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Old 11-14-2011, 07:42 PM   #21
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Also, remember that a lot of American cuisine has been influenced by French cuisine too. Biscuits and gravy? The gravy is simply bechamel with sausage. Most egg custards are derived from French cuisine, as well as many other desserts. That said there's also German, Spanish, and English influences, to name three of many. Although I am a francophile, it would be hard to say there is one cuisine better than the rest. Let's face it, if it wasn't for some hunchbacked caveman thousands of years ago discovering fire, we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place. :D
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Old 11-14-2011, 10:07 PM   #22
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All I can say is that if you don't get French cuisine, it's your loss.
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Old 11-14-2011, 10:45 PM   #23
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I think you're trying to make it much more complicated than it has to be.

Around the world there are a limited number of ingredients. What makes it French or Italian or Chinese or Hyperion's is what you do with the chicken - how you prepare it, season it, cook it and what you serve it with.

So you can have Coq au Vin from France, Chicken Cacciatore from Italy, Butter Chicken from India. All dishes of sauced/stewed chicken from different cultures. If you taste each you would never confuse one for another.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:06 AM   #24
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P.S. If you really want to be French, eat a salad after your main course, have cheese for dessert,
i always thought my family was weird because we ate salad after the main plate, and then often had cheese with mustards and raw veggies (onions, radishes, carrots) a little bit later as an evening snack.

i never realized how french we were being. i'm going to have to ask my parents how we came upon those traditions.
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:20 AM   #25
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this is very vague. Every country near sea has seafood. wine and cheese is everywhere in the European continent, so are cream and herbs. French cuisine does use a lot of sauces, I guess that's typical french. citrus and semi tropical? Central and southern american cuisine totally take that on.

Seriously, what is really special about french cuisine that other cuisines don't have? If you look at, say, German cuisine. you see less spicy food, lots of sourness, lots of pork and varieties of sausages, etc. Look at Italian cuisine, you see lots of pasta (of course), very simple/cheap yet fresh ingredients done perfectly to produce tasty dishes, the use of hot oven to bake highly hydrated dough. I mean, they both seem very defined.
If you are truly interested in learning what is so special about French food, I suggest two books for you: Waverly Root's "The Food of France," and Richard Olney's "Simple French Food." Both are available in paperback.
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:26 AM   #26
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Thinly slice potatoes, and layer them in a baking dish, alternating between potatoes and Gruyere cheese (yes I know Gruyere is not a traditionally French cheese, but it's delicious and we live in a time where you can get any cheese you darn well desire) Season each layer of potatoes with a small dash of salt and pepper. Once you have filled this dish, drizzle a bit of heavy cream over them, cover with foil and bake at 425 until the potatoes are tender. Remove the foil and allow the cheese to brown.
Actually, I have never seen a potato gratin in France made with that much cheese. It's much more milk and/or cream, with a bit of cheese browned on top at the end. One of the richest and most delicious potato dishes I have ever eaten, but not much Gruyere (and actually, more often Comte than Gruyere) in the mix.
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:28 AM   #27
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Hyperion: here's a really tasty chicken dish that does not use any fancy ingredients, and is very easy to make. Why don't you try it and tell us what you think?

Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce
I include this divine Lyonnaise dish in a class I have taught many times featuring four (and sometimes five!) chicken dishes from different parts of France. Many of my students are put off by the title of the recipe, but when the class is over, they almost unanimously declare this dish to be their favorite!
makes 6 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
one whole chicken (about 4 pounds) cut into 10 pieces—you could use all breasts or all leg portions if you prefer, but the meat should be on the bone)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup top quality red wine vinegar
1 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized)
finely chopped fresh (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish

1. Mix salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
2. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a deep-sided 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. (If your pan isn’t large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer, use 2 smaller pans, and put half the chicken, oil, and butter in each one.) Rub the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper mixture. When the oil is hot but not smoking, use tongs to add the chicken, skin side down. Brown on both sides until the skin becomes beautifully golden brown, and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 12 minutes on each side.

3. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Pour off about one-half the fat in the pan. Add the shallots to the remaining oil and brown over medium high heat. Slowly add the vinegar to the skillet and boil until reduced by half. (The fumes will definitely clear your sinuses—great for a cold!!) Add the crème fraîche and cook until the mixture is well blended and has turned a nutty brown color, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan to coat thoroughly and heat briefly in the sauce.

4. Return to the platter, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. If there is extra sauce, pass it in a small bowl.


Teacher’s Tip: Be sure the vinegar has boiled down enough before you add the crème fraîche or you’ll end up with a beige, watery sauce.
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:32 AM   #28
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ah, french cuisine, french cuisine, big deal, I agree nothing special. If I had the best wine in the world, if i had the best butter in the world, if i had best chcolate in the world, if I had the best meat in the world (ok maybe not The Best, but pretty darn close) I would also make some fancy, awesome tasting dishes. Try to cook when all you have is maybe a carp, maybe some syroppy, vinegary wine, and maybe chicken fat at best instead of butter.
You've never been to Lyon (or the Franche-Comte) Charlie, or you'd know they can work wonders with carp, too!

Chicken fat is nothing to sneeze at. And in the southwest, they cook with duck and goose fat rather than butter or olive oil. (And they live to be 100 years old around there, too!)
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:44 AM   #29
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All I can say is that if you don't get French cuisine, it's your loss.

I am sorry but I disagree. Escargot, snails? Get it? Really? They are most disgusting things that come to mind as far as food goes, well, after McDonalds, how can anybody get it? I bet there are pretenders there who would eat it and say how wonderful those things are just to be on a par with everybody else who thinks that French cuisine is the best. But in their minds they think that frog legs are just repulsive.
I'm sorry one can say what you want about how much a person likes a cuisine, any cuisine, but you can't argue about taste of a person. Never. You like one thing another person likes something else.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:11 PM   #30
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Escargot are often cooked in tons of butter and garlic. Pretty much anything would taste good cooked like that-maybe even cauliflower.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:15 PM   #31
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I lived with a German family in Northern Germany and eaten what folks eat at home...delicious pork roast rubbed with mustard, browned and then baked with 1 bottle of beer, onions, apples, raisins. Liver sauteed the same way. We ate a lot less meat than one eats in North America. Sometimes we'd roast a chicken, but not often. My housemate at grad school was from Rouen, France. She made a fantastic sauerkraut dish with local sausage and seasoned with juniper berries. She also made a great rabbit dish. She mixed her own fines herbes...and we ate our salads first. A lot of how people eat at home has to do with personal preferences. We ate a lot of soft cheeses when we were in grad school...in Germany, we ate a lot of Quark and Quark-based desserts. Quark on Schwarzbrot with sour cheery jam is a favorite of mine (when I can find Quark and Schwarzbrot). And, Pinkel with kale stew in the Spring when Pinkel was available...a Northern German dish. I think of the "sauerbraten" foods to be more common in Southern Germany. I remember great sausages, great fish, cheeses, various "one pot" dishes (Eintopf) and the yellow potatoes. Check out Laura Calder's recipes French Food at Home French Food at Home - OnTv - Shows - Food Network Canada. I love her pork in milk recipe...
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:38 PM   #32
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I think you're expecting "French cooking" to deliver so sort of focused cuisine, distinct from all others, and easy to spot wherever you might see it. But a large nation is just too big to have that. In fact, it's more unlikely than not for any region of any large nation to produce what you're expecting. Efficient transport and communication has provided almost all people with options far beyond the regional traditions that were very often simply making the best of limited resources, even if some of them are very good indeed. For simple examples, in in the 1980's, the prize for best foreign food restaurant in Paris went to a Tex-Mex place. And in the 1960's, iced tea, ubiquitous in the Southern US, was such an unknown in the Northeast US that my aunt had to ask for hot tea, ice, and water, and the whole place gathered to watch her make iced tea.

Each region of Italy has distinct practices (and it's not all pasta - rice dominates in some regions), while all know of, make, and eat the same things available throughout Europe. You might find cassoulet a big deal around Carcasonne in France, just as you find specific dishes in New Orleans or Jamaica of any other place with a distinct cooking style. But you can't characterize any nation's cooking except in some very broad principles, and that often doesn't represent the best of that nation. And it's easy to make serious errors. "Mexican food" is often thought of as in terms of US versions of "Mexican." Mostly, it's not even "Mexican," as the dishes arose and are typical of Texas or California or New Mexico, rather than Mexico itself. (Real Mexican cooking is among the most sophisticated in the world.) Even vastly farther from the truth is western "Chinese."

There are, however, some principles that apply in French food. One is an emphasis on freshness. It takes me a while to get over the shock and disgust of the typical American produce section when I come back from France. Much of what we buy would be thrown out as spoiled in France. And if a fisherman out of Nice doesn't sell some of his catch the same day, it can't be sold, and the police - not the "food police" but the regular criminal police - will enforce it. There is also a much different attitude toward meals and the time taken to enjoy them. And that tends to translate into greater care in preparation. I will agree that French cooking has been so often represented as a sort of international gold standard that it's not unnatural to go in expecting the whole country to sit down three times a day to a unique array of meals, all very different from other nations. But that's not true of many places on Earth, and, again, the places where it's true are generally those with little choice.

So, what's the big deal with French food? For a small nation, a remarkable range of foods and a willingness to do wonderful things with almost everything edible. But, exactly like anywhere else, you have to actively seek out really good food, and you have to seek harder for really good food unique to the region. And, like in the US, you're not going to find it every day at the average urban family table.

It's also true that, if you are looking for what you expected to be especially refined cooking, you no longer need to be in France. The same forces that have shrunk the globe have made it possible to find restaurant cooking to a nicely refined French standard in most large cities in the US and elsewhere. But, while that's true, the fundamental difference in the relationship with food means you very rarely find in the US the amazing performances found in so many tiny and very rural French eateries.

Also remember that the French reputation dates back (not so long ago) to when you almost had to go to France for anything like it, and absolutely had to go if you wanted the best. The ready availability of a wide range of international foods or even interregional foods is a very recent phenomenon, one that you won't realize unless you're maybe 50 or older. Of course, if we really want to go way back, the Italian Medici chefs taught the French to cook, so maybe it's not surprising that Italian cooking meets more of your expectations.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:44 PM   #33
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Escargot are often cooked in tons of butter and garlic. Pretty much anything would taste good cooked like that-maybe even cauliflower.
That's what I figure. You could cook an art gum eraser in butter and garlic, and it would be delicious. Oh, wait a minute. That's kind of a lot like escargot, anyway.
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:25 PM   #34
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That's what I figure. You could cook an art gum eraser in butter and garlic, and it would be delicious. Oh, wait a minute. That's kind of a lot like escargot, anyway.
You guys are BAD! Escargot are delicious. and they're easy to fix. I like them best done in their traditional garlic/parsley/butter sauce, and then tossed with bucatini. Or just take cocktail picks and spear them off a pile of them. Delicious with sparkling wine or cold beer. REALLY!
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:45 PM   #35
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You guys are BAD! Escargot are delicious. and they're easy to fix. I like them best done in their traditional garlic/parsley/butter sauce, and then tossed with bucatini. Or just take cocktail picks and spear them off a pile of them. Delicious with sparkling wine or cold beer. REALLY!

I never said I didn't like escargot. I do. I was just commenting on how preparation can effect results.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:26 PM   #36
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i love snails. i love them prepared the french way with butter, i love them chinese style in black bean sauce, and i love them simply grilled -foot side up so all of the delicious liquor stays in the shell. they're delicious when uou pull off the foot pad, then suck out the meat and liquor. yummmm.

and just like shrimp or squid, if you overcook them for even a minute or two they turn to rubber. so, if you've had rubbery snails, whomever cooked them for you screwed it up.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:47 PM   #37
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I love snails too, even rubbery! Learned to love them in high school, we had a student-run international food fest. Lovin' the mollusk ever since.
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Old 11-15-2011, 08:32 PM   #38
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i always thought my family was weird because we ate salad after the main plate, and then often had cheese with mustards and raw veggies (onions, radishes, carrots) a little bit later as an evening snack.

i never realized how french we were being. i'm going to have to ask my parents how we came upon those traditions.
I wonder how I came by such traditions. My parents and sister always ate their salads first, while I pushed mine off to the side until last I even ordered it last when eating out, preferring bread before my meals.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:28 PM   #39
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Snails are a great pizza ingredient. Put them on top of the cheese so they get a bit crispy.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:31 PM   #40
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Snails are a great pizza ingredient. Put them on top of the cheese so they get a bit crispy.
That sounds good, Rock. I've used them in pasta sauce too.
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