Facts About French Food
1. Le bouquet garni is a little bunch of aromatic herbs, tied together with string. The bouquet is placed in soup, sauce or stew whilst it is cooking so that the herbs' aromas can infiltrate the food. It is then removed prior to eating.
Typical herbs in le bouquet garni are:
le thym - thyme, le laurier - bay leaves,
le persil - parsley, la sauge - sage,
le romarin - rosemary, la coriandre - coriander
2. Un canapé is a savoury, bite-size piece of bread, pastry or cracker that is served with a topping. It belongs to the category hors-d'œuvre - appetiser.
Les canapés are usually served on a tray as part of a buffet for parties. An assortment of canapés looks very colourful.
The word le canapé actually means 'the couch' in French. This food item has its name because the topping 'sits' on the base underneath as if it was sitting on a sofa!
3. The word biscuit comes from the combination of two French words bis (twice) and cuit (cooked). Originally, cookies were baked twice. First they were baked in the oven and then they were gently baked a second time to make them dry and crunchy.
The same thing can be seen in the Italian word for biscuit: biscotto.
bis (twice) + cotto (cooked).
4. Le bisque is a creamy soup made from crustaceans - les crustacés. Various types of bisque are:
le bisque de homard (lobster), le bisque d'écrevisse (crayfish), le bisque de crabe (crab) and le bisque de crevettes (prawns).
Above: le bisque de homard
The word bisque comes from the combination of the two words: bis (twice) + cuit (cooked). The ingredients are 'cooked twice' in the following way:
1. The crustaceans are heated in a pan with other aromatic ingredients such as liquid stock, herbs, wine, garlic, tomato purée and vegetables.
2. The heated mixture is sieved and strained into another pan so that only the liquid passes through. The liquid is then cooked for a second time to thicken it with the addition of cream, flour and butter.
Et voilà! Le bisque est servi! Traditionally, the bisque is served in a little white bowl as a first course. Bon appétit!
5. Les moules à la marinière are mussels cooked in a sauce of white wine, and shallots. A popular accompaniment to a bowl of mussels is French fries. This combination is known simply as les moules-frites.
Above: la blanquette
6. La blanquette is a stew made with white meat such as poultry, rabbit or veal. The stew takes its name from its pale colour.
The colour 'white' - blanc - is hidden in the name.
Various types of the stew are:
La blanquette de veau is made with veal.
La blanquette de poulet - with chicken.
La blanquette de lapin - made with rabbit.
7. A traditional French soup is la soupe à l'oignon - onion soup. It is dark brown in colour and is often served gratinée. Food that is served gratiné or au gratin means that it is topped with bread and grated cheese then placed under a grill before serving. The grilled topping forms a crust. The cheese that is used is Gruyère or Emmental.
It is believed that French onion soup was invented by King Louis XV in the 1700s. The story is that, late one night at his hunting lodge, the king was hungry but had no ingredients other than some onions, champagne and butter.
So, he put those few ingredients together et voilà! The idea for a new dish was born!
8. Le steak tartare is not actually a steak! Instead, it is similar to a totally raw beefburger served with a raw egg yolk on top. It is often accompanied by capers and chopped onions. Its name can be abbreviated to just le tartare.
A slightly-cooked version is called le steak tartare aller-retour where the burger is flipped briefly on each side so that the outside is sealed but the inside remains raw.
The raw, minced meat can be either beef or horse.
9. If you are ordering steak (un steak) in a restaurant, you will probably have to say how you would like it cooked.
bleu - this means the steak is hardly cooked at all. It is very lightly seared on the outside and uncooked inside.
saignant - meaning 'bleeding'. The steak is lightly cooked on the outside. In English it is called rare.
à point - this means 'perfectly' and is medium-rare.
bien cuit - meaning 'well-cooked' is the English equivalent of medium. Any more cooked than this is not considered a good way to eat steak in France.
10. La tarte Tatin is an 'upside-down' fruit pie. The sliced, caramelised apples (les pommes) or pears (les poires) - are arranged at the bottom of the pie dish with the pastry mixture on top. After baking, the pie dish is turned upside down onto a plate so that the fruit is presented on top.
La tarte Tatin was created by the sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin as a speciality that was regularly served in their family's hotel called Hôtel Tatin.
The hotel still exists today!
11. La salade niçoise is a salad that comes from the area of Nice in southern France. It is a mixture of tomatoes, peppers, onions, celery, green beans, cucumber, artichokes, anchovy fillets, tuna, hard-boiled eggs and local black olives. It is a very filling and nutritious salad!
A popular way in which to eat la salade niçoise is in a sandwich called le pain bagnat - also spelled le pan bagnat. It is made with a round bread roll.
12. The olives that are cultivated in the area of Nice are very famous. Their name is les olives cailletier but they are also referred to as les olives de Nice.
They are used for both eating and for the production of olive oil. The local olive oil that is produced by these olives is called l'huile d'olive de Nice.
Here are photos of un olivier cailletier -
a cailletier olive tree and of les olives.
13. Les crudités are raw vegetables, sliced or whole. They are served as an appetiser. The word crude means raw. The word crudité means rawness.
Les crudités can be served with une vinaigrette - this is a dressing made from vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper.
14. Le navarin d'agneau is a lamb stew. It contains turnips - les navets - from which it takes its name. It is traditionally a stew that is prepared in the spring using foods that are associated with that time of year - lamb, peas, turnips and new potatoes. It is a popular choice in France for Easter Day dinner.
15. La charcuterie is the name given to foods made mainly from pork such as sausages, bacon, salami and ham.
Le saucisson sec means 'the dry sausage' It is a type of French salami that has been hung up to dry. It consists of around three quarters pork meat (la viande de porc) and one quarter pork fat (le lard de porc) that is chopped up and mixed together. Spices, herbs and garlic can be added.
Le saucisson sec has a white coating because it has been dusted with la farine de froment - wheat flour.