When it comes to hearty cold weather dishes for the stomach and the soul, the French have surely taken over with all their amazing cheese, bread and potato dishes. Add butter and cream to the mix and it’s hard to resist French cuisine when it’s cold outside.
We’ve selected our favorite French winter dishes and the best recipes to recreate them at home during our second (or is it third?) Covid winter.
This cheese soufflé is a favorite dish of grannies, a heavy dish that reminds everyone in France of their childhood. The spongy but soft texture of beaten eggs mixed with cheese is unique to soufflé. And, luckily, it’s not that hard to do. Alex from “French Guy Cooking” has a video for an easy recipe. The most important thing to remember: do not open the oven while the mixture is cooking, otherwise it will not puff up! Also, be careful not to burn your tongue, you’re going to want to dig right away.
A dish that made Julia Child famous, beef bourguignon is a meaty and hearty winter stew known the world over. Originally from the Burgundy region, it is prepared with pieces of beef, onions, carrots, celery and pancetta. Burgundy wine is used for the sauce, the true taste of this region. The dish takes around six hours to prepare, testing both the skill and patience of a true French chef. See Child’s famous recipe here.
This Alsatian dish is very popular with local farmers. Essentially a stew, this meat dish features pork, mutton and beef in a dry white wine and cooked in an authentic earthenware casserole. The meat should be left to marinate overnight and laid out between layers of potatoes as it cooks for hours. It is usually served at the table as the centerpiece of Sunday lunch. Head over to Vins d’Alsace for the perfect recipe to start your lazy and cozy Sunday lunch planning early.
A medieval dish from Languedoc, cassoulet is one of the most prepared dishes in France. It basically includes all the meat you can find, which in France includes confit de canard, pork belly, local sausage and lamb. The dish also includes white beans. Usually served on its own, cassoulet enjoys the company of a full-bodied red wine and an afternoon siesta in a pleasant food coma. This rustic dish has many variations, including an excellent one in The New York Times Cooking.
Whether it’s cold weather, a cold or a hangover, onion soup is always welcome. And the French know a little about soup. (See our compilation of cozy French soups.) Slathered in thick slices of toast loaded with melty Gruyère or Comté, this hassle-free preparation takes about an hour and provides maximum comfort. Although everyone has their own recipe, check out this classic option.
Tartiflette is not a dish you will see in a restaurant, but one your aunt might make on a cold winter evening. Originally from Savoie in the Alps, it requires high quality Reblochon and bacon bits. Baked with potatoes and onions, this dish may be smelly, but it’s worth all the extra calories. The French Cooking Academy put us in touch with a good recipe.
Rooster in wine
What may look like a sophisticated and complicated French dish is simply a chicken stew, made with rooster when possible. The beauty of this dish is that it is made with mostly accessible ingredients like bacon, onions, garlic, carrots, etc. and yet it has such a distinctive and special flavor. Julia Child, of course, was a fan of the dish. Check out this recipe for a contemporary adaptation of the child’s recipe.
Oh the potatoes! We are beginning to understand that all French cozy dishes contain the same ingredients and yet manage to look and taste totally different. Potato gratin from Dauphiné in the southeast is one of the most elegant cold weather dishes as it has a beautiful pattern on top. It is essentially a plain gratin with thinly sliced potatoes arranged in a pattern of the chef’s artistic choice. This recipe calls for potatoes, cheese, milk and cream. Check out this Marmiton recipe to learn how to make this potato delight.
Pot au feu
The epitome of French home cooking is a pot-au-feu, a “pot sur le feu”, a stew with just about anything and everything you can find. In fact, it is considered the national winter dish. The recipe dates back to the 1600s when peasants used inexpensive cuts and whatever vegetables they could find in the winter, all cooked together in a richly aromatic broth.