Bonjour, Independence: 5 Iconic French Dishes for Bastille Day

Good news, Francophiles, Bastille Day is almost here, and that means it’s high time you start cooking. July 14 is the day that the French celebrate their independence, and if that’s not a good excuse to whip up your favorite iconic French dishes, we don’t know what is. The French know their food, and so can you, if you follow these five recipes for some of the most classic French-inspired meals. From French onion soup (Soupe à l’oignon) to Beef Bourguignon to Salade Nicoise to Sole Meuniere, this recipe list has something for everyone, and while everyone can’t be Julia Child, no one ever said you couldn’t try.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

1. Soupe à l’Oignon

We begin with soupe à l’oignon from Food.com. If you want an indulgent soup you slurp up with a spoon, this is the ticket. It doesn’t matter that it’s summer — French onion soup never goes out of season. And luckily, although French onion soup can seem intimidating, it’s actually quite easy to make, and only requires six ingredients. If you happen to be throwing a Bastille Day party this summer, definitely consider serving this soup. It’s a crowd favorite and feeds many, and you really can’t go wrong with a lot of bread and a lot of cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb onion, peeled
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 1/2-3 pints beef stock
  • 4 ounces cognac (or less)
  • 8 -12 slices French bread
  • 4 -6 ounces grated gruyere cheese

Directions:

Slice the onions very thinly. Cook them in butter until clear (do not let them brown). Add stock and simmer for 45 minutes. Just before serving, add the brandy. Toast the bread towards the end of the cooking time, place the grated Gruyère on the toasted bread and float on the top of the soup. If the soup is served in ovenproof bowls, you can place the filled bowls under the broiler for a minute or so to brown the cheese.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Beef Bourguignon

Next up is Beef Bourguignon from Tablespoon.com. Because you knew that this iconic French meal needed to be included on our list. Tablespoon.com gives up the recipe from Julia Child herself and we couldn’t be more grateful. We’ll admit that the ingredient list is long and the steps are a little intimidating, but still, we all know that if you want to master French cooking, you have to take on Beef Bourguignon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 6 ounce piece chunk bacon
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 20 small white onions
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to side dish with a slotted spoon.

Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

3. Salade Niçoise

Up in the No. 3 spot is a lighter French-inspired dish that is still often enjoyed in France, but is easier on the waistline. Say hello to salade nicoise. We hope you like your anchovies. If so, take this recipe from Saveur and relish this salad that packs a serious punch. With tuna, anchovies, veggies, spices, and a famous vinaigrette, this delectable dish really covers all the bases.

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:

  • 1 lb. small new potatoes, boiled until tender
  • 6 oz. yellow baby beets, boiled until tender, peeled
  • 6 oz. red baby beets, boiled until tender, peeled
  • 8 oz. haricot verts, blanched
  • 12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup black Niçoise olives
  • 8 small radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 8 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed and drained
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
  • 3 (4-oz.) cans high-quality oil-packed tuna, drained
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, to garnish
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Directions:

Make the dressing: Mince garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle heavily with salt; using a knife, scrape garlic and salt together to form a smooth paste. Transfer paste to a bowl and whisk in oil, juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper; set aside.

Make the salad: Arrange all ingredients in separate rows on a large serving platter; drizzle dressing over all ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil and scallions just before serving.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Sole Meunière

Here comes another recipe for a classic French dish. Enter: Sole Meunière. Is your mouth watering yet? If not, this recipe from Bon Appetit will fix that problem for you. Delicate fish cooked in butter is what the French do best, and when you pair it with a fool-proof sauce made up only of butter, lemon, and parsley, then all bets are off. The French keep it simple, but they love their butter. Make this sole meunière and make Julia Child proud.

Ingredients:

Fish:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 sole fillets (each about 3 to 4 ounces)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

Place flour in pie dish. Rinse fish; pat with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of fish with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge fish on both sides with flour; shake off excess. Place on platter.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmers. Add butter; quickly swirl skillet to coat. When foam subsides, add fish and cook until golden on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden on bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide fish between 2 warmed plates; tent with foil. Pour off drippings from skillet; wipe with paper towels.

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice (sauce may sputter). Spoon sauce over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

5. Chicken Dijon

Our last recipe comes from Food & Wine and it’s for Chicken Dijon. It’s hard to go wrong with that. Coming together in only 45 minutes, this dish will perfectly satisfy your fellow Francophiles who are willing to celebrate France’s independence with you, and after one bite of this chicken, you might decide to make this holiday an annual tradition.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 medium chicken drumsticks (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions:

In a large skillet, toast the coriander seeds over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and let cool. Crush the seeds coarsely with a pestle. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken drumsticks with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and crushed coriander and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover and keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard with the crème fraîche and tarragon. Whisk the mixture into the skillet and simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet and turn to coat. Serve the chicken with crusty bread.

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