Cooked by their grandmothers, these dishes are the epitome of France’s childhoods. These meals hold a special place in people’s hearts and hold memories that are hard to recreate as an adult.
Of course, even though we have relied on various internet polls our Top 10 remains subjective. The list will inevitably miss thousands of variations and some regions may consider themselves underrepresented.
With French gastronomy so incredibly rich the hardest thing was the limit the list to 10…it could have gone on forever!
If your favourite dish is missing from our list, share it with your fellow Superprof readers in the comments below!
A classic family dish, but not as old as others: the potato wasn’t eaten in France until the end of the 18th century.
The origin of this dish combining milk and potatoes is no secret. The clue’s in the name: it’s from the Dauphiné region!
From one family to another, the recipe changes. Some use cream instead of milk or even crème fraîche, without mentioning other the other possible variations. The most experimental go as far as adding bay leaves and broth!
This dish came about after Duke Clermont-Tonnerre offered it as a snack to the municipal officers of the city of Gap in 1788.
And it wasn’t as easy to make as you might think. You must know how much to put in of each ingredient, and above all choose the right potato.
Some prefer Maris Piper potatoes, some russet and some king Edward. The important thing is to pick them ripe and not too firm, to be able to cut them into slices. Stick them in the oven for 30 minutes and they're done!
Pot Au Feu
An unmissable dish, pot au feu is a French stew, usually with boiled beef and vegetables cooked in a large pot.
An old dish, in the Middle Ages it was the eternal hot pot that was left on the fire and to which new ingredients were added every day. It is a very basic dish but can be adapted to different tastes and different budgets.
Its base is usually beef simmered over low heat with vegetables and herbs added, all coming to together to make a rich, tasty broth. This broth is taken out and served separately as a starter.
Traditionally it would have been cheaper cuts of meat that were used to make the dish. Hard to chew, it needed a longer cooking time to make it easier to eat.
To add even more flavour, especially to the broth, it is common to add bone marrow to the casserole, (really good on toast!) or oxtail.
The choice of legumes varies depending on people’s tastes but the most uses are leeks, carrots, turnips and potatoes. You can also add celeriac and onions.
Similarly, you can season the dish how you like, though salt and pepper are a must, you can also add cloves, mixed herbs or bay leaves.
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Coq Au Vin
One of the most loved dishes in France, Coq Au Vin, is a dish of chicken braised with wine. Delicious French wine elevates the chicken from simple to elegant.
The recipe comes from the east of France: Bourgogne, Champagne, Alsace and Auvergne.
Legend has it that this recipe was around before the Middle Ages when Julius Caesar led the fight to conquer the French. It’s said that this dish was served to him as a symbol of the pride of France.
The secret of a good Coq Au Vin is to cook the meat in small pieces with different ingredients to enrich its flavour like garlic, shallots, bacon or lardons, carrots, mushrooms, mixed herbs and parsley.
The quality of the wine (usually red, but people in Alsace often use a white grape wine called Riesling) is vital for the taste of the dish.
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We’re staying in the east of France but moving away from the world of meat to this classic, one of the first things you’ll learn to make in cooking class.
It’s a relatively easy dish to prepare and is cooked in the oven. Made with puff or shortcrust pastry, crème fraîche, eggs and lardons, simple!
Traditionally, the quiche was very fine; it’s only since the 19th century that it became the thicker version we know today.
In this dish of raw beef, the quality of the meat is key; you don’t want to risk any food poisoning!
Tartare, comes from, as the name suggests, Tatars (now Ukraine) before it reached the rest of Europe and was adopted by the French.
Nowadays you’ll find beef tartare on the menu but traditionally the dish was made with horse meat. This may sound horrible to us but it is actually very healthy, has a more distinct taste and is less prone to diseases than beef.
From one chef to another the way of serving this dish varies; in small cubes, large cubes or served as a haché (like a raw patty).
The real differences are found in the accompanying sides. Some serve it with a raw egg on top, with bread and salad, or some serve it with fries.
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There has been some debate on the origins of this dish. But it seems to be the city of Castelnaudary in the south of France that has made the most convincing claim, and is now thought of as the Capital of cassoulet!
The dish mixes dry beans (usually tarbais – a white bean) with pork rind, sausage from Toulouse or duck confit, plus lots of herbs and spices!
It’s a great family meal, and accompanied with a quality red wine will warm you up on a winter’s day just before taking an afternoon nap!
Much like stew (the only difference is that the meat is marinated in alcohol before cooking and pig’s feet are often added) this dish is a firm favourite in France and in restaurants around the world.
The Bourgogne region can boast about creating this speciality which transforms simple meat into a deliciously rich dish.
You must, of course, choose an excellent Bourgogne wine, and don’t forget mushrooms, lard and onions.
There is no set accompaniment so you have the freedom to decide what you serve with it: pasta, potatoes or vegetables!
Now we’re going right down to the south of France to get a taste of the Mediterranean.
This dish is one of the staples of provincial French gastronomy, where seafood plays a central role.
Bouillabaisse is a sort of fish soup made with whole cuts of fresh fish and potatoes and is garnished with garlic or crispy croutons.
Cuts of inexpensive fish are used for this soup that we wouldn’t usually eat by themselves.
This dish is straight from fisherman’s families who concocted a recipe to use up the fish they couldn’t sell at the market, and now people can’t get enough of it!
Going back to the other end of France, to the north, we find a speciality that can also be found across the border in Belgium.
‘Moules-Frites’ (mussels and fries) is a staple on menus along the coast of France and indeed across the country, but few people know that the ‘sauce marinière’ that accompanies mussels actually originates in Charentes in the south west of France.
It could not be simpler but this dish is delicious, it’s made up of chopped parsley, white wine, shallots, pepper and some sort of fat – either olive oil or butter depending on who you ask!). Some fries on the side make it the perfect meal!
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We return once more to Bourgogne to a dish that along with frog’s legs has become the stereotype of the French diet for most of us non-French people!
Snails are mostly eaten around Christmas time and typically the helix pomatia is the species of choice!
First, they are taken out of their shell and then baked in either parsley or garlic butter (which makes them a lot more palatable!). Then they are put back into their shells to be served.
Mop up the sauce with a crusty baguette and you have a delicious meal!
Do you know much about the History of French cuisine?
Or about the diversity of regional French cuisine?
Finally, discover more about French Gastronomy.
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