristic identity were regulated by the guild system, which developed in the Middle Ages. In Paris, the guilds were regulated by city government as well as by the French crown. A guild restricted those in a given branch of the culinary industry to operate only within that field.:71–72
There were two groups of guilds – first, those that supplied the raw materials; butchers, fishmongers, grain merchants, and gardeners. The second group were those that supplied prepared foods; bakers, pastry cooks, sauce makers, poulterers, and caterers. There were also guilds that offered both raw materials and prepared food, such as the charcutiers and rôtisseurs (purveyors of roasted meat dishes). They would supply cooked meat pies and dishes as well as raw meat and poultry. This caused issues with butchers and poulterers, who sold the same raw materials.:72–73 The guilds served as a training ground for those within the industry. The degrees of assistant-cook, full-fledged cook and master chef were conferred. Those who reached the level of master chef were of considerable rank in their individual industry, and enjoyed a high level of income as well as economic and job security. At times, those in the royal kitchens did fall under the guild hierarchy, but it was necessary to find them a parallel appointment based on their skills after leaving the service of the royal kitchens. This was not uncommon as the Paris cooks' guild regulations allowed for this movement.:73
During the 16th and 17th centuries, French cuisine assimilated many new food items from the New World. Although they were slow to be adopted, records of banquets show Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589?) serving sixty-six turkeys at one dinner.:81 The dish called cassoulet has its roots in the New World discovery of haricot beans, which are central to the dish's creation, but had not existed outside of the New World until its exploration by Christopher Columbus.:85
Haute cuisine (pronounced [ot kɥizin], "high cuisine") has foundations during the 17th century with a chef named La Varenne. As author of works such as Le Cuisinier françois, he is credited with publishing the first true French cookbook. His book includes the earliest known reference to roux using pork fat. The book contained two sections, one for meat days, and one for fasting. His recipes marked a change from the style of cookery known in the Middle Ages, to new techniques aimed at creating somewhat lighter dishes, and more modest presentations of pies as individual pastries and turnovers. La Varenne also published a book on pastry in 1667 entitled Le Parfait confitvrier (republished as Le Confiturier françois) which similarly updated and codified the emerging haute cuisine standards for desserts and pastries.:114–120
Chef François Massialot wrote Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois in 1691, during the reign of Louis XIV. The book contains menus served to the royal courts in 1690. Massialot worked mostly as a freelance cook, and was not employed by any particular household. Massialot and many other royal cooks received special privileges by association with the French royalty. They were not subject to the regulation of the guilds; therefore, they could cater weddings and banquets without restriction. His book is the first to list recipes alphabetically, perhaps a forerunner of the first culinary dictionary. It is in this book that a marinade is first seen in print, with one type for poultry and feathered game, while a second is for fish and shellfish. No quantities are listed in the recipes, which suggests that Massialot was writing for trained cooks.:149–154
The successive updates of Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois include important refinements such as adding a glass of wine to fish stock. Definitions were also added to the 1703 edition. The 1712 edition, retitled Le Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois, was increased to two volumes, and was written in a more elaborate style with extensive explanations of technique. Additional smaller preparations are included in this edition as well, leading to lighter preparations, and adding a third course to the meal. Ragout, a stew still central to French cookery, makes its first appearance as a single dish in this edition as well; prior to that, it was listed as a garnish.:155
Late 18th century – early 19th century
Shortly before the French Revolution, dishes like bouchées la Reine gained prominence. Essentially royal cuisine produced by the royal household, this is a chicken-based recipe served on vol-au-vents created under the influence of Queen Marie Leszczyńska, the wife of Louis XV. This recipe is still popular today, as are other recipes from Queen Marie Leszczyńska like consommé la Reine and filet d'aloyau braisé à la royale. Queen Marie is also credited with introducing lentils to the French diet.
The French Revolution was integral to the expansion of French cuisine, because it abolished the guild system. This meant anyone could now produce and sell any culinary item he wished. Marie-Antoine Carême was born in 1784, five years before the Revolution. He spent his younger years working at a pâtisserie until he was discovered by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who would later cook for Napoleon Bonaparte. Prior to his employment with Talleyrand, Carême had become known for his pièces montées, which were extravagant constructions of pastry and sugar architecture.:144–145
More important to Carême's career was his contribution to the refinement of French cuisine. The basis for his style of cooking was his sauces, which he named mother sauces. Often referred to as fonds, meaning "foundations", these base sauces, espagnole, velouté, and béchamel, are still known today. Each of these sauces was made in large quantities in his kitchen, then formed the basis of multiple derivatives. Carême had over one hundred sauces in his repertoire. In his writings, soufflés appear for the first time. Although many of his preparations today seem extravagant, he simplified and codified an even more complex cuisine that existed beforehand. Central to his codification of the cuisine were Le Maître d'hôtel français (1822), Le Cuisinier parisien (1828) and L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle (1833–5).:144–148
Late 19th century – early 20th century
Georges Auguste Escoffier is commonly acknowledged as the central figure to the modernization of haute cuisine and organizing what would become the national cuisine of France. His influence began with the rise of some of the great hotels in Europe and America during the 1880s – 1890s. The Savoy Hotel managed by César Ritz was an early hotel in which Escoffier worked, but much of his influence came during his management of the kitchens in the Carlton from 1898 until 1921. He created a system of "parties" called the brigade system, which separated the professional kitchen into five separate stations.
These five stations included the "garde manger" that prepared cold dishes; the "entremettier" prepared starches and vegetables, the "rôtisseur" prepared roasts, grilled and fried dishes; the "saucier" prepared sauces and soups; and the "pâtissier" prepared all pastry and desserts items. This system meant that instead of one person preparing a dish on one's own, now multiple cooks would prepare the different components for the dish. An example used is "oeufs au plat Meyerbeer", the prior system would take up to fifteen minutes to prepare the dish, while in the new system, the eggs would be prepared by the entremettier, kidney grilled by the rôtisseur, truffle sauce made by the saucier and thus the dish could be prepared in a shorter time and served quickly in the popular restaurants.:157–159
Escoffier also simplified and organized the modern menu and structure of the meal. He published a series of articles in professional journals which outlined the sequence, and he finally published his Livre des menus in 1912. This type of service embraced the service à la russe (serving meals in separate courses on individual plates), which Félix Urbain Dubois had made popular in the 1860s. Escoffier's largest contribution was the publication of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, which established the fundamentals of French cookery. The book was a collaboration with Philéas Gilbert, E. Fetu, A. Suzanne, B. Reboul, Ch. Dietrich, A. Caillat and others. The significance of this is to illustrate the universal acceptance by multiple high-profile chefs to this new style of cooking.:159–160
Le Guide Culinaire deemphasized the use of heavy sauces and leaned toward lighter fumets, which are the essence of flavor taken from fish, meat and vegetables. This style of cooking looked to create garnishes and sauces whose function is to add to the flavor of the dish, rather than mask flavors like the heavy sauces and ornate garnishes of the past. Escoffier took inspiration for his work from personal recipes in addition to recipes from Carême, Dubois and ideas from Taillevent's Viander, which had a modern version published in 1897. A second source for recipes came from existing peasant dishes that were translated into the refined techniques of haute cuisine.
Expensive ingredients would replace the common ingredients, making the dishes much less humble. The third source of recipes was Escoffier himself, who invented many new dishes, such as pêche Melba and crêpes Suzette.:160–162 Escoffier updated Le Guide Culinaire four times during his lifetime, noting in the foreword to the book's first edition that even with its 5,000 recipes, the book should not be considered an "exhaustive" text, and that even if it were at the point when he wrote the book, "it would no longer be so tomorrow, because progress marches on each day."
Mid-20th century – late 20th century
The 1960s brought about innovative thought to the French cuisine, especially because of the contribution of Portuguese immigrants who had come to the country fleeing the forced drafting to the Colonial Wars Portugal was fighting in Africa. Many new dishes were introduced, as well as techniques. This period is also marked by the appearance of the "Nouvelle Cuisine."
The term nouvelle cuisine has been used many times in the history of French cuisine which emphasized the freshness, lightness and clarity of flavor and inspired by new movements in world cuisine. In the 1740s, Menon first used the term, but the cooking of Vincent La Chapelle and François Marin was also considered modern. In the 1960s, Henri Gault and Christian Millau revived it to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and Raymond Oliver. These chefs were working toward rebelling against the "orthodoxy" of Escoffier's cuisine. Some of the chefs were students of Fernand Point at the Pyramide in Vienne, and had left to open their own restaurants. Gault and Millau "discovered the formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking.:163–164
The first characteristic was a rejection of excessive complication in cooking. Second, the cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés was greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic. The third characteristic was that the cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients. Fourth, large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus. Fifth, strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used. Sixth, they stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with flour based "roux", in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar. Seventh, they used regional dishes for inspiration instead of haute cuisine dishes. Eighth, new techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens. Ninth, the chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes. Tenth and finally, the chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings.:163–164
Some have speculated that a contributor to nouvelle cuisine was World War II when animal protein was in short supply during the German occupation. By the mid-1980s food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the haute cuisine style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.:163–164
Main article: List of French dishes
There are many dishes that are considered part of French national cuisine today.
A meal often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese course) or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert.
- Hors d'œuvre
- Plat principal
French regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine.
Paris and Île-de-France
Paris and Île-de-France are central regions where almost anything from the country is available, as all train lines meet in the city. Over 9,000 restaurants exist in Paris and almost any cuisine can be obtained here. High-quality Michelin Guide-rated restaurants proliferate here.
Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace
Game and ham are popular in Champagne, as well as the special sparkling wine simply known as Champagne. Fine fruit preserves are known from Lorraine as well as the quiche Lorraine. Alsace is influenced by the Alemannic food culture; as such, beers made in the area are similar to the style of bordering Germany. Dishes like choucroute (the French word for sauerkraut) are also popular.:55 Many "Eaux de Vie" (alcoholic distillation) also called schnaps is from this region, due to a wide variety of local fruits (cherry, raspberry, pear, grapes) and especially prunes (mirabelle, plum).:259,295
Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany
The coastline supplies many crustaceans, sea bass, monkfish and herring. Normandy has top quality seafood, such as scallops and sole, while Brittany has a supply of lobster, crayfish and mussels. Normandy is home to a large population of apple trees; apples are often used in dishes, as well as cider and Calvados. The northern areas of this region, especially Nord, grow ample amounts of wheat, sugar beets and chicory. Thick stews are found often in these northern areas as well. The produce of these northern regions is also considered some of the best in the country, including cauliflower and artichokes. Buckwheat grows widely in Brittany as well and is used in the region's galettes, called jalet, which is where this dish originated.:93
Loire Valley and central France
High-quality fruits come from the Loire Valley and central France, including cherries grown for the liqueur Guignolet and the 'Belle Angevine' pears. The strawberries and melons are also of high quality. Fish are seen in the cuisine, often served with a beurre blanc sauce, as well as wild game, lamb, calves, Charolais cattle, Géline fowl, and high-quality goat cheeses. Young vegetables are used often in the cuisine, as are the specialty mushrooms of the region, champignons de Paris. Vinegars from Orléans are a specialty ingredient used as well.:129, 132
Burgundy and Franche-Comté
Burgundy and Franche-Comté are known for their wines. Pike, perch, river crabs, snails, game, redcurrants, blackcurrants are from both Burgundy and Franche-Comté. Amongst savorous specialties accounted in the Cuisine franc-comtoise from the Franche-Comté region are Croûte aux morilles, Poulet à la Comtoise, trout, smoked meats and cheeses such as Mont d'Or, Comté and Morbier which are at the palate best eaten hot or cold, the exquisite Coq au vin jaune and the special dessert gâteau de ménage. Charolais beef, poultry from Bresse, sea snail, honey cake, Chaource and Epoisses cheese are specialties of the local cuisine of Burgundy. Dijon mustard is also a specialty of Burgundy cuisine. Crème de cassis is a popular liquor made from the blackcurrants. Oil are used in the cooking here, types include nut oils and rapeseed oil.:153,156,166,185
See also: Lyonnaise cuisine
The area covers the old province of Dauphiné, once known as the "larder" of France,[dubious– discuss] that gave its name to Gratin dauphinois. Fruit and young vegetables are popular in the cuisine from the Rhône valley, as are great wines like Hermitage AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC and Condrieu AOC. Walnuts and walnut products and oil from Noix de Grenoble AOC, lowland cheeses, like St. Marcellin, St. Félicien and Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage. Poultry from Bresse, guinea fowl from Drôme and fish from the Dombes, a light yeast-based cake, called Pogne de Romans and the regional speciality, Raviole du Dauphiné, and there is the short-crust "Suisse", a Valence biscuit speciality. Lakes and mountain streams in Rhône-Alpes are key to the cuisine as well. Lyon and Savoy supply high quality sausages while the Alpine regions supply their specialty cheeses like Beaufort, Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme and Vacherin.Mères lyonnaises are female restaurateurs particular to this region who provide local gourmet establishments. Celebrated chefs from this region include Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Alain Chapel. The Chartreuse Mountains, also in the region, are the source of the green and yellow Digestif liquor, Chartreuse produced by the monks of the Grande Chartreuse.:197,230 Since the 2014 administrative reform, the ancient area of Auvergne is now part of the region. One of its leading chefs is Regis Marcon.
French cuisine is often sophisticated, whether it's in the form of haute cuisine or comfort food. The French love to eat well-balanced and flavorful meals based on local and high-quality ingredients. Like many ethnic cuisines, dishes pay homage to their inspiration. Le Bouchon’s style of cooking and atmosphere is unique to the Rhone-Alpes region of France while Everest reminds diners of the French Countryside.
There is no shortage of Michelin winners among our favorite French restaurants. Le Petite Folie is where many University of Chicago professors go to celebrate their Nobel Prizes while Tru, one of the city's top restaurants, elevates the experience of its diners to a true artform.
Not all French restaurants need to blow your budget. La Sardine is surprisingly affordable given its menu offerings and Bistro Campagne offers a great, reasonably-priced wine selection. Also, high-end dining establishments like Les Nomades offer pre-theater prix fixed menus which makes them more affordable than ordering off the regular prix fixed menus.
Many restaurants offer traditional French cuisine with their own twist and as in most places, diners particularly seek out the specials so they can enjoy the best flavors of the season, too. As expected, great French wine almost always plays a leading role in many diners’ experiences.
This market is not exclusively French. But it consists of dozens of different restaurants and bakeries serving delicious food from around the world, including several French places. You don't feel like you're in a Parisian market in this concrete-floored, below-the-train station location. It's an indoor, European-styled market where you can get a rich and delicious croquet madam or strawberry crepe at FliP Crepes, a box full of colorful and sweet macaroons at Vanilla Patisserie, or a Smoked Salmon Nicoise and cup of French onion soup from Le Café du Marche. Raw meats, wines and other delicacies are also available. There is a large but sparse dine-in area. Or you can take your purchases, walk up the stairs and board a Metra train for the suburbs and eat during your ride.
This market is not exclusively French. But it consists of dozens of different restaurants and bakeries serving delicious food from around the world, including several French places. You don't feel like you're in a Parisian market in this... Read More
Photo courtesy of Bistronomic Facebook page
Modern French food, made with the freshest Midwest ingredients, is served at this restaurant just one block west of the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. The interior of the contemporary bistro has warm red and brown colors, but the real appeal here is the food. The Ahi Tuna Tartare, the escargots in green garlic butter, or the housemade country pate with rizuna apple salar are among the many raved-about dishes. The prices, both for dinner and lunch, are much more reasonable than other downtown French restaurants. Yet they still rival the quality of French food. Pirx Fixe menus are available.
Modern French food, made with the freshest Midwest ingredients, is served at this restaurant just one block west of the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. The interior of the contemporary bistro has warm red and brown colors, but the real... Read More
If the ambience doesn't absolutely win you over, the wonderful French food certainly will. Romantic, intimate (the restaurant is pretty small) and so French. Serving lunch and dinner, the menu is in French (with English translations) and includes many of the best and traditional French dishes: soupe a l'ognion, steak frites, confit de canard and moules frites. Favorites among diners include the soupe a l'ognion, steak frites and bouillabaisse. The extensive wine selection offers a nice range of bottles and price ranges and a full bar includes beers. The best value is found on Tuesdays, with a $33 prix fixe menu that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert.
If the ambience doesn't absolutely win you over, the wonderful French food certainly will. Romantic, intimate (the restaurant is pretty small) and so French. Serving lunch and dinner, the menu is in French (with English translations) and... Read More
Less expensive but just as good as the downtown restaurants, this suburban French restaurant has been a consistent standout since 1981. You enter by walking down the stairs and ringing the doorbell of the meticulously restored Victorian house where the restaurant is housed. The most popular choices are versions of the fixed price menu, which includes three, four or five courses. Diners create their own menu from dozens of different meat, seafood or vegetarian items. Some popular options are the Sauted Foie Gras, the Roasted Lamb Rack Cassoulet, and the Organic Beef Carpaccio. For dessert, consider the Warm Apple Raspberry Puff Pastry. It's all complimented by a nice, heavily American wine list, featuring more than a dozen wines by the glass or 200 bottles to choose from.
Less expensive but just as good as the downtown restaurants, this suburban French restaurant has been a consistent standout since 1981. You enter by walking down the stairs and ringing the doorbell of the meticulously restored Victorian house... Read More
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