Anytime you eat at a fancy restaurant like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and you’re likely to run into some French food or something that’s inspired by the country. However, there’s no need to feel embarrassed about not knowing anything about French cuisine, as this guide will show what the most popular dishes are.
Famous French Appetizers
No discussion of French appetizers will be complete without mentioning Tapenade and olives, as it is almost always served with kir (a before dinner drink) or flute de champagne. While Tapenade and olives are served before meals, they can be enjoyed with Gougères, bite sized cheesy puffs or Rillettes, made from various kinds of pork, fish or other types of meat seasoned and slowly cooked and served on toast.
Starters are served when you’re on the table, and you have a lot of options available. Just remember to keep your hands visible at all times while the food is being served, as that’s part of French etiquette.
One of the more popular menu items is baguette, a long, thin French loaf bread served alongside the entrée. Baguette is very popular in France and you’ll be hard pressed to find a French restaurant that doesn’t serve it. Another one is Cuisses de Grenouille, and you’ll also see some escargots on the menu. However, none of them compares to Foie Gras in terms of popularity. Foie Gras is the fatty liver of a duck or goose that’s been fed grains, and it can be eaten and served in many ways, but most restaurants serve them with toast.
French restaurants also serve Quenelles for starters, a log shaped dumpling made from eggs, milk and flour with fish or meats as filling. Ratatouille on the other hand, consists of sautéed vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. This is a good option if you’re looking for a delicious but healthy treat.
There are a couple of other starters that French themed restaurants usually serve up, and they are Salade Niçoise and truffles. Salade Niçoise is a salad, usually consisting of anchovies, bell peppers, tomatoes and tuna. Some of the ingredients may vary but the one constant is olive oil, and sometimes Salade Niçoise is served as the main dish. Truffles on the other hand, are black mushrooms, and they’re served in small amounts as they’re tasty and expensive.
Popular French Main Dishes
As for the main course, there are several kinds to choose from, and you can start with Andouillette, a sausage made from pig intestines called chitterlings. There’s also Blanquette de Veau, which is veal cooked with onions and carrots and served with creamy white sauce. In addition, you can enjoy some Boeuf Bourguignon, special beef prepared and cooked with red wine along with carrots and mushrooms.
If you’re into sausages you might order Boudin Blanc, a white sausage made of pork and combined with seasonings, onions and milk. For seafood lovers there’s Bouillabaisse, seafood stew served with olive oil and different types of fish. Another popular fish dish is Brandade, which consists of cod fish that’s be seasoned and pureed and combined with potatoes, milk and baked.
Many French restaurants in the US also serve up Cassoulet, a delicious dish made up of sausage, duck confit, white beans and other meats. Now if you’re looking for something familiar you can try Choucroute Garnie or sauerkraut as it is more popularly known. This dish has fermented cabbage and cooked with potatoes, meats and sausages.
Famous French Desserts
As far as desserts go, there’s Clafoutis, baked custards made from various fruits although the most popular are those with cherries. There’s also Mousse au chocolat, chocolate mousse, and Créme brûlée, a creamy dessert covered with caramelized sugar. You can also order Profiteroles and Eclairs, sweet treats made of choux pastry, which is dough made with lots of eggs, butter, water and flour.
There are lots of éclair available, but the most popular are filled with sweet cream and layered with chocolate, while the most popular Profiteroles are round and mixed with lots of ice cream. Another well-known dessert is Mille feuilles, a sweet concoction consisting of puffy pastry and filled with cream. Nowadays they’re called Napoleons, but restaurants serve different variants.
Of course no discussion of French food will be complete without mentioning crepes, pancakes filled with savory or sweet treats. You will also inevitably find croissants in restaurants, special treats made of buttered pastry and usually eaten on Sunday mornings. If you’ve had your fill and want something different, there’s Madeleines, delicious sweet tea cakes and available in different flavors.
The dishes and treats above are the kind you’d come across in fancy restaurants like Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, but armed with this knowledge, you don’t have to worry that you’ll make mistake one menu item for the other.