shallots

Top 5 Ingredients in French Cooking

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In a French woman’s pantry there are key ingredients that simply cannot be missing. Although I am sure there are some slight variations in what every woman deems as “essential,” these remain pretty consistent:

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1. Butter

Butter is indispensable in many recipes, ranging from sauces to pastries, or just for spreading across a piece of baguette. French butter is often slightly fermented or made from cultured cream, therefore, packed with an extra depth of flavor. So purchasing a great high butter-fat brand will give you loads of it. Bake it, melt it, sauté it, cube it, or smear it, any way you use it can create something truly delicious.

2. Wine

Good wine is not only satisfying to drink, but also capable of elevating your dishes to a new level of flavor. Wine is often added to sauces like Bordelaise, a shallot and red wine sauce, which pairs perfectly with steak or Sauce Vin Blanc, a white wine sauce which pairs deliciously with fish. Wine is also instrumental when it comes to deglazing the pan. Using it to get all of those brown bits off the bottom makes for a quick and easy pan sauce.

3. Shallots

Shallots are similar to onions, but provide a less pungent, mellower flavor. They can be roasted alongside chicken or pork, making them as soft and mild as roasted garlic. Like onions, they create a great base for a dish when sautéed and caramelized with olive oil or butter. Shallots just add to the overall, fancy and classy feel of French cuisine.

4. Dijon Mustard

Dijon mustard provides sharp flavor and comes in both smooth and grainy consistencies. The smooth version can be whisked into vinaigrettes and sauces, while the grainer version can be rubbed onto meats. Not only does it provide a punch of flavor, but also great yellow color. Dijon mustard is a key component in many recipes such as Dos de Cabillaud Dijonnaise, Emincé de Quasi de Veau Dijonnaise and Sauce Rémoulade.

5. Cheese

Where do you even begin with French cheese? It’s just so good, it deserves its own course. Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort are only a few of the many options that are enjoyed after the main course. The French typically start with the mildest and end with the strongest in flavor. Because France produces the greatest number of cheeses in the world, many being the finest, it’s impossible to not keep a selection on hand. And hey, throwing it into a tart or soup doesn’t hurt either.

There are other ingredients to keep stocked if you want to cook dinner the French way. They include fleur du sel,truffles, champignons de Paris and of course, French bread. Next time you’re at the market, grab some of these and experiment with them in your dishes. Let me know how it goes!

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