FRENCH CUISINE

     

French cuisine is a style of cooking derived from the nation of France. It evolved through centuries of social and political change. The Middle Ages heralded in lavish banquets among the upper classes with ornate, heavily seasoned food while the era of the French Revolution saw a move toward fewer spices và a more liberal use of herbs. More refined techniques for preparing French food developed with Marie-Antoine Carême, famed chef to Napoleon Bonaparte.

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French cuisine was more fully developed in the late nineteenth century by Georges Auguste Escoffier and became what is now referred to as haute cuisine. Escoffier"s major treatise on French cooking (Le Guide Culinaire), however, left out much of the regional character found in the provinces of France. The move to lớn an appreciation of provincial French food began with the Michelin Guide (Le Guide Michelin) & the trend to lớn gastro-tourism during the twentieth century.

National cuisine

French cuisine has evolved extensively over the centuries. Starting in the Middle Ages, a unique & creative national cuisine began forming. Various social movements, political movements, và the work of great chefs came together to lớn create the techniques và style quality to French cooking renowned throughout the world. Through the years French cuisine has been given different names, & has been codified by various master-chefs. During their lifetimes these chefs have been held in high regard for their contributions lớn the culture of the country. The national cuisine which developed primarily in the thành phố of Paris with the chefs to lớn French royalty, eventually spread throughout the country và was ultimately exported overseas.

History

Middle Ages
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John, Duke of Berry enjoying a grand meal. The Duke is sitting with a cardinal at the high table, under a luxurious baldaquin, in front of the fireplace, tended khổng lồ by several servants including a carver. On the table to lớn the left of the Duke is a golden salt cellar, or nef, in the shape of a ship; illustration from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, ca. 1410.

In French medieval cuisine, banquets were common among the aristocracy. Multiple courses would be prepared, but served in a style called service en confusion, literally "all at once". Food was generally eaten with the hands, meats being sliced off large pieces held between the thumb & two fingers. The sauces of the time were highly seasoned and thick, & heavily flavored mustards were used. Pies were also a common banquet item, with the crust serving primarily as a container, rather than as food itself, & it was not until the very end of the Late Middle Ages that the shortcrust pie was developed. Meals often ended with an issue de table, which later evolved into the modern dessert, và typically consisted of dragees (in the Middle Ages meaning spiced lumps of hardened sugar or honey), aged cheese & spiced wine, such as hypocras.<1>

Royalty and the "New World"

During the ancien régime Paris was the central hub of culture and economic activity, và as such the most highly skilled culinary craftsmen were found there. Markets in Paris such as Les Halles, la Mégisserie, those found along Rue Mouffetard, and similar smaller versions in other cities were very important lớn the distribution of food. Those that gave French produce its characteristic identity were regulated by the guild system, which developed in the Middle Ages.

Guillaume Tirel, alias Taillevent, lived from 1310 – 1395 & was the chef khổng lồ several French kings, including Philip VI, Charles V and Charles VI from around 1325. He wrote a famous book on cookery titled Le Viandier that was influential on subsequent books about French cuisine và important to lớn food historians as a detailed source on the medieval cuisine of northern France. Today, many restaurants named "Taillevent" capitalize on the reputation of Guillaume Tirel.

During the fifteenth và sixteenth centuries, French cuisine assimilated many new food items from the New World. Although they were slow lớn be adopted, records of banquets show Catherine de" Medici serving 66 turkeys at one dinner.<2> The dish called cassoulet has its roots in the New World discovery of haricot beans, which are central lớn the dish"s creation but had not existed outside of the New World until its exploration by Christopher Columbus.<3>

Haute cuisine

France"s famous Haute cuisine — literally "high cuisine" — has its foundations during the seventeenth century with a chef named François Pierre La Varenne. As author of works such as Cvisinier françois, he is credited with publishing the first true French cookbook. His book includes the earliest known reference to lớn roux using pork fat. The book contained two sections, one for meat days, and one for fasting. His recipes marked a change from the style of cookery known in the Middle Ages lớn new techniques aimed at creating somewhat lighter dishes, and more modest presentations.

La Varenne also published a book on pastry in 1667 entitled Le Parfait confitvrier (republished as Le Confiturier françois) which similarly updated và codified the emerging haute cuisine standards for desserts và pastries.<4>


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Marie-Antoine Carême French chef & author who simplifed and codifed the style of cooking known as haute cuisine.
The French Revolution

The Revolution was integral lớn the expansion of French cuisine, because it effectively abolished the guilds. This meant that any one chef could now produce and sell any culinary vật phẩm he wished. Marie-Antoine Carême was born in 1784, five years before the onset of the Revolution. He spent his younger years working at a pâtisserie until being discovered by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord who would later cook for the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Prior to his employment with Talleyrand, Carême had become known for his pièces montèes, which were extravagant constructions of pastry và sugar architecture.<5>

More important to lớn Carême"s career was his contribution to the refinement of French cuisine. The basis for his style of cooking came from his sauces, which he named mother sauces. Often referred khổng lồ as fonds, meaning foundations, these base sauces, espagnole, velouté, and béchamel are still prepared today.

The Brigade system - early twentieth century

Georges Auguste Escoffier, commonly acknowledged as the central figure khổng lồ the modernization of haute cuisine, organized what would come lớn be regarded as the national cuisine of France. His influence began with the rise of some of the great hotels in Europe và America during the 1880s - 1890s. The Savoy khách sạn owned by César Ritz was an early hotel Escoffier worked for, but much of his influence came during his management of the kitchens in the Carlton from 1898 until 1921. He created a system of parties called the brigade system, which separated the professional kitchen into five separate stations. These five stations included the garde manger that prepared cold dishes; the entremettier prepared soups, vegetables and desserts; the rôtisseur prepared roasts, grilled và fried dishes; the saucier prepared sauces; và the pâtissier prepared all pastry items. This system meant that instead of one person preparing a dish on their own, now multiple cooks would prepare the different components for each dish.<6>

Perhaps Escoffier"s largest contribution lớn French cuisine was - his pièce de résistance- the publication of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, which established the fundamentals of French cookery. Escoffier, who himself invented many new dishes, such as pêche Melba & crêpes Suzette updated Le Guide Culinaire four times during his lifetime.

Nouvelle cuisine - late twentieth century
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The term nouvelle cuisine has been used many times in the history of French cuisine.<7> The first characteristic of nouvelle cuisine was a rejection of excessive complication in cooking. Secondly, the cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables và pâtés was greatly reduced in an attempt to lớn preserve the natural flavors. Steaming became an important trend. Thirdly, using the freshest possible ingredients became of paramount importance. Additional changes included: larger menus being abandoned in favor of shorter menus; strong marinades for meat and game were cut down on; heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with roux were used less in favor of seasoning dishes with fresh herbs, butter, lemon juice, và vinegar. Regional dishes were drawn upon for inspiration instead of haute cuisine dishes of the past. New techniques were embraced và modern equipment was often used, including microwave ovens. Closer attention to lớn the dietary needs of guests became important and, finally, chefs became extremely inventive và created new combinations và pairings.

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Some have speculated that a contributor lớn nouvelle cuisine was World War II when animal protein was in short supply during the German occupation.<8> No matter what the origins were, by the mid-1980s some food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the haute cuisine style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.<7>

Regional Cuisine


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The 22 regions và 96 departments of metropolitan France include Corsica (Corse, lower right). Paris area is expanded (inset at left).

Ingredients và dishes vary by region and some regional dishes have gained national popularity. Cheese và wine are a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Appellation d"origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.

French regional cuisine is characterized by a wide range of diversity and styles. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine.

Paris • Ile-de-France

Paris và Ile-de-France are central regions where almost anything from the entire country is available as all train lines meet in the city. Over 5,000 restaurants exist in Paris and almost any cuisine from any country can be found. High-quality Michelin Guide rated restaurants proliferate here.<9>

Champagne • Lorraine• Alsace

Wild game and ham are popular in Champagne as well as the special sparkling wine simply known as Champagne. Fine fruit preserves come from Lorraine (region) as well as the famous Quiche Lorraine. Alsace is heavily influenced by the German food culture & therefore the wines & beers are very similar lớn the style of those bordering Germany.<10>

Nord • Pas de Calais • Picardy • Normandy • Brittany

The coastline supplies many crustaceans, sea bass, monkfish, & herring. Normandy has unique seafood such as scallops & sole, while Brittany has a supply of lobster, crayfish và mussels. Normandy, trang chủ to táo orchards, uses apples in many dishes such as cider và calvados. The northern areas of this region especially Nord, grow ample amounts of wheat, sugar beet and chicory. Thick stews are found in these northern areas as well. The produce, considered some of the best in the country, includes cauliflower and artichokes. Buckwheat grows widely in Brittany and is used in the region"s galettes called jalet, which is where this dish originated.<11>

The Loire Valley • Central France

High chất lượng fruits come from the Loire Valley và central France, including cherries grown for the liqueur Guignolet & the Belle Angevine pears. The strawberries và melons are also of high quality. Fish are seen in the cuisine as well as wild game, lamb, calves, Charolais cattle, Géline fowl, & high quality goat cheeses. Young vegetables are used often in the cuisine as are the specialty mushrooms of the region, champignons de Paris. Vinegars from Orléans are a specialty ingredient used as well.<12>

Burgundy • Franche-Comté

Burgundy is well known for its wines. Pike, perch, river crabs, snails, poultry from Bresse, Charolais beef or game, redcurrants, blackcurrants, honey cake, Chaource và Epoisses cheese are all specialties of the local cuisine of both Burgundy & Franche-Comté. Kir and Crème de Cassis are popular liquors made from black currants. Dijon mustard is also a specialty of Burgundy cuisine. Oils are used in the cooking here; types include nut oils & rapeseed oil. Smoked meat & specialties are produced in the Jura<13>

Lyon • Rhône-Alpes

Fruit & young vegetables are popular in the cuisine from the Rhône valley. Poultry from Bresse, guinea fowls from Drôme & fish from the Dombes lakes và mountains in Rhône-Alpes are key to lớn the cuisine as well. Lyon and Savoy supply high quality sausages while the Alpine regions supply their specialty cheeses lượt thích Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme & Vacherin. Mères lyonnaises are a particular type of restaurateur relegated khổng lồ this region that are the regions" bistro. Celebrated chefs from this region include Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers & Alain Chapel. The Chartreuse Mountains are in this region, & the famous liquor Chartreuse is produced in a monastery there.<14>

Poitou-Charentes • Limousin

Oysters come from the Oléron-Marennes basin while mussels come from the bay of Aiguillon. High unique produce comes from the regions hinterland. Goat cheese is of high unique in this region and in the Vendée there is grazing ground for Parthenaise cattle, while poultry is raised in Challans. Poitou and Charente purportedly produce the best butter & cream in France. Cognac is also produced in the region along the Charente River. Limousin is trang chủ to the high chất lượng Limousin cattle as well as high unique sheep. The woodlands offer game & high chất lượng mushrooms. The southern area around Brive draws its cooking influence from Périgord và Auvergne to lớn produce a robust cuisine.<15>

Bordeaux • Perigord • Gascony • Pays Basque

Bordeaux is well known for its wine, as it is throughout the southwest of France with certain areas offering specialty grapes for its wines. Fishing is popular in the region, especially the Pays Basque deep-sea fishing of the North Sea, trapping in the Garonne & stream fishing in the Pyrenees. The Pyrenees also support top chất lượng lamb such as the "Agneau de Pauillac" as well as high unique sheep cheeses. Beef cattle in the region include the Blonde d"Aquitaine, Boeuf de Challose, Bazardaise, & Garonnaise. High quality free-range chickens, turkey, pigeon, capon, goose & duck prevail in the region as well. Gascony and Perigord cuisines includes high unique patés, terrines, confits và magrets. This is one of the regions famous for its production of foie gras or fattened goose or duck liver. The cuisine of the region is often heavy & farm based. Armagnac is also from this region as are high chất lượng prunes from Agen.<16>

Toulouse • Quercy • Aveyron

Gers in this region offers high chất lượng poultry, while La Montagne Noire và Lacaune area offers high unique hams & dry sausages. Trắng corn is planted heavily in the area both for use in fattening the ducks and geese for foie gras as well as for the production of millas, a cornmeal porridge. Haricot beans are also grown in this area, which are central khổng lồ the dish Cassoulet. The finest sausage in France is commonly acknowledged khổng lồ be the saucisse de Toulouse, which also finds its way into their version of Cassoulet of Toulouse. The Cahors area produces a high chất lượng specialty "black wine" as well as high-quality truffles & mushrooms. This region also produces milk-feed lamb. Unpasteurized ewe"s milk is used to lớn produce the Roquefort in Aveyron, while Cantal is produced in Laguiole. The Salers cattle produce unique milk for cheese, as well as beef items. The volcanic soils create flinty cheeses và superb lentils. Mineral waters are produced in high volume in this region as well.<17>

Roussillon • Languedoc • Cévennes

Restaurants are popular in the area known as Le Midi. Oysters come from the Etang de Thau, to be served in the restaurants of Bouzigues, Meze, & Sète. Mussels are commonly seen here in addition khổng lồ fish specialties of Sète, Bourride, Tielles và Rouille de seiche. Also in the Languedoc jambon cru, sometimes known as jambon de montagne is produced. High quality Roquefort comes from the brebis (sheep) on the Larzac plateau. The Les Cévennes area offers mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, honey, lamb, game, sausages, pâtés và goat cheeses. Catalan influence can be seen in the cuisine here with dishes like brandade made from a purée of dried cod which is then wrapped in mangold leaves. Snails are also plentiful và are prepared in a specific Catalan style known as a cargolade. Wild boar can also be found in the more mountainous regions of the Midi.<18>

Provence • Côte d"Azur

The Provence & Côte d"Azur region is rich in quality citrus, vegetables and fruits and herbs. The region is one of the largest supplier of all of these ingredients in France. The region also produces the largest amount of olives and thus creates superb olive oil. Oải hương is used in many dishes found in the Haute Provence. Other important herbs in the cuisine include thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, savory, fennel, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, and bay leaf. Honey is another prized ingredient in the region. Seafood proliferates in this area. Goat cheeses, air-dried sausage, lamb, và beef are also popular here. Garlic & anchovies can be seen in many of the sauces in the region and Pastis can be found in many of the bistros of the area. The cuisine uses a large amount of vegetables for lighter preparations. Truffles are commonly seen in Provence during the winter. Rice can be found growing in the Camargue, which is the most-northerly rice growing area in Europe, with Camargue red rice being a specialty.<19>

Corsica

Goats and sheep proliferate on the island of Corsica, kid goats và lamb are used to lớn prepare dishes such as stufato, ragouts & roasts. Cheeses are also produced with brocciu being the most popular. Chestnuts, growing in the Castagniccia forest, are used lớn produce flour which in turn is used khổng lồ make bread, cakes & polenta. The forest also provides acorns which are used lớn feed the pigs which provide most of the protein for the island"s cuisine. As Corsica is an island, fresh fish and seafood are common in the cuisine as well. The island"s pork is used lớn make fine hams, sausage và other chất lượng items including coppa (dried rib cut), lonzu (dried pork fillet), figatella, salumu (a dried sausage) salcietta, Panzetta, bacon, figarettu (smoked and dried liverwurst) & prisuttu (farmer"s ham). Clementines (hold an AOC designation), Nectarines & figs are grown there and candied citron is used in nougats, cakes, while the aforementioned brocciu and chestnuts are also used in desserts. Corsica also offers a variety of fruit wines và liqueurs, including Cap Corse, Cédratine, Bonapartine, liquer de myrte, vins de fruit, Rappu, and eau-de-vie de châtaigne.<20>

Specialties by Season

French cuisine varies according khổng lồ the season. In summer, salads and fruit dishes are popular because they are refreshing and the fresh local produce is inexpensive và abundant. Green grocers prefer to lớn sell their fruit and vegetables at lower prices if needed, rather than see them rot in the heat. At the over of summer, mushrooms become plentiful and appear in stews everywhere in France. The hunting season starts in September & runs through February. Wild game of all kinds is eaten, often in very elaborate dishes that celebrate the success of the hunt. Shellfish are at their peak as winter turns to lớn spring, và oysters appear in restaurants in large quantities.

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With the advent of deep-freeze & the air-conditioned hypermarché, these seasonal variations are less marked than previously, but they are still observed. Crayfish, for example, have a very short season and it is illegal to lớn harvest them outside of that time period.<21>