It’s Bastille Day.
This French national day commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, an important event in Paris in a violent revolution that had begun two days earlier and which would lead to the country becoming a republic.
Like most national days, food plays a big part in the celebration and few do food better than our cousins across the English Channel.
It may have been overtaken by Japan as the country with the most Michelin-starred restaurants but to most it’s still the place to be for classically good food, and the reason why so many of the world’s best chefs have trained there.
So, in honour of Bastille Day, here’s just a small selection of our favourite French dishes:
- French onion soup – is there anything better, and easier to make than this onion-laden broth topped with grated cheese? We think not.
- French toast – there are more complicated recipes of this, but we prefer to keep it simple by taking some nice fresh bread (nobody does bread like the French), dipping it in egg and milk and frying it in butter (granted, it’s not the healthiest dish in the world!), then serving with maple syrup and some bacon.
- Steak frites – ok, it’s just steak and chips but there’s something about the way the French make this dish that elevates it to another level. It’s the skinny fries!
- Cassoulet – You can serve almost any meat with this dish but the classic version requires duck. You slow cook everything, including onion, celery, haricot beans, bacon, tomato and plenty of seasoning before sitting down to some food heaven.
- Beef bourguignon – After marinating some beef with red wine, thyme, bay leaf and garlic, you add some fried bacon, brown the beef, add onion and carrot, flour, tomato puree and stock and cook slowly, so by the time you sit down to eat it, the beef falls apart in your mouth, yum!
- Profiteroles – When it comes to dessert in France you really are spoilt for choice, but this blog is all about the classics, so we can’t think of anything better than these cream filled choux buns with chocolate melted on top.
It’s fitting that we end this blog with another French classic, so here’s Chef John’s take on a Coq a Vin.
Serves – 5-6
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 5 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 340g thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices
- 3 carrots, peeled, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cups dry red wine
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 litre low-sodium chicken broth
- 12 sprigs thyme
- 6 sprigs rosemary
- 8 cups of assorted wild mushrooms, such as oyster and maitake, cleaned and cut into bite sized chunks
- Preheat oven to 180. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in batches until browned, 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Add bacon to pot; cook until rendered. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook until onion is translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup wine and tomato paste; simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining 3 cups wine. Boil until wine is reduced by half, 15-20 minutes. Return chicken to pot.
- Add broth. Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together; add to pot. Bring to a boil and cover pot. Transfer pot to oven and braise until chicken is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer chicken from sauce to pot with mushrooms; keep warm. Simmer sauce over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce. Coq au vin can be made 3 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover; keep chilled. Rewarm before serving. Assemble on plate.