Facts About French Food
1. Le fromage de tête literally means 'the cheese of the head'. It contains no cheese though! It is a form of pâté (or brawn) that is made mainly with a pig's head (tête), tongue (langue) and ears (oreilles). The meat pieces are held together in a jelly.
2. Le pain perdu literally means 'the lost bread.' It is similar to what is called 'French toast' in English. Bread is sliced, dipped in a mixture of beaten egg and milk, then fried or baked.
Le pain perdu can also be eaten in a sweet version by sprinkling sugar on top.
Originally, it was a dish for poor people who had some left-over bread that they wanted to put to good use.
6. La sauce chasseur means 'hunter's sauce' and it usually accompanies chicken or white meat. Originally, the sauce was used in the cooking of a wild animal killed by a hunter.
The sauce contains white wine - le vin blanc, onions - les oignons, mushrooms - les champignons, tomatoes - les tomates, parsley - le persil and butter - le beurre.
7. Le confit is a method for preserving meat, fruit or vegetables. It is an ancient form of preservation, developed before the invention of refrigerators. Popular confits are:-
le confit de canard (duck preserve)
le confit d'oie (goose preserve)
le confit d'oignons (onion preserve)
To prepare poultry for un confit, the meat (usually the legs) is covered in salt and herbs, then refrigerated. Later, the meat is rinsed and cooked in a dish in the oven or on the hob. It is important that the meat is cooked slowly in its own fat. The cooked meat is very tender.
Finally, the meat is placed in a container and covered in the liquid fat in which it was cooked. When it all cools, the fat hardens and seals the meat - preserving it for up to several months.
Photo - A jar containing pieces of duck (le canard) sealed underneath the cooled, hardened fat. The duck will keep fresh for several months.
If le confit is sealed in a can, it can keep for several years.
8. The meat of le confit (as above) is often used in a stew called le cassoulet. This stew is a mixture of meat, sausages and white beans - les haricots blancs.
Often, the top of the stew is covered by a layer of breadcrumbs known as la chapelure.
Le cassoulet is served warm as a main course (un plat principal). It is cooked in an earthenware pot called une cassole. The stew's name cassoulet comes from the name of the pot.
9. La confiture is the word for 'jam' in French. As you can see, the word confit is hidden in the word 'confiture.' Confit = preserve, and jam (confiture) is a way in which to preserve fruit.
10. Une compote is a dish of gently stewed and sweetened fruit. It can be served warm or cold.
11. Un sorbet is a frozen mixture of fruit juice, fruit and liqueur. It has a similar appearance to ice cream (la glace) but it is much lighter and fruitier because it contains no dairy products such as cream.
12. La mousse au chocolat is a traditional cold dessert. It is a creamy foam mixture of dark chocolate (du chocolat noir), egg yolks (des jaunes d'œuf), sugar (du sucre) and butter (du beurre). Sometimes it will be flavoured with brandy or rum. It can be served with cold custard. In French, custard is called la sauce anglaise - meaning 'English sauce.'
13. A very expensive delicacy is an underground mushroom called une truffe. In English, it is called a truffle. Les truffes grow naturally beneath a tree at a depth of up to around 15cm in the earth. They grow for several months before being harvested by the truffle hunters known as les trufficulteurs and their truffle-hunting dogs called les chiens truffiers.
Sometimes, truffle-hunting pigs (les cochons truffiers) are used. The main disadvantage of using the pigs is that they often eat the truffles after finding them!
Les truffes have a very strong flavour. For that reason, they are sliced or grated and used for adding flavour to other foods. You can also find olive oil that is infused and flavoured with la truffe.
14. La truffe is one of the most expensive foods you can buy. You can expect to pay thousands of euros or dollars for just one truffle. IT IS A VERY EXPENSIVE MUSHROOM!
So, if you wish to buy une truffe, make sure that you have beaucoup d'argent.... lots of money.
Les truffes have different categories according to their colour and the time of their harvest - winter or summer.
la truffe noire - the black truffle la truffe blanche - the white truffle
15. La truffe au chocolat is a truffle-shaped chocolate! It was created in the French mountain town of Chambéry, in December 1895, by the chocolate-maker (le chocolatier) called
At the time, there was a shortage of chocolate so he had the brilliant idea to mix ingredients together to make them go further. The product he invented still looked and tasted like chocolate but used only a fraction of it.
He mixed together fresh cream (la crème fraîche), cocoa (le cacao) and vanilla (la vanille). Nowadays, chocolate truffles are eaten all over the world!
Merci, Monsieur Dufour! Vous avez inventé une truffe délicieuse!
3. Le bœuf bourguignon is a famous French stew from the Bourgogne (Burgundy) area of France. This area is well-known for producing excellent beef and wine. The main ingredients in le bœuf bourguignon are beef - le bœuf and red wine - le vin rouge. It is served warm and it is a main course - un plat principal.
4. Le coq au vin is a stew of chicken, wine and vegetables.
5. Un pot-au-feu literally means 'a pot on the fire'. The name pot-au-feu originates from a long time ago when houses had a constant fire burning in the hearth. A cooking pot would hang over the fire with ingredients continually added and removed as necessary throughout the day. It was an 'eternal cooking pot!'
Nowadays, it is a pan full of beef (brisket or oxtail), carrots, celery, onions, leeks, water, garlic and herbs. The mixture is slowly cooked on a gentle heat, resulting in tender meat in a beautifully-flavoured stock.
In historic times, this was a very convenient dish for poor families as it uses inferior, tougher cuts of meat that require longer cooking times to make them tender.
Also, it provides two courses: -
1. The liquid stock in which everything is cooked provides a soup.
2. The meat and vegetables provide the second course.