Enjoy French Bistro Food at Home: 7 Dinner Recipes
Serve simple, quality dishes for dinner tonight by taking inspiration from French bistros. You can easily make this cuisine at home, relying on readily available ingredients and cooking methods that are not fussy. Using your grill, oven, or crockpot, you’ll be able to recreate the dishes available on bistro menus at home. While you’re picking up the ingredients necessary for the 7 recipes found here, be sure to grab a baguette or two, and if desired, a bottle of wine for a true home bistro experience.
1. Coq au Vin
If you needed any proof that bistro food can easily be made at home, look no further than Whole Foods’ recipe for coq au vin made in the crockpot. After quickly browning both the chicken and bacon, you’ll put everything in the crockpot where it will cook for 6 to 7 hours. It yields 4 to 6 servings.
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 slices bacon, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 (12-ounce) package white or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ cup red wine
- 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
Directions: Arrange chicken on a large sheet of waxed paper. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken all over with flour and set aside.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp, 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Discard drippings and wipe out skillet. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or heat oil, if using) in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a large plate as done and set aside.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter or oil in same skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until edges begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and salt and cook until vegetables just begin to soften. Transfer vegetables and broth to crock pot. Arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle bacon over chicken. Add wine and thyme sprigs. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.
Recommended wine pairings: Because you’re cooking with red wine, one of the traditions of this dish is apparently to drink the rest of what you’re cooking with—great advice if you’ve got a great bottle. If not, try a medium-weight red such as a Pinot Noir from Oregon or California: We’re partial to a 2012 Ombré Pinot Noir, which has glossy fruit flavors.
2. Grilled Ratatouille Salad
Typically served as a stew, Bon Appétit has taken ratatouille in a new direction. Instead of a hearty vegetable soup, you’ll be enjoying a grilled vegetable salad when you make this recipe. It yields 9 servings.
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
- 1½ pounds tomatoes
- 1 pound mixed summer squash, halved lengthwise
- 1 red bell pepper
- 8 scallions, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
Directions: Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Lightly sprinkle salt over cut sides of eggplant and let sit for 15 minutes, beads of water will form on the surface. Rinse eggplant and pat dry. Lay eggplant, tomatoes, squash, bell pepper, and scallions on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
Grill vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender, transferring them to a baking sheet as they are done. The tomatoes, scallions, and eggplant will cook the fastest (2–5 minutes); the squash and bell pepper will take about 5 minutes.
Slice three-quarters of the tomatoes in half and grate the cut side over the coarse holes of a box grater into a medium bowl (discard core and any tomato skin left in your hand). Whisk in vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season to taste with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
Chop remaining tomatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Chop remaining grilled vegetables into ½-inch pieces and add to bowl. Drizzle tomato vinaigrette over and toss gently to coat. Transfer vegetables to a serving platter or bowl and garnish with tarragon.
Recommended wine pairings: The vinegar and ripe vegetables in this dish are going to have a little tang, so look for a wine to offset the acid. Try a Zinfandel or Syrah, with one of our favorites being an unconventional 2013 Brethren of the Road.
3. Croque Madame
Anyone who enjoys a croque monsieur, and also like eggs, needs to try the croque madame. Saveur explains that by adding a fried egg to equation, a croque monsieur is transformed it into the croque madame.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 12 ounce Gruyère, grated
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 12 (¾ inch-thick) slices pain de mie or Pullman bread, toasted
- 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 12 thin slices baked ham
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 6 eggs
Directions: Heat butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6–8 minutes. Add ½ cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Heat broiler to high. Place 6 slices bread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and spread 1 tbsp. mustard over each. Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyère. Broil until cheese begins to melt, 1–2 minutes. Top with remaining bread slices, then pour a generous amount of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Broil until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, about 3–4 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Place an egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot.
Recommended wine pairings: For this upscale twist on the ham and cheese, go for a Pinot Noir, which typically pairs best with lighter meats and cheeses. In particular, we love the vibrancy a bottle of 2011 Wayward Wine Co. brings to this combo.
4. Sautéed Chicken in Mustard-Cream Sauce
Serve Martha Stewart‘s sautéed chicken with a side of greens, like spinach or asparagus for a quick and simple dinner. Preparing the chicken will only take about 20 minutes, and it serves 4.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (6 ounces each)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup dry white wine, or chicken broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh)
Directions: Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.
Pour wine into hot skillet; cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Whisk in cream, mustard, and tarragon. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour any accumulated chicken juices from plate into sauce. Right before serving, drizzle cream sauce over chicken.
5. Salade Lyonnaise
Even people who eschew greens will have a hard time turning their noses up at the Salade Lyonnaise from The New York Times. The classic salad, named for the Lyon region of France includes bacon and eggs, and could even be considered the bistro take on breakfast for dinner. It serves 4.
- 4 cups torn frisée or other strong-tasting greens, washed and dried
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ pound bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 shallot, chopped, or 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
- 2 to 4 tablespoons top-quality sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 eggs
- black pepper, to taste
Directions: Put frisée or other greens in large salad bowl. Put olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When hot, add bacon and cook slowly until crisp all over, about 10 minutes. Add shallot or onion and cook until softened, a minute or two. Add vinegar and mustard to the skillet and bring just to a boil, stirring, then turn off heat.
Meanwhile, bring about an inch of salted water to a boil in a small, deep skillet, then lower heat to barely bubbling. One at a time, break eggs into a shallow bowl and slip them into the bubbling water. Cook eggs for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the white is set and the yolk has filmed over. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towel.
If necessary, gently reheat dressing, then pour over greens (they should wilt just a bit), toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each portion with an egg and serve immediately. (Each person gets to break the egg.)
Recommended wine pairings: Think light and crisp, but with enough substance to to go with a salad that will—let’s be honest—leave you fairly full. Champagne and rosé are smart choices, as is a Pinot Noir. We like the refined fruity flavors of a 2013 Letterpress, which has a strong whiff of cherry compote, fennel, and violet.
6. Steak Frites
No bistro menu is complete without steak frites, and for a bistro-quality version you can’t go wrong with a restaurant recipe. Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, co-chefs at Balthazar provided recipes for Maitre D’Hotel Butter, frites, and steak for the perfect at-home steak frite dinner. It serves between 4 and 6.
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- ½ garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon shopped fresh chives
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
- 6 Idaho potatoes
- 2 quarts peanut oil
- Good-quality sea salt
- 4 steaks, about 10 ounces each, about 1 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions: First, make the butter. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl either with a spoon or with a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Spoon the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder, about 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until firm.
For the frites, peel the potatoes and cut each one lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Stack a few slices and cut lengthwise every ¼ inch, resulting in fries that are about 4 to 5 inches long and ¼-inch thick. Transfer the sliced potatoes to a large bowl and cover with water. Refrigerate and soak for at least 12 hours or overnight. Drain the fries at least 20 minutes before cooking them and dry on kitchen towels.
Pour the peanut oil into a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the pot to gauge the oil’s temperature and turn on a medium flame. When the oil reaches a temperature of 370 degrees Fahrenheit, add a third of the cut potatoes. Cook for 3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a baking sheet. Return the oil to a temperature of 370 degrees Fahrenheit and add the next batch. Repeat the process until all the fries are done.
For the second fry, heat the same oil to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Add half the fries and cook for 3½ minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on absorbent paper while the other half is frying. Sprinkle with sea salt on a baking sheet and serve as soon as possible.
To cook the steaks, preheat the grill. Arrange the coals so there’s an area of high heat and an area of more moderate heat. Set the grill about 3 inches above the coals. If cooking indoors, preheat a dry grill pan over a high flame for at least 3 minutes. Season the steaks with the salt and pepper, and then rub with the olive oil.
Sear the steaks on the hottest part of the grill, about 3 minutes on each side, and then move them to a more moderate heat (or lower the flame to medium if using a grill pan) to cook for an additional 3 minutes per side for medium-rare; add 2 minutes per side for medium. (If using a grill pan, reduce the cooking times: 2 minutes per side for medium rare, 3 minutes per side for medium). Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes. Serve with a pat of maitre d’hotel butter melting over each steak.
Recommended wine pairings: Steak. Butter. Salt, pepper, and fries. If you’re eating heartily, you should find a drink that can hold its weight. One of our favorite bottles for carnivorous food pairings is a 2011 Butcherblock Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been called an “ode to all butchers.”
7. Classic Potato Gratin
When you need a side dish for that brings a little French flair to your table, make the classic and comforting potato gratin from Fine Cooking. The potatoes would pair wonderfully with the steak in the previous recipe if you do not want to make french fries. It yields 6 to 8 servings.
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled
- 3 cups whipping or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3/4 cup finely shredded Gruyère, Emmental, or Comté
Directions: Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a very sharp knife or a mandoline, carefully cut the potatoes into ⅛-inch slices (no thicker). Put the potatoes in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until the cream is boiling, stirring occasionally (very gently with a rubber spatula so you don’t break up the slices).
When the cream boils, pour the mixture into a 2½ or 3-quart baking dish. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Shake the dish a bit to let the slices settle and then sprinkle the surface with the cheese.
Bake in the hot oven until the top is deep golden brown, the cream has thickened, and the potatoes are extremely tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes. Don’t worry if the dish looks too liquidy at this point; it will set up as it cools a bit. Before serving, let the potatoes cool until they’re very warm but not hot (at least 15 minutes) or serve them at room temperature.
Recommended wine pairings: To pair perfectly with the potatoes in this dish, we like a fruity, spicy 2010 Salient Cabernet Sauvignon, which will help to both heighten the cheesiness of this dish and cleanse your palate in between those generous bites. Unconventionally, we also like a bottle of 2007 Koonowla Riesling, which has enough smokiness and minerality to produce an entirely different version of Riesling than you may be used to.