As a French person who lived in the U.S. for almost eight years, I know that French food is often perceived as intimidating, pretentious, and overpriced. But it doesn’t have to be! Far from the snooty chefs in white-tablecloth restaurants, most French home cooks are all about easy recipes that rely more on the quality of their ingredients than on their cooking skills. These 10 recipes exemplify that perfectly.
This may be the ultimate French classic, and not just because it gave its name to a Pixar movie. It’s cheap, doesn’t require a ton of skills, and it’s basically synonymous with summer for most French people. Although the recipe is very easy, it can also be time-consuming — you’ll have to cook the vegetables in batches so they can brown nicely, before cooking them all together again at the end. Don’t skip this extra step, or you might end up with a bunch of mushy vegetables.
2. Lyonnaise Salad
Lyon is the food capital of France, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its namesake salad is such a stunner. The key here is to use a bitter green (traditionally frisée, but you could use escarole or arugula as well), since it’s that bitterness — combined with the sharp vinaigrette, salty bacon, and a warm poached egg — that really makes the dish pop.
3. Ham and Cheese Quiche
Quiche Lorraine is one of our most beloved dishes and a staple at any French potluck. This version replaces the lardons (lard sticks) with ham, and the crème fraîche with heavy cream, so you don’t have to spend time looking for those at your local store. It also calls for store-bought pie dough — something most French home cooks would also use here, so don’t feel guilty and enjoy this deceptively easy treat.
4. Homemade Crepes
I’m a bit of a crêpe purist and have about two-dozen rules to follow when I make a batch of what’s probably my favorite French specialty. But even I can admit that you sometimes just need an easy way to get those crêpes on your plate ASAP. Enter: the blender, which will create a lump-free batter in no time. You’ll still have to rest the batter for at least 30 minutes, though. Because you can’t take short cuts for every step when you want to achieve greatness.
5. Artichoke Barigoule
Although being a vegan in France is quite the challenge, there are a few authentic recipes that are naturally meat- and dairy-free. Artichoke barigoule is one of them. And if that’s not enough, this Provençal tangy delight can also be made with frozen artichoke hearts to make it easier.
6. Tomato Tarte Tatin
This recipe takes the classic tarte Tatin and gives it a summery spin by using cherry tomatoes instead of apples and balsamic vinegar, and honey instead of caramel. Top it with some fresh thyme leaves and you’ve got yourself a showstopper.
7. Instant Pot Coq au Vin
Thanks to Julia Child, coq au vin (chicken braised with red wine and lard) has become one the most emblematic French dishes. The original recipe is pretty involved and time-consuming, but this Instant Pot version is a nice option if you’re looking for a shorter and easier process. This recipe skips this step, but, for greater depth of flavor, make sure you brown the chicken before adding the wet ingredients.
8. Classic Salade Niçoise
This is a very filling (yet cheap and easy!) salad that requires no other skills than cutting a tomato in four quarters and boiling some small potatoes, green beans, and eggs. I know the olives are marked as optional in the recipe, but they add so much flavor to the dish that you won’t want to skip them.
This Alsatian specialty truly has it all, and by all I mean bacon, crème fraîche, onions, and carbs. Traditionally, this is made with unleavened dough, but if you can’t bother making it from scratch (no one’s judging), store-bought pizza dough will make for a delicious (albeit not very authentic) alternative.
10. The Ultimate Croque Madame
The French answer to American grilled cheese is the solution to all your problems. Don’t know what to order at a French bistro? Croque-madame! Feeling lazy but looking for a yummy dinner? Croque-madame! This recipe replaces the béchamel with mayo, which might enrage some French people, but if it gets this cheesy goodness on my plate quicker, I’m all in.
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