When it comes to hearty cold-weather food for the belly and soul, the French have surely got the upper hand with all of their amazing cheese, bread, and potato dishes. Add some butter and cream to the mix and it’s hard to resist cooking French when it’s cold dreary outside.
We’ve narrowed down our favorite French winter dishes and the best recipes to recreate them within your own home during our second (or is it third?) Covid winter.
This cheese soufflé is a granny-favorite, a heavy dish that reminds everyone in France of their childhoods. The spongey yet soft texture of the beaten eggs mixed with cheese is one unique to the soufflé. And, fortunately, it’s not all that hard to make. Alex from “French Guy Cooking” has a video for an easy recipe. The most important takeaway: Don’t open the oven while the mixture is baking, or it will not puff up! And then, be careful not to burn your tongue–you’re going to want to dig in immediately.
A dish that made Julia Child made famous, boeuf bourguignon is a meaty and hearty winter stew known all around the world. Coming from the region of Burgundy, it’s prepared with cuts of beef, onions, carrots, celery and pancetta. Burgundy wine is used for the sauce, the true taste of this region. The dish takes about six hours to make, testing both one’s skills and patience as a proper French chef. See Child’s famous recipe here.
This Alsace dish is a popular one amongst local farmers. What is essentially a stew, this meat dish includes pork, mutton, and beef in a dry white wine and cooked in an authentic terracotta casserole dish. The meat is to be left to marinate over night and arranged between layers of potatoes as it bakes for hours. It is usually served at the table as the centerpiece to Sunday lunch. Head over to Vins d’Alsace for the perfect recipe to get your lazy, cozy, Sunday lunch planning started early.
A medieval dish from Languedoc, cassoulet is one of the most widely made dishes across the country of France. It basically includes all the meat that you can find, which in France includes duck confit, pork belly, local sausage, and lamb. The dish also features white beans. Usually served on its own, cassoulet enjoys the company of a full-bodied red wine and an afternoon of napping in a pleasant food coma. This rustic dish has many variations, including an excellent one in the New York Times Cooking.
Be it cold weather, a cold, or a hangover, onion soup is always welcome. And the French know a thing or two about soup. (See our compilation of cozy French soups.) Covered with a thick slices of toasted bread loaded with melty gruyere or comté cheese, this no-fuss preparation takes about an hour and results in coziness to the maximum. While everyone’s got their own recipe, check out this classic option.
Tartiflette is not a dish that you will see at a restaurant, but one that your aunt might make on a cold winter evening. Hailing from the Savoie region in the Alps, it requires high quality Reblochon cheese and lardons. Baked with potatoes and onions, this dish may be smelly, but it is worth all the extra calories. The French Cooking Academy has us hooked up with a proper recipe.
What may sound like a fancy 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 Child’s recipe.
Oh potatoes! We’re getting to the understanding that all French cozy dishes feature the same ingredients and yet manage to look and taste entirely differently. The potato gratin from the Dauphiné region in the southeast is one of the most elegant cold-weather dishes as it has a beautiful pattern on top. It’s basically a regular Gratin with thinly-sliced potatoes organized in a pattern–chef’s choice on the artistry. This recipe calls for potatoes, cheese, milk and cream. Check out this Marmiton recipe for an easy how-to for making this potato delight.
The quintessence of French family cuisine is a pot-au-feu, “pot on fire,” stew featuring just about everything and anything that you can find. In fact, it is considered the national winter dish. The recipe dates back to the 1600’s when peasants would use inexpensive cuts and whatever vegetables they could find in the winter all cooked together in a richly aromatic broth.