Winter French Dishes That Will Stick to Your Ribs

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In some countries, the best season for eating is the heart of summer, when tomatoes and zucchini pop up in abundance.  For other countries, it’s fall — the time of harvest and the time when all the best new wines come out.

For France, however, I think that the best food season is the winter.  So much of French cuisine is heavy, soup-oriented and cheese-filled — it’s just what you need to warm you up on a cold day and keep you toasty!

So what are some of the dishes you should try?

Pure Melted Cheese

Raclette is the ultimate French winter dish: melted cheese, sometimes with ham or other meat, spooned over potatoes or even eaten on its own. Tartiflette is a variation on raclette with onions, lardons, and sometimes smoked salmon.

You’ll see street vendors all over France stirring giant skillets of raclette.  My recommendation?  Enjoy it with a cup of hot wine — and make sure to take a long walk afterward to work it off!

Another similar option is andouillette, a lyonnais specialty.  Melted cheese, mustard, and a variety of strange meats and offal, including pig stomach and veal neck, are cooked together in a skillet.  The mixture is then spread on tiny rounds of crispy bread.

Andouillette is an example of a peasant dish gone chic.  You can find it in restaurants throughout boutique hotels in Paris — in this case, I tried it at Baragones, a lovely little wine bar in Lyon.  Not unlike haggis, it tastes much better when you don’t think about what you’re eating.

The Soups

Say whatever you want about the French — they know how to make a satisfying soup.

French onion soup is the most famous, and this version at Cafe le Conti in Paris took it to the next level. Just look at the size of it — and how thick that cheese is!

The perfect companion to butternut squash soup?  Three slices of cured ham.  I loved this dish at the chic Do Mo in Lyon.

And if you’re not going to have soup, why not go for escargots for your starter instead?

I love when the escargots come out of the oven hot and sizzling, still in their shells.  After deftly maneuvering to remove them from their shells, sit back and soak up the fantastically garlicky sauce with your bread.

These escargots were part of a three-course meal at Le Paname in Montmartre in Paris — a delicious cheap find in an expensive neighborhood.

Simple Lunches

Most days, I would stop for something like a quiche and salad for lunch.

Quiches can be giant blocks of cholesterol, as in my much beloved quiche lorraine — but sometimes, like in this case, they’re simply a stack of vegetables glued together by a little bit of egg and set in a crust.  Not a bad choice.

Main Courses

Is there any French dish more famous than boeuf bourguignon?

Though this is the most traditional of French dishes, I tried it in a decidedly nontraditional way — at Mon Histoire dans l’Assiette in Lyon, a restaurant that specializes in allergen-free cuisine.  All of the dishes are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, and nut-free.  Ingredients like mustard, soy, shellfish, celery, and sesame are avoided as well.

You’d never know — this was a fabulous beef stew!  The ultimate comforting dish on a cold day.

But most days, I went for salmon for my main course.

God, the French know how to do salmon — the rich, buttery sauces are perfect for winter.  I had this one was at the excellent Le Vernissoir in the Marais in Paris.

And Now for Something Different…

Why not get a big bowl of pho?

Paris has a big Southeast Asian population, and Vietnamese restaurants abound.  I tried the tiny restaurant outside the Crimée stop in Paris’s 19th arrondissement.  I found a big bowl of pho to be the perfect antidote to days and days of heavy food — and infinitely more French when paired with an Orangina.


And now, what some say is the best course of all: dessert!  Crepes are always an excellent option, and nobody does better crepes than Breizh Cafe in Paris.

If by some great chance you arrive at Breizh Cafe in the future, make sure you order a crepe with salted caramel.  It’s their specialty dish and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!  This salted caramel and chantilly crepe was nothing short of sublime.

For something different, try fromage blanc — France’s answer to panna cotta.

Fromage blanc is a bit like panna cotta but not as solid and with a tangier taste, almost as if it’s made from Greek yogurt.  The raspberry coulis was the perfect accompaniment to this fromage blanc at Restaurant Le 5 at the Musée de Grenoble in, of course, Grenoble.

Which one of these French dishes would you like to try the most?

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22 thoughts on “Winter French Dishes That Will Stick to Your Ribs”

  1. That raclette concoction looks AMAZING! Will definitely have to try that the next time I’m in France. And the French onion soup, and the quiche, and the pho!

    …now could you just do us all a favor and dedicate your next post to revealing the secret of how French women stay so thin 🙂

  2. I LOVE FOOD especially well prepared good food. But I have to go with Lilian, you had me at melted cheese too! But all of those dishes made my mouth water…especially the dessert.

  3. All of them!! I am just about to make dinner and knowing that nothing I make will even come close to one of these meals makes me so sad (and hungry). I’m hoping to be in France again later this year and I will be sure to eat my fill! Thank you for all the great recommendations.

  4. Kate, Wonderful article. French onion soup is among my favorite foods for comfort. I love to coo and do all the cooking whenever we are actually at home. I am always looking for new fresh ides and it seem that French food escapes my mind. Boeuf Bourguignon is one I look for when in France, but never think to cook it. Thank you for the reminder as it will appear on a plate here and Linda too will thank you.

  5. My favorite winter lunch is a salad with warm goat’s cheese: sure, you get some greens, but you also get huge chunks of melting goats cheese on toast. Theeeeeee best.

  6. The first time I ever had raclette… pretty sure that I grossed out the family I was dining with with how much I consumed. No regrets, though. It was amazing.

  7. Hmm… Making me hungry now!
    Not adventurous, but I would never turn down pancakes (see how I use the plural).
    Love soup, but not onion soup, to be honest.
    And raclette: yummieeee, but it depends on what kind of cheese has been used.

  8. The only thing missing from this collection is Cassoulet – essentially a coronary in a casserole dish. If you spend any time in the French Alps you quickly realise why the local food has so much calorific content: regardless of whether you are skiing, you will burn plenty of calories just staying warm. It’s good to see Tartiflette getting a mention, a real Savoyarde classic and a favourite among skiers. Occasionally, Alpine Chalet companies will try to take this off their menu only to find they have a riot on their hands. It’s not difficult to make and there are plenty of recipes online if you need a winter warmer over the coming weeks. Thanks for posting all these wonderful winter favourites. Is it lunch time yet?

  9. You should try the Tartiflette, it’s a dish with French cheese “Roblochon” bacon cubs, potatoed and ognons…
    The dish is from the savoie on the Alps, it’s amazing but not the perfect meal for diet.

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