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French food. So often people think this must mean “complicated” which often translates to “I couldn’t possibly make that”. Fortunately, there are many classic French dishes that are much easier to make than to pronounce and in the classes I teach here in Toronto, I like to show people how simple some of their favourite French dishes are to make.
One of my favourite dishes to eat when I am in France is the classic Salade de Chèvre Chaud – a goat cheese salad. It’s invariably what I order if I am dining out at a café or bistro for lunch and I love how everyone has their own spin on this. There are all sorts of variations you can make including where you bake the goat cheese “en papillotte” in filo pastry, but my own favourite and the one I make most for myself is a simple salad of leaves and dressing topped with toasted baguette and melted goat cheese. Here’s a version as made by my students of mine in an adult cooking class earlier this fall.
Check out Véronique from French Cooking for Dummies recipe for a classic goat cheese salad here.
Next up, Quiche. Many people tell me they prefer to buy a store-bought quiche – “It’s much easier, I couldn’t be fussed with all the steps to make my own, especially pastry”. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly am not past buying my own (we have a local wonderful bakery that sells all sorts of ready-made meals, including gorgeous quiches) but when I have the time, I do prefer to make my own.
I’ve made a lot of quiches over the years and I’ve really come to appreciate the soothing calm that comes from making pastry. Quiche is an excellent dish to make from scratch because it means you can really personalise the filling according to what you like or what you have on hand (it’s perfect for when you have little bits and bobs of vegetables to use up). I encourage you to have a go at making your own pastry but nowadays there are also excellent store-bought pastry options (so much better than even just a few years ago) if you’re short on time or just not ready to tackle pastry.
Check out Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for classic Quiche Lorraine (including the pastry) here.
For dessert, I don’t think you can go past a classic Tarte Tatin. Upside down apple tart – crispy layers of puff pastry topped with caramelized apples? What could be better?
Again, you can make your own pastry for this one or use a store-bought version and the recipe itself is pretty forgiving – you don’t really need to worry about placing the apples too neatly as they’ll shift when they are cooked and also when you flip the pan/ skillet you cook the tarte in. That, my friends, is probably the most challenging part of this recipe, though if you act quickly and with conviction (i.e. “this will totally work out!”) you should have no problem. Worst case scenario? You’re patching up a messily flipped tarte. But then you can just cover it with ice cream or cream and no-one will be the wiser!
Check out Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Tarte Tatin (including the pastry) here.
Listen to Dorie Greenspan chatting about Tarte Tatin on All Things Considered here.
Have you tried (making) any of these dishes? Which one is your favourite?
Live in Toronto? Want to learn some classic French dishes (and pair them with wine)? Join me on Friday February 12th for French Bistro Classics with Wine Pairings at The St Lawrence Market Kitchen.
“Take a trip to France over dinner. In this class you will learn to make a three-course meal of dishes you’d find in any French bistro. You’ll start out making puff pastry bâtons to nibble for your apéritif, followed by a trio of salads (salade de carottes, céleri remoulade and taboulé). Your main course will be Quiche Lorraine and you’ll end end on a sweet note with a Tarte Tatin (much easier to make than everyone thinks – sssh!). We’ll learn to make the pastry from scratch too! After you’ve cooked, we’ll sit down to enjoy the meal together. Wine will be paired with each course and Neil Phillips of vinceteragroup.com will talk you through the pairings. Looking to impress that special someone? It’s perfect timing with St Valentine’s Day right around the corner!”
For more details and to register, click here.