15 French Recipes Every Beginner Cook Should Master

Potato and Leek Soup (Vichyssoise)
Photo: Madeleine Hill

Though French cuisine often comes with a side of "that's-too-difficult-to-make-at-home," the basic methods — building a sauce, deglazing, braising, poaching — are quite simple and will carry you far. In fact, as F&W's Justin Chapple points out, "French technique has influenced how we cook at home so much, that you probably already know more than you think." (See: 13 Essential Tools for French Cooking). There are a ton of classic and approachable recipes out there for even the greenest cook. From aioli and bouillabaisse to clafoutis, here are the ABC's of French cooking.

01 of 15

Pistachio Financiers

Pistachio Financiers
Earl Carter

The best thing about financiers is that the reward far outweighs the effort. These small, buttery almond cakes can be made in a pinch and stored overnight in an airtight container.

02 of 15

Steamed Mussels with Tomato-Garlic Broth

201204-HD-steamed-mussels-with-tomato-and-garlic-broth.jpg

This three-step recipe will have you whipping up steamed mussels in no time. The real star here is the flavorful tomato-garlic broth — make sure to have plenty of garlic bread on hand for dipping.

03 of 15

Leeks Vinaigrette with Fried Eggs and Smoked Prosciutto

Leeks Vinaigrette
John Kernick

Chef Paul Kahan's leeks vinaigrette is a time-honored French classic, often served with a hard boiled egg. Kahan puts a twist on that dish by pairing his dressing with a fried egg and smoked prosciutto, which complements the acidity in the vinaigrette perfectly.

04 of 15

Black Olive Tapenade with Figs and Mint

Black Olive Tapanade with Figs and Mint
© David Malosh

Chef Jacques Pépin's tasty tapenade combines two types of olives with dried figs and mint. This goes well as a sandwich spread, a side for crudité, or a topping for crostini.

05 of 15

Raspberry Clafoutis

Raspberry Clafoutis
© Tina Rupp

While this custard dessert is traditionally made with cherries, try swapping in raspberries for a fresh twist on the classic.

06 of 15

Speedy Ratatouille with Goat Cheese

Speedy Ratatouille with Goat Cheese
Johnny Valiant

In traditional ratatouille, vegetables simmer together until they're falling-apart tender. Here, cookbook author Melissa Clark cooks them quickly in batches, so they retain their flavor and texture.

07 of 15

Fromage Fort

Fromage Fort
Marcus Nilsson

Chef Jacques Pépin's fast toasts are the ultimate way to use leftover cheese, by putting it to use with these crostini-like hors d'oeuvres. Simply blend cheese, garlic, and wine until creamy, spread on toast or crackers, and eat.

08 of 15

Potato and Leek Soup (Vichyssoise)

Potato and Leek Soup (Vichyssoise)
Madeleine Hill

While traditional vichyssoise is chilled, Andrew Zimmern's version calls for serving the soup hot. Both options yield a hearty and quintessentially French dish.

09 of 15

Chicken Dijon

Chicken Dijon. Photo © Johnny Valiant
© Johnny Valiant

Cookbook author Melissa Clark's favorite part of the chicken is the drumstick, because it's juicy and easy to brown. She likes using only drumsticks in this mustardy stew — thickened with tangy crème fraîche — so that all the meat cooks at the same rate.

10 of 15

Aioli

Aioli
John Kernick

You'll never need to buy aioli again after mastering this quick recipe for a homemade version. While classic aioli calls for garlic, oil, and sometimes egg, you can add in other seasonings for a different type of flavor. The concept of emulsification — binding two ingredients that wouldn't naturally take to one another by whisking vigorously — is a basic technique that will take you far.

11 of 15

Julia's Favorite Roast Chicken

Julia's Favorite Roast Chicken
CON POULOS

Julia Child seasoned this roast chicken inside and out by packing sautéed vegetables, lemon slices and fresh herbs into the cavity, then rubbing the skin with butter. In typical French fashion, she trussed the bird to promote even cooking.

12 of 15

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
© Dana Cowin

Chef Matt Conroy makes a hearty beef broth that becomes the foundation for his richly flavored classic French onion soup.

13 of 15

Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes Suzette
© Con Poulos

While restaurants traditionally make the buttery, orange-flavored sauce for this famous French dessert tableside from start to finish, chef Jacques Pépin finds it easier to prepare largely in advance when entertaining. He flambés the liquor in front of his dinner guests and pours it over the platter of crêpes while still flaming.

14 of 15

Bouillabaisse

ludo-lefebvre-bouillabaisse-0319.jpg
Chloe Crespi Photography

Chef Ludo Lefebvre's bouillabaisse starts with a quick-cooking, but deeply flavored, seafood broth. Layering a base of aromatics with fresh snapper, scallops, shrimp, and a mix of Pernod and dry white wine creates a long-simmered flavor in under an hour.

15 of 15

Burnt Honey-Orange Tuiles

Burnt Honey-Orange Tuiles
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The beauty of this cookie-brittle hybrid is that you can make it with any croissant — homemade or store-bought. To ensure a crispy tuile, let the croissant slices bake until they are a deep, golden brown to give the sugar in the syrup time to caramelize and harden to the perfect texture.

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