Techniques

The Tricks You Need to Simplify French Cooking

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Although French cuisine is generally perceived to be fancy and complex, it can actually be quite simple and inexpensive. Yes, there are plenty of French restaurants that are known for their exquisite dishes like Le Bernadin and La Grenouille in New York City, and they will cost you a pretty penny. But there are also ways to achieve harmonious luxurious-tasting dishes at home.

In order to create a heavenly French meal on an average weeknight, you’ll need to focus on the right ingredients and techniques. And don’t worry; they don’t require an Eric Ripert (Le Bernadin’s owner and executive chef) level of expertise.

Start with the Right Ingredients

If you want food that shines flavor, you need to start with in-season vegetables. The French prefer to buy local and in-season foods. Vegetables and herbs like chives, onions, shallots, parsley and garlic will give a dish amazing aroma and flavor. The base to many sauce-heavy French recipes is composed of diced celery, onions, carrots and garlic, therefore starting off right is essential.

Don’t Forget About The Spices

In order to elevate a simple dish, you need to have plenty of basic ingredients on hand. These include wine, whether it be red or white, Dijon mustard, butter, and fresh herbs. Cloutilde Dusoulier says, “Vegetables are such a welcoming canvas, whether you are flavoring them with citrus and spices, turmeric and hazelnuts, or an ayurvedic blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger.” Although simply adding salt and pepper is an option, you can’t obtain an extraordinary French dish with just the two.

Technique, Technique, Technique

In French cooking, sautéing, roasting, braising, poaching and broiling are a must. We can’t all make a spectacular sauce like chef Jacques Pepin, but a simple shortcut can work wonders for the everyday cook. Deglazing the pan with some wine and broth after sautéing meat can create a delectable sauce. Roasting vegetables before adding them to dishes can also bring out extra flavor. Let’s just say, there’s a reason for everything.

Take Pleasure in the Dining Experience 

The French have a way of enjoying meals, which we Americans don’t. They sit around the table in camaraderie, while they let their three-course meals progress. Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table, says, “It’s meant to unfold, so it’s a really relaxing moment at the end of the day. It’s about the pleasure of sitting down, enjoying family, company, and food.”

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Once in a while (or often), it’s more than acceptable to splurge on a French dining experience. However, if you’re feeling like sprucing up your everyday routine, why not try it the French way. Grab the wine, grab the cheese and enjoy the cooking experience from start to finish!

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