5 Questions

Ann Mah on Cooking and Eating, the French Way (Plus a Giveaway)

By • September 27, 2013 • 150 Comments

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We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating, reveals her weakness for a certain French pastry, discusses how to make authentic French food at home, and shares a recipe for classic salade lyonnaise. Plus, we're giving away 5 copies of her book! 

 

Many of us dream about French food but are too intimidated to make it ourselves. Escargot dripping in garlic-butter and bubbling cassoulets seem more suited for eating at a Parisian bistro than at your kitchen table. 

Thanks to writer Ann Mah, who spent a year traveling in France, we can set that fear aside and get into the kitchen. It turns out you don't have to be in France to make authentic soupe au pistou or buckwheat crêpes. Ann's new book is full of recipes for regional French dishes that can be made stateside. French cuisine, Ann discovered, is about patience and connection to the land, something we can all incoporate into our cooking no matter where we live.

Read on to learn what Anne thinks is the most underrated French dish and why she hasn't ventured into the world of pastry. 

Salade Lyonnaise from Food52

More: Get Ann's recipe for classic Salade Lyonnaise

How do you personally define authentic French cuisine? What are the principles of French cooking you've taken stateside? 
One of the things I love most about eating in France is the connection between food, and place, and history -- the way a recipe grows from the land, takes root, and is eaten in the same spot for hundreds of years. But I'm not a purist and I strongly feel that when a dish is cooked thoughtfully, using traditional techniques, it doesn't lose authenticity, even if it's prepared outside its region. For me, patience and time are the hallmarks of great French country cooking and I've tried bring more of both into my kitchen.  

At the end of each chapter, you include a recipe for a regional speciality, but were there any French dishes that you simply weren't able to recreate at home?
I like to think that I'm the kind of flexible cook who will attempt to recreate any recipe anywhere, even if the ingredients aren't exactly authentic. But there is one thing that I would never try to make from scratch: andouillette, or tripe sausage. The very smell of tripe defeats me! Andouillette is available in the States by mail order -- and my book includes a mustard sauce recipe to accompany it -- but it's not the same as true andouillette from Troyes, which is a venerable sausage that many French people do indeed consider sacred. As one French friend told me, when he eats andouillette, he feels connected with the terroir, the land itself.      

Boeuf Bourguignon from Food52

It's easy to picture baguettes, boeuf bourguignonand crêpes when we think of French cooking. What are the French dishes that deserve more fame and attention?
One of my favorite regions is Provence -- and when people think of the south of France, they usually think bouillabaisse. But Provence is a big place -- and I eventually discovered that bouillabaisse is a specialty only along the Mediterranean coast. The dish that's truly beloved throughout the region is soupe au pistou, a soup filled with summer vegetables, perfumed with a fragrant basil sauce called pistou (it's very similar to pesto -- but don't tell anyone in Provence I said that). It's a celebration of summer's bounty. I make a big pot every year and have often wondered why more people -- even in France! -- don't know about it.

Was there anything you missed about American food culture during your time in France?
Oh, yes! Living in the States, I never truly appreciated the variety of foods we eat every day -- falafel for lunch, Chinese for dinner, Indian food, pizza, sushi -- it's all at our fingertips! In France, food is, for the most part, French. I missed ethnic food very much -- and I really, really missed spice. 

Brown Buttered Candied Apple Clafoutis from Food52

Your book includes savory French recipes, but what are your favorite French pastries and desserts? Have you ever attempted to make those at home?
Though I don't have much of a sweet tooth -- I've always maintained that cheese is my chocolate of choice -- I would never turn my nose up at a chocolate éclair. Unfortunately, I'm not a very precise or detail-oriented cook, which makes me a very bad baker! Like many French home cooks, I can make a simple fruit tart or clafoutis. But I dream about whipping up Grand Marnier soufflés, or a tarte tatin. Actually, French pâtisserie would be a very worthy subject for a book... 

Photos by James Ransom, photo of Ann by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

We're giving away 5 copies of Mastering the Art of French Eating! To enter, tell us in the comments: What's your favorite French food to make at home? We'll pick the winners by Wednesday, October 2 at 3 PM EST

Comments (150)

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7 months ago Raj

French Macarons... my wife is a french pastry chef.

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7 months ago cookinginvictoria

So hard to choose . . . it's a chilly, rainy day where I live, so I will go with the ultimate comfort food: boeuf en daube and apple tarte tatin for dessert!

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7 months ago Meg

Coq au vin - especially on a cool fall day like this!

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7 months ago christine wilson

croque monsieur , gratin dauphinois and daube a la provencale , a different version of boeuf bourguignon , there is a french restaurant chez francois in Vermilion OH , one of the best in the country , check their website and watch the video 4 minutes long narrated by 1 of the partners Matt about the history of the restaurant , really worth it

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7 months ago Linda S.

Sabayon (or zabaglione in Italian)

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7 months ago MargotCore

I love to make a Salad Niçoise

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7 months ago Yalisha Case

I love making this fabulous, simple French Apple Cake. And also radish and butter on baguette slices for lunch.

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7 months ago Sabrina Liao

we love picking up veggies at the local farmer's market and rushing home to make RATATOUILLE! = D

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7 months ago Allison (Spontaneous Tomato)

My favorite French food to make at home would have to be crepes! (Although I'd love to make ratatouille at home more often, if my fiancée didn't dislike the texture of cooked bell peppers and onions so much...)

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7 months ago Cee Shelton

Pain au chocolat. It is my favorite but, more importantly, my daughter's favorite snack!

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7 months ago Patty

I have mastered Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon! My favorite part is the Mushrooms Sauteed in Butter. They can be a meal in themselves over a lovely arugula salad...

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7 months ago avrilrj

Favourite French food at home? Daube de Boeuf served with home-crafted baguette, unsalted butter and a wine proposed by the vintner, followed by a light dessert such as vacherin. Make sufficient baguettes to have for breakfast next morning, with unsalted butter and Mirabelle jam - oh, and THAT coffee, you know the one I mean.

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7 months ago Bin458

Salad Nicoise is delightful staple, but my absolute fave is Pepin's amazing Onion Soup Lyonnaise finished with egg yolks and sweet port poured in the center. A deep, cold winter's night delight!

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7 months ago Teresa Engebretsen

My favorite thing to cook at the moment are savory tartes-- tartes aux tomates, tartes aux oignons, quiches, etc. It's just so easy to improvise and add want you want.

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7 months ago Ashley-Marie

Definitely pain au chocolat! Though I'm super interested in trying my hand at quiches.

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7 months ago Alessandra Ribeiro

Chicken Dijon

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7 months ago Jo Anne Elsner Kindler

I love making ratatouille, especially at this time of year.

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7 months ago Jessica

My favorite french dish would have to be a tie between Coq au vin and Quiche Lorraine

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7 months ago Carl

I like to make patés at home. There is the opportunity to make each one different than any other with the selection of ingredients and the proportions of each.

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7 months ago anntruelove

The classic soufflé of course! Although my favorite is far from being truly French and quite "Americanized" since includes pureed sweet potatoes. I would love to one day make croissants from scratch though.

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7 months ago Melanie

Tarte au chèvre. Or quiche following the recipe someone gave me in France.

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7 months ago rachel

I'm a quiche girl. :)

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7 months ago Karene

Ratatouille is my favorite dish to make. I also love to bake cream puffs, called petite choux, I believe, in my cookbook.

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7 months ago Bailey

My favorite dish would have to be quiche with leeks.

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7 months ago lmikkel

Salade nicoise.

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7 months ago MaryC

I have a lemon lavender cake I enjoy baking...but, soupe à l'oignon gratinée is a favorite.

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7 months ago Dominique Gregory

Coq au vin. Delicious and easy to whip up mid-week.

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7 months ago Cathy M

souflees and macarons, which are surprisingly easy!

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7 months ago Joanne H

So hard to pick just one...Coq au vin on a cold winter night is the best!

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7 months ago Sipa

Creme brûlée mainly for my husband and clafoutis for me.

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7 months ago Jackie

Cassoulet

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7 months ago CocoJuju

Alsatian Onion Tart and Gourgeres!

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7 months ago Cris

Not often enough - pain au chocolat

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7 months ago Evelyn Foss

Ratatouille is my favorite French dish to make chez moi!

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7 months ago CheapBeets

Salad nicoise.

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7 months ago Christopher

My favorite would have to be Cassoulet... it's well worth the effort every time

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7 months ago Kelly O'Keefe

Gougeres, gougeres, gougeres.

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7 months ago nogaga

My favorite is clafoutis. Elegant. Simple. True. Fruity. Creamy. Its possible to screw it up, but well-made, its exalted.

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7 months ago Alexandra Ann

My favorite French dish to make is Chicken Provençal on a cold, winter evening. I add prunes and kalamata olives to mine which adds a touch of sweet and savory to the dish. One bite and you'll feel as if you're back in France!

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7 months ago tina

remoulade! easy to make but only the right ingredients make it truly outstanding. i use estragon, gherkins, grated onion, dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and mayonnaise, naturellement! . its a fantastic accompaniment to pomme frites!

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7 months ago SpaCook

A roast chicken with potatoes bathed in their drippings--conjures up memories of the spit roasted chicken at the corner butcher shop I walked by every day of my year in Paris.

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7 months ago Natalia Gladysheva

J'adore madeleines. Easy to do at home, hard to find perfect ones outside.

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7 months ago Paige

I like to make crepes for the ease of cooking, few ingredients, and versatility.

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7 months ago Erin Powell

Macarons!

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7 months ago Tracy

Creme brulee...

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7 months ago Rachel C.

My favorite French food to make at home is the macaron because it forces me to be very precise every time, no matter how many times I've been successful before. To me, baking macarons is like a puzzle: challenging, yet extremely rewarding :)

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7 months ago elizabeth

very simple and very delicious lemon and sugar crepes - which always remind me of those crepe stands on paris street corners! crepes don't get better than that.

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7 months ago Kathy Henderson

I love making French onion soup.

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7 months ago teisha

Crepes!

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7 months ago Chris Kachel

French Apple Cake from Dorie Greespan's Around my French Table Yummy and easier than it seems

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7 months ago Smstock

Soupe au pistou

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7 months ago EmFraiche

Pots de creme are so pleasurably simple. Definitely a favorite!

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7 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Quiche Lorraine, made the way our French nanny did, many years ago . . . . with lots of heavy cream, good country bacon and a hefty pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. ;o)

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7 months ago russeaime

I love to make a Nicoise salad if eating alone, but I also love making various souffles (ranging from zucchini to cheese).

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7 months ago Laura

My favorite is French Onion Soup. It is economical, hearty and the most comforting food I can imagine.

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7 months ago Thuy Nguyen

I love to make crepes, both savory and sweet. So simple and delicious to make at home!

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7 months ago Pippa Biddle

It may seem super simple and thus not special but my favorite french food by far is a simple rosemary and lemon roast chicken with potatoes dauphinoise and wilted spinach or roasted root vegetables. My family is all french and, although we live in the states, we grow up steeped in french culture (especially in the kitchen). There are lots of recipes that are more complicated and jaw-dropping (souffles, tarte tatin, whole fish, etc.) but for us roast chicken is that staple that just never gets old. When I do want to make it special I combine a good pate and brioche breadcrumbs in a food processor, stuff the mixture under the skin instead of an herb butter, and continue as usual. Removing dark meat from the bone and sautéing with shallots, mushrooms, and a little bit of cream is also a good way to jazz it up.

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7 months ago Kateq

Brioche. I bake it every week. I make it into little rolls for sliders, small loaves for canapes, classic tetes, cinnamon buns, full sized loaves. It's just so delicious.

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7 months ago Tarra

I love cheese souffle. The best recipe and technique I've found is from Julia Child's book "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home". I also like to make ham and cheese crepes, which my dad used to make for us when I was little for a special treat. He was born and raised on an Ohio farm - don't ask me how he ever learned to make crepes!

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7 months ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

This would have to be it http://food52.com/recipes... closely followed by pissaldiere and yes, indeed escargot.

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7 months ago aussiefoodie

I love to bake a caramelly tarte tatin - I once burnt my hand by grabbing the handle of my caste iron fry pan straight from the oven - oops!

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7 months ago Tonie

I love making Boeuf Bourguignonne and Coq Au Vin!

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7 months ago Debra Bremer

We love to make crepes. Saturday breakfast with fresh berries and cream.

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7 months ago Joan B

We make a mean boeuf bourginogne

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7 months ago vickiessig

roasted vegetables with lentils du puy

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7 months ago dani

My most favorite french food to make at home is the classic boeuf bourguignon but I use venison as I usually have some in the freezer. I love a meal that I can work on all day. A Sunday feast!

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7 months ago TS

Julia Child's Roasted Chicken. With a nice white Bordeaux or Burgundy. (Shhh. She wasn't really French). "Why rub the chicken with butter? Because the chicken likes it!"

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7 months ago Elizabeth

I love to make boeuf Bourgignon.

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7 months ago Valentina Solfrini

Given the crazy amount of vegetables we get in our garden in the summer, my favorite recipe to make (and eat) is of course Ratatouille!

Being French cuisine the powerful presence that is is in the world, everyone is probably familiar with crepes, quiches and tarts. But another less known recipe is Pissaladiére (which is known in Genoa as Piscialandrea): A sort of pizza topped with onions, anchovies, garlic and olives. Lovely!

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7 months ago dbtb64

Pommes Anna, which is so plain and simple, but shows what a little French style - and butter - can do with pretty basic ingredients. It's great Friday night comfort food for us. And boeuf à la Niçoise on chilly winter nights, because the ritual of making it is so satisfying and it smells so good even raw: garlic, thyme, orange peel. It's the first genuinely French dish I ever made and the one I make for people I really love. I make the version from Suzanne Goins's Sunday Supper at Lucques, or the "Well Fed" blog's interpretation of that.

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7 months ago imbibe

Socca! So quick and easy to customize.

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7 months ago codywlong

French Onion Soup or Ratatouille.

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7 months ago ljencik

Eggs en cocotte! I am particularly fond of the Barefoot Contessa's version (as I am with all of her recipes--especially her French ones). I just love the simplicity of the dish and of course dipping toasted baguette in the runny yolks!

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7 months ago Scribbles

I grew up in a French-Cajun household so my husband thinks everything is French...we love a really good roasted chicken with the carrots and potatoes soaking up the juices. Also a Salad Nicoise with oil poached tuna. My go to dish right now has been french lentils with crispy skin salmon.

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7 months ago zEmfIrKa

Oh! This is a hard question. I've been trying to think what is traditionally French that I make at home... crepes, perhaps? Although those are usually traditionally Russian to me. I've also tried making Coq Au Vin before - it was delicious. Beef Bourguignon was also on my to do list. Other than that, a variety of French cheeses, and good wines are frequent at my home - does that count!? :)
Really looking forward to reading Ann Mah's book and thank you so much for a giveaway!

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7 months ago Daniel Gold

Toss up between a good raclette, duck confit, cassoulet or a galette complete (buckwheat crepe with ham, egg, and gruyere)...

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7 months ago neighomee

Definitely crepes. Simple to make and easy to customize.

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7 months ago Annette Prejean

I love to make Ratatouille.

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7 months ago Erin

French cuisine is a huge thing in my household. We have a couple of lovely french restaurants in our neighbourhood, which we are lucky enough to visit a couple of ties a year (mmmm, foie). We eat a lot of french cheeses, but I don't think this actually counts (unwrapping and cutting is not really cooking, or even an acceptable amount of preparing). I used to do the Thirteen Dessert tradition every year at Christmas, but again this does not really count. If I'm honest the most commonly made "french" meal in my repertoire would likely be a quiche or a salad of mesclun greens and perhaps a homemade baguette if I'm feeling really fancy. I also do a decent French Onion soup, but only in the winter (who wants French Onion when its 30 degrees out? Not me). Finally, I am currently working on perfecting an awesome Peach Melba (created by the first superstar chef, who happened to be a French guy, in honour of an Australian opera singer, in London), kinda french right?

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7 months ago aeisenhower

A simple, perfect Roast Chicken. Stuffed with lemon, oranges, shallots, herbs and rubbed with butter. Delicious with a poatato au gratin. I love french food!

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7 months ago Daniel

My favorite is Coq au Vin!

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7 months ago Shay

I learned how to make tarte tatin last year, and am addicted to it! I like it more than regular apple pie.

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7 months ago JosieD

coq au vin!

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7 months ago mia_keyes

I love to make moules marinières.

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7 months ago mindy

Tartiflette! Brings me back to the Alps

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7 months ago Salam

Do French fries count?

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7 months ago Annetje Roodenburg

A quick tarte

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7 months ago Ting

The only "French" thing I have cooked several times is boeuf bourguignon.

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7 months ago CuriousChef

I love to make salade nicoise.

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7 months ago spotandpal

Gougeres. Doable even in a dorm kitchen!

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7 months ago kozos13

Cannelles

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7 months ago Jazzbrat

I make a killer French Onion Soup unlike any of the others and I am always asked for the recipe.

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7 months ago SMcN

Crepes

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7 months ago Noel Poirier McCormick

We love to make crepes at home. We make them at least once a month.

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7 months ago Victoria Carr

I like to make profiteroles from Julia Childs' The French Chef Cookbook. Everybody loves them, and they can be made in advance so you can have a rather spectacular dessert that everybody loves. I stuff them with ice cream (usually pistachio or vanilla) and top them with chocolate sauce.

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7 months ago loubaby

Boeuf Bourguignon because it makes me sing while I am making it my own made up French words...my husband just rolls his eyes!

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7 months ago Anne V

Oeufs en meurette.

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7 months ago Tanya Bodrug

Tarte aux pommes is one of my favorites!

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7 months ago Hannah

Crepes

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7 months ago cfelten

Tarte aux pommes!

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7 months ago cookbookchick

Crepes! In my beautiful blue steel De Buyer pan.

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7 months ago witloof

Gougeres!

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7 months ago CHeeb

My fav French food is good fresh bread,anything Julia made, and most vinagrettes!!!

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7 months ago meagan.lane

Clafoutis, all the way :) Thank you for the giveaway!

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7 months ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Asking me my favorite French food to cook at home is like asking my favorite song - there are just too many of them! I've been immersed in French food for so long I forget what's French and what's not. My personal favorite is Boeuf Bourguignon, which I make for friends every year (at least) for my birthday dinner. But my most requested dish is Poulet au Vinaigre -- Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce http://food52.com/recipes.... And a bowl of this Lyonnaise cheese spread http://food52.com/recipes... is always in my fridge.

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7 months ago KitchenKim

In the cooler months my husband will spend a Sunday preparing a perfect beef-bourguignon! We invite company, bring out our large soup bowls and savor its rich flavors!

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7 months ago Katie

Cassoulet or Niçoise salad :). Oh, or maybe garlic egg soup!

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7 months ago smarshtastic

Macarons! The delicate little shells are so rewarding when I get them right.

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7 months ago Jennifer

cheese souffle - my mother made it almost every Sunday night, so I've never thought of it as fussy or pretentious. It's now one of my children's favorite dinners; it's so easy and so delicious every time.

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7 months ago Madeline9

I love making a simple Salad Nicoise, with lots of french baguette and butter on the side!

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7 months ago Kellie

My favorite French food to cook at home is my grandfather's meat (pork sausage) stuffing. It is my absolutely favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving and Christmas!!!

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7 months ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Kellie: would you share the recipe?

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7 months ago Sunny

Ratatouille

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7 months ago Patrice ham

Sauce bearnaise!

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7 months ago Joe

Ratatouille made with the fresh vegetables from my garden in the summer

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7 months ago Tara Sharp

simple vegetable recipes and savory tarts are my favorite to make. would love to try some more complex recipes someday...

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7 months ago klrcon

It's super hard to pick just one! But I adore salad nicoise in the summer and cassoulet in the winter. Sounds like a wonderful book.

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7 months ago Malcolm Smith

my favorite, "go to" french dish as a rustic Provencal "poulet au vin" - which I learned at a cooking class in Aix en Provence in 2005. It was in a 17th century bastide, and the kitchen itself was in what used to be the carriage house, in fact on the floor tiling you could see the grooves left by the wagon wheels! This location set the tone for the lesson, and whenever I make the dish, it takes me back to Provence. It's simple, uses lots of red wine, and uses just one (big) pan to prepare. And it uses sel parfume (a salt/herb mixture) and melange d'herbs (an herb mixture) that you make yourself (and use in any other dishes, too!). High temperature, lots of rosemary, garlic, did I mention lots of red wine? served with crusty sourdough and a green salad...ahhh, France!

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7 months ago onioncloute

Cassoulet!

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7 months ago DelvauxC

It's honestly hard to choose, but I love tarts both savory and sweet. They're so simple and really highlight the quality of the ingredients. Oh, and some of my other favorites are tarte tatin and mousse au chocolat..

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7 months ago annbaroq8

Definitely crepes! They're good morning, noon & night. =)

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7 months ago opicurious

One of my favorite french dish to make at home is Clafoutis. It's easy, tasty and you can always use what you have in your hand. I like to make sweet Clafoutis with cherries and pear and love to make savory version with all different kinds of mushroom mix!

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7 months ago FOODeAFFAIR

Salad Nicoise - it's like French crack to me! YUM!!!

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7 months ago CarlaCooks

Without a doubt, my favorite French meal to make is poulet à l'estragon (chicken with tarragon). This was the first meal I made for my then-new husband (we're celebrating 11 years next month!) on our wedding china. I still make it every fall, and it always brings us back to that special meal.

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7 months ago Pegeen

I couldn't survive without vinaigrette. And Maille mustard. I often build a meal around whatever vinaigrette I'm making - salad and vegetables, and as a marinade. Other food is just an excuse to use vinaigrette. But I can't leave out tarragon. And boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, without which we'd have un monde tres triste. Et les frommages! Beaucoups des frommages!

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7 months ago Lily,Sheng

souffles, sweet or savory!

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7 months ago student epicure

coq au vin! my husband and i made it the first time we went away together for the weekend. always has a special place in my heart!

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7 months ago Ron McCrea

Cherries Jubilee, which Escoffier supposedly created in honor of Queen Victoria

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7 months ago Sarah D

My favorite is Pain Au Chocolate! Hmm...so good!

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7 months ago Willamette

Macarons, miam.

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7 months ago Susan

Ratatouille is my favorite.

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7 months ago Marissa Seto

Pain Au Chocolate. It takes some time but is a fantastic homemade reward.

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7 months ago SallyM

I love to make ratatouille in the summer and beef bourguignon in the winter.

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7 months ago XenaB

I love crepes and French yogurt cake. Both are simple and delicious. OK, crepes take a little practice. I like making ratatouille too but not sure I'm doing the traditional way.

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7 months ago Monica M

Financiers! I love those little tea cakes, stuffed with a little chestnut cream inside if you can get your hands on it.

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7 months ago Phillie Filly

Crepes of course! I used to make them once a week for my roommates in college. We each cooked a communal meal one day a week Monday through Thursday.

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7 months ago Melissa Stanger

Looking for a lower-carb option, I recently made zucchini au gratin, which came out fabulously! I'm going to Paris in December for the first time, and can't wait to try—well, everything!

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7 months ago lisitasan

It's a basic staple (for me) but I love making mayonnaise at home. I learned how to make it from my French Grandmother, and the jarred stuff just doesn't cut it.

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7 months ago Erica

Julia Child's recipe for French Onion Soup. When using store bought broth I add a marrow bone while the soup simmers.

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7 months ago Erica

Julia Child's recipe for French Onion Soup. When using store bought broth I add a marrow bone while it simmers.

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7 months ago Kelly

Souffles! They are easy to prepare and the results are magical.

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7 months ago Catherine Bradshaw

Brioche!

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7 months ago Samantha Angela

I'm really digging pan bagnat right now.

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7 months ago amysarah

Hard to pick just one (two?)...I guess moules marinieres and lemon tart (from Patricia Wells.)

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7 months ago Jessica

I love onion soup!

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7 months ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

I cook regional French food all through July of every year, Favorite? It might be duck with foie gras if we could get foie gras in California.

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7 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

Steak Frites with béarnaise sauce.

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7 months ago natwhat

potatoes au gratin!

Annette_in_paris_nov_2012

7 months ago cucina di mammina

i adore bistro style french food and the rustic style of farm french food like our favorite, coq au vin and boeuf bourguigon. i am currently seeking out recipes for more french inspired meals, this book would fit perfectly in my kitchen bookshelf

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7 months ago lnsouth7

i really love boeuf bourguignon when it's cold outside! looking forward to making it later this year =)