Best things to cook in France?

Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:13 AM
  #1  
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Best things to cook in France?

I donít have much experience cooking in France, just a few times at B&Bs. Usually we eat lunch at a restaurant and just have beer, bread, cheese, and pastries for dinner back at the B&B.

Now weíll be staying in a gite for the first time, with a very nice kitchen. Iíd like to cook some of the things I see in markets and grocery stores.

Iím aiming for what I canít get at home and also what I donít see on French restaurant menus. Also simple dishes with few ingredients, and nothing that makes a big mess like tomato sauce.

I know there are experienced gite cooks on Fodors, so I turn to you for advice. Iíve already taken notes from some of you who do this often, but donít be afraid to repeat yourselves. Any and all ideas accepted.

Should I plan to do mostly stovetop cooking? At home Iím always letting things spill over in the oven, and I certainly donít want to be cleaning an oven before we leave the gite. I do plan to use the oven for strawberry shortcake, which I am told no French person would ever eat the way we do (in a bowl with milk) but I will try it on some of them anyway

Some things Iíve thought of are gesiers, ris de veau, calves' liver with red wine, and spaghetti al Caruso (chicken livers). I love fish in France so maybe once. If not, no great loss since most restaurants do fish so well.

What are some of your favorite dishes? Thanks in advance.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:25 AM
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If you can find them, lamb liver, cheaper than calves liver and just as good. If there is a Leclerc in a nearby shopping center, try the monkfish liver when they carry it. Mussels of course. Skate if they are willing to skin it. Boudin with fried potatoes. On market day, whether in the US or France, a ratatouille takes advantage of the summer vegetables.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:32 AM
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Cook chicken, chicken and more chicken. The chicken here is fabulous and I do a roast chicken well. I’m a borderline cook. The vegetables are great too. I have started replicating the salads I have eaten out. Lettuce, pomegranate and feta is to die for. Also we buy prepared rails from a tratiuer and heat them up. Especially casserole type dishes. Our meals are pretty simple here when we cook, but taste better because of the good quality meat and vegetables.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:43 AM
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Michael and cheska, thank you. I love skate and hadn't thought of that. I miss fresh green salads in France and that's one of the things I do in a B&B kitchen. I think I will try the lettuce, pomegranate, and feta combination.

My husband has become a student of fish in the markets. He's always lingering in front of the fish trucks. I'll ask him if he's seen skate and monkfish liver.

We'll be near several Leclercs, an excellent small fromagerie, and a bakery that makes excellent non-baguette breads in a woodfired oven. It's in Normandy so the cider is good and we always buy Chimay since it's $8 here and 1.50 euros there.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:48 AM
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Chimay is Belgian. Surely there must be local ciders that are just as good.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 09:16 AM
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Coquelicot look forward to hearing about your trip. We haven’t cooked fish at home, and have purchased small containers of cooked prawns in garlic oil €5 for 10 prawns ( or shrimp) from the market. Great with a green salad, baguette, and white wine. Oh and have I mentioned the desserts you can buy from the markets. Great desserts for €3.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:20 AM
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Cauliflower with bechamel sauce should hit the spot.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:23 AM
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We've spent around 130 weeks in Gites/Apts in France & usually cook dinner at the gite 4 times a week. Our "standards" are:
- Magret de Canard with red current (Cassis) sauce. But these are on menus in French restaurants.
- Already roasted chicken, with cream fraiche, Comte cheese, and Anciene Dijon mustard sauce
- Bouchot mussels in curry cream sauce
- Risotto with roasted red bell peppers, Toulouse sausage, mushrooms, and cheese (Italian or Comte)

We've also had Monkfish/Lott several times.

We can get ris de veau locally, and I've tried to prepare it several times here - with no luck. So unless you have been successful preparing it in the past - I would suggest that you not try it in France.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; Feb 2nd, 2020 at 10:53 AM.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:37 AM
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Also - there is no such thing as a sharp knife in a rental. I pack 2 freshly-sharpened knives in my suitcase when we go to France. I also pack a whisk and a small cheese grater (only need to use these for about 1/3 of the rentals).

If you would like detailed recipes for my suggestions, let me know. But can't respond today - we live in the San Francisco Bay area - and I'm watching the Super Bowl in a couple of hours.

Stu Dudley
Go Niners!!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:42 AM
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I forgot that I wrote the recipe for Magrets about 10 years ago & saved it on a Word document.

See attached

Stu Dudley
Attached Files
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:42 AM
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Michael, Chimay is a beer brewer, not a cider maker. One thing the French don't do well is brew beer.

I never plan meals when in France. I just go and see what takes my (our) fancy on the day. We often just have local cheese and bread and wine or cider, whether we are in a gite or in the camper. With the camper we only have a two ring gas hob and a charcoal Cobb barbecue/grill, but I make full use of the Cobb if we are allowed it. Maybe your Gite also has a charcoal or gas grill.
Have a look online at recipes and see what appeals, and bookmark them or print them so you have some things you can try but don't fret it too much if you can't get what you hope for.
Better something simple than something complicated that you struggle with! You are on holiday!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:49 AM
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Hunt up a Picard frozen-foods shop and try some of the offerings. Nothing remotely like frozen foods elsewhere.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:58 AM
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I agree with Stu Dudley that duck is very common, and much cheaper than what I am used to paying in North America. But you need careful timing to cook it successfully. A compromise is to buy duck leg confit. That cut is already cooked and preserved in its own (luscious) fat. It should have its skin intact. Warm it at fairly high heat, in a pan or under a broiler, so the skin turns crisp and crackly.

Paris residents will buy the main dish already cooked at a good market and warm it if needed in the microwave. Rotisserie chicken is widely available, with potatoes cooked in the drippings. And of course preserved meats -- charcuterie -- plus a green salad, make a fine lunch.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:07 AM
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I forgot to mention this.

There is no such thing as canned chicken stock in France. We have never seen it, and David Leiberwitz? (also from the SF area, & lives in Paris & writes books about life & cooking in France) states the same. The Risotto I mentioned above uses chicken stock. And other things I cook in France uses chicken stock also. In the past, we have purchased boxed chicken noodle soup in French groceries, and drained it to get the noodles out so we could use the "liquid" that remains. It is awful. We have used chicken stock cubes - awful. And powered packets - awful. Now we use the carcass from the roasted chicken (above) to make "home made" chicken stock. I often spend a leisurely restful day making various stocks in France.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:10 AM
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Hetismij, I agree that the French don't do beer well. We love Chimay ale (the red label.) We get excellent cider from Maison Ferre, either at the farm or at the Supermarche or Intermarche.

Stu, thanks for the recipe. I don't want to struggle, so maybe ris de veau is not for our travels.

I realize I'll probably need a knife and more and can get them in the Matfer outlet shop. Wish I could afford their copper pots. We'd never heard of Matfer-Bourgeat till we got to this area, but it's an international kitchenware company with a factory near where we'll be staying. Matfer has a huge sale twice a year where I gawk at kitchen equipment for large-scale kitchens. Giant food processors, plaques to bake several dozen baguettes on, plaques for 40 madeleines, chocolate fountains, pastry "sherpas"...the list goes on. We had supper with one of their sales people once, and he told us he outfitted a complete Las Vegas casino kitchen over the phone.

kerouac, very droll.

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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Coquelicot View Post
Michael and cheska, thank you. I love skate and hadn't thought of that. I miss fresh green salads in France and that's one of the things I do in a B&B kitchen. I think I will try the lettuce, pomegranate, and feta combination.

My husband has become a student of fish in the markets. He's always lingering in front of the fish trucks. I'll ask him if he's seen skate and monkfish liver.

We'll be near several Leclercs, an excellent small fromagerie, and a bakery that makes excellent non-baguette breads in a woodfired oven. It's in Normandy so the cider is good and we always buy Chimay since it's $8 here and 1.50 euros there.

Don't spurn the hypermarkets. French super groceries are amazing.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:12 AM
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Stu, thanks for the warning. I brought home some Knorr cubes that were recommended and they were lousy, very artificial.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley View Post
I forgot to mention this.

There is no such thing as canned chicken stock in France. We have never seen it, and David Leiberwitz? (also from the SF area, & lives in Paris & writes books about life & cooking in France) states the same. The Risotto I mentioned above uses chicken stock. And other things I cook in France uses chicken stock also. In the past, we have purchased boxed chicken noodle soup in French groceries, and drained it to get the noodles out so we could use the "liquid" that remains. It is awful. We have used chicken stock cubes - awful. And powered packets - awful. Now we use the carcass from the roasted chicken (above) to make "home made" chicken stock. I often spend a leisurely restful day making various stocks in France.

Stu Dudley
Try Maggi's or Rustica's Fond de Veau, or Fond Volaille.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Coquelicot View Post
Stu, thanks for the warning. I brought home some Knorr cubes that were recommended and they were lousy, very artificial.
You can buy all manner of "fonds" at your local Leclerc's
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:23 AM
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Fond is usually sold in jars not tins and is preferable to stock cubes!
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