13 French recipes with Western twists

Want to cook like Julia Child? Get out your whisk! Here are 13 French recipes to master

Sole Meuniere

Photo by James Carrier

Sole Meunière

This was Julia Child's first lunch when she arrived in Paris, and it changed her world.

As she recounted in her memoir My Life in France, it was "perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley... I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth... The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter... It was a morsel of perfection... It was the most exciting meal of my life."

In short, you should make this. It's unexpectedly easy: You'll spend 15 minutes cooking and feel like Julia Child at the end.

Recipe:  Sole Meunière

Classic Cheese Souffle

Photo by James Carrier

 Classic Cheese Souffle

The soufflé: Look it in the eye. It is the soufflé that separates the cooks from the cooks. It is the soufflé that reveals whether you've got the stuff to whisk your way to culinary respectableness.

To help, here is the precise but easy process that will have you whisking up a perfect soufflé in half an hour.

Let it puff up in the oven, golden and gorgeous, while you nonchalantly sip a glass of wine (Viognier is a particularly good pairing with the dish's eggy soul). Now you know you can make anything.

Recipe: Classic Cheese Soufflé

Curry Mussels and Frites

Photo by James Carrier

Curry Mussels with Oven Frites

If you want to pretend like you're in a brasserie ― and that's okay with us ― call these moules et frites. But a dash of curry sends these beyond traditionnel and into extraordinaire.

This recipe was inspired by a dish at Château Loudenne in Bordeaux, served near the big stone fireplace in the harvesters' cozy dining room.

Tip: Choose farmed Mediterranean or Penn Cove mussels from the West Coast of the U.S. if you find them. They're larger and meatier than the traditional blue mussel.

Recipe: Curry Mussels with Oven Frites

Cream Puff Gateau

Photo by Dan Goldberg

Cream Puff Gateau

This impressive layered dessert is made of pâte a choux, the same dough used to make éclairs.

Choux pastry is just butter, water, flour, sugar, and eggs. There isn't even any tricky whisking. If you can make brownies from a box, you can do this.

Once you stir everything together, you're golden. Bake the rounds, whip the cream, and stack with layers of jam for an impressive dessert in about an hour.

Recipe: Cream Puff Gateau

Grandmother's Chicken

Photo by Annbelle Breakey

Grandmother's Chicken

If we had a French grandmother, she would teach us to make this streamlined version of the classic French poulet grand-mère.

Make it your Sunday supper tradition, with a sub-90-minute cook time that keeps it real.

Creamy, buttery potatoes and meaty mushrooms mix with bacon, a couple handfuls of thyme, and unpeeled garlic cloves (your fantasy French grandmother would want the dish to be rustic).

After you're done, squeeze the golden garlic onto slices of levain for nothing that resembles "garlic bread."

Recipe: Grandmother's Chicken

Crab Eggs Benedict

Photo by Dan Goldberg

Crab Eggs Benedict

The French part is the delicately poached egg and the outrageously rich and yellow hollandaise.

The Western twist? A thick lump of sweet crab meat. Take it a step further with a slice or two of avocado.

It makes a special brunch, but don't stop there. With a green salad, these beautiful Benedicts also make a superb light supper.

Recipe: Crab Eggs Benedict

Palmiers

Photo by James Carrier

Palmiers

Julia will never know you didn't roll out layer upon layer of filo dough to make these swirly, sweet-but-not-too-sweet palmiers.

In half an hour, you can whip out a pastry treat that rivals the finest pâtisserie (thank you, grocery store frozen section).

The subtle cardamom ― substitute cinnamon if you're not a fan ― adds an elevating note of exotic spice.

Recipe: Palmiers

Smokey Beef Stew with Blue Cheese

Photo by Leigh Beisch

Smokey Beef Stew with Blue Cheese

Much is made of boeuf bourguignon, that staple stew of French cuisine featuring cubes of browned beef braised in wine with carrots, mushrooms, and onions.

Of course, you could always raise it up a key, find even punchier flavors to make your irresistible beef stew more bewitching. You could, for instance, supplement your boeuf with smoked paprika, chipotle chile powder, hardwood-smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and an extra bottle of wine. 

Then you'd be making this Smoky Beef Stew with Blue Cheese and Chives ― and saying how much more you like it than a regular old beef stew.

Recipe: Smokey Beef Stew with Blue Cheese

Blanquette de Veau

Photo by James Carrier

Blanquette de Veau

You don't know what the name means. No matter, a lot of French is like that.

But there are syllables you recognize: blanc (white), a velvety cream sauce. Veau (veal), tender and meaty. Together: A dinner like you imagine yourself eating in your French farmhouse. Sensual, rich, sophisticated. But not fussy.

You can make it in a slow cooker and turn it into a weeknight treat. As long as you promise to eat it with a baguette.

Recipe: Blanquette de Veau

Apple Galette

James Carrier

Apple Galette

If you think French desserts are all about piping pastry cream and fussy meringues, give this rustic, gorgeous, free-form apple galette a gander. As easy as apple pie? Easier. No crust-fluting required.

Recipe: Apple Galette

Seared Foie Gras with Ginger Cream

Photo by James Carrier

Seared Foie Gras with Ginger Cream

When your entertaining requires an extra ooh-la-la, nothing beats foie gras, the Frenchiest of fancy meats.

This preparation is extra special because of the slightly sweet, ginger-spiked sauce and the way the silkiness of the foie gras contrasts with the toast's delicate crunch.

Recipe: Seared Foie Gras with Ginger Cream

Summer Fruit Clafouti

Photo by Dan Goldberg

Summer Fruit Clafouti

This classic French dessert gets its musical name from the Occitan word for "to fill up" (the batter). You'll feel French just talking about it.

The pronunciation may be tricky, but the technique is not: Skip the whisk in favor of assembling the thick custard in a blender, then pour over the summer's favorite fruits.

Our version features apricots, pluots, or plums steeped in sweet wine. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Summer Fruit Clafouti

Cheese omelet

Photo by Ann Stratton

Folded Cheese Omelet

This is the French cook's final exam, beguiling in its simplicity. Because as anyone who's made an eggy mess of a skillet can attest, simple can be death-defying.

Your secret weapons: A nonstick skillet and a precise technique. It's worth practicing till you get it right, and we give you the instructions you need to create le petit déjeuner of your dreams.

Now, all you need to do is figure out how to fill it. Camembert and thinly sliced leeks? A handful of shredded gruyère? Crumbles of chèvre and sliced red peppers? Once you've passed this test, the possibilities are endless.

Recipe: Folded Cheese Omelet

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