Our 5 iconic French recipes to cook for French National Day or Bastille Day tomorrow include quintessentially French dishes such as a classic salade Lyonnaise – perhaps the world’s best breakfast salad, non? – a hearty French onion soup, a traditional olive tapenade from Provence, a classic Toulouse cassoulet, and an aromatic cote de boeuf courtesy of chef Pierre Gagnaire.
While we don’t need an excuse to make French food – and we really don’t cook enough of it – it’s the French National Day or Bastille Day tomorrow, so that’s as good an excuse as any, so I’ll be home here in Siem Reap adding a couple of new French recipes to our archive.
Until I share those with you, here are some classic French recipes to cook on 14 July, the National Day of France, including a classic salade Lyonnaise, a hearty French onion soup, a traditional olive tapenade from Provence, a classic Toulouse cassoulet, and an aromatic cote de boeuf courtesy of chef Pierre Gagnaire.
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French Recipes to Cook for French National Day or Bastille Day
Classic Salade Lyonnaise Recipe
For Bastille Day breakfast, we recommend making the first of our 5 iconic French recipes to cook on French National Day, a classic salade Lyonnaise, which must be one of the world’s best breakfast salads, non?
Our classic salade Lyonnaise recipe was created by Terence for the Southern France edition of our Weekend Eggs recipe series which we shared on the France leg of the global grand tour that launched Grantourismo back in 2010.
We were just a few days into April and Terence had been checking out the markets in the village of Céret where we’d settled into for two weeks, and down in Perpignan, where we’d spent a few days, and Spring could be felt in the produce, if not in the air.
We could get fantastic farm-fresh eggs from the markets and we’d noticed lots of great frisée, curly lettuce, which has a slightly bitter, peppery taste. Frisée is perfect with poached eggs, so Salade Lyonnaise was Terence’s solution for bringing those two ingredients together.
This classic salade Lyonnaise recipe makes an elegant breakfast eggs dish that consists of soft poached eggs that sit atop frisée lettuce, with some croutons, crispy bacon pieces, and a vinaigrette dressing of olive oil and vinegar. The idea is that you get some frisée, egg white and yolk, a crouton and some bacon in every mouthful. It’s a brilliant mix of textures and a perfect marriage of flavours.
French Onion Soup Recipe
Next on our list of suggestions for 5 iconic French recipes to cook on French National Day is a lunch recommendation, though you’ll need to put it on the stove after breakfast. It’s perhaps the most quintessential of French dishes and one of our favourites, French onion soup.
This fragrant French onion soup recipe makes a classic French onion soup which I gave a subtle Southeast Asian twist. Having lived in the region for so long, I can’t help myself. Inspired by French chef Raymond Blanc’s vegetarian French onion soup recipe, which uses toasted flour to add a nuttiness to the broth, I added a little fish sauce for umami and star anise for aroma and flavour to create a deeply-flavoured onion soup.
When I developed this recipe, I’d been a lifelong French onion soup lover but not a maker. Terence has long been the cook of the French onion soups in our household. The wonderful hearty French onion broth that he’s made for decades was based on Julia Child’s classic French onion soup recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
While the French onion soup of my childhood, which was very similar, was made by my mother and based on the French onion soup recipe in Larousse Gastronomique. Dad and I bought mum the book for her birthday and Mother’s Day in the mid-1970s – along with the Joy of Cooking! – though Mum may have had an earlier edition of Larousse, as my parents had owned a French restaurant when I was a child.
I do adore those classic French onion soups, but I’m also a little in love with my own version with its Southeast Asian twist. Please let me know what you think if you make it.
Traditional French Tapenade Recipe from Provence
If you’re planning on opening a bottle of bubbly to celebrate French National Day, then make the next dish on our list of classic French recipes to cook on Bastille Day, this easy olive tapenade recipe.
Based on the traditional French tapenade recipe from Provence in southern France it’s made with only four ingredients – black olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil – although I also add a little red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar although that’s not strictly traditional.
You could also add a little garlic, along with Mediterranean herbs and spices, although then it’s not strictly tapenade, according to the French. Whatever you do, don’t add salt, as there’s enough salt from the anchovies and capers.
But if you’re making this dip for the first time, do try the traditional olive tapenade recipe before experimenting. It’s absolutely delicious in its original form with just olives, capers, anchovies, and quality olive oil, served with homemade crackers, cheese straws or fresh or toasted baguette slices.
While hailing from Provence in Southern France, olive tapenade is a quintessentially Mediterranean olive spread or dip for me, which is why I love to use the juiciest olives from Kalamata, briny capers from Pantelleria, Ortiz salted anchovies from Spain, and grassy extra virgin olive oil from Valencia.
Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe
For dinner on Bastille Day, we’ve got two suggestions for you, the first of which will need to be started after you finish lunch. Next on our list of 5 iconic French recipes to cook on French National Day is this classic Toulouse cassoulet.
This traditional Toulouse cassoulet recipe makes a hearty stew of haricot beans, pork belly, pork and garlic saucisses (sausages), and duck confit, one of countless versions of cassoulet. Terence also made this in Ceret in Southern France, back in 2010, and he tested it out on a Toulouse-born local we invited over for dinner.
Castelnaudary, about 180km from Ceret, is the self-proclaimed capital of cassoulet, which is named after the cassole, the earthenware pot it is often cooked in. Some 65km north of Castelnaudary, Toulouse is also a centre for this homely, filling stew, which is popular all over France.
So, how was the final version of Terence’s classic Toulouse cassoulet received by the Toulouse native? “You’ve made a nice cassoulet with great flavour,” Yvan told Terence, “But there’s not enough sauce for me. We like to soak up the sauce with some toasted bread with garlic, and I also like boudin noir in my cassoulet.”
Despite those shortcomings, Yvan finished his plate. The rest of us thought that the dish was heavy enough without the addition of blood sausage. Let us know what you think if you make our cassoulet and if you enjoy it, do browse our collection of best stew recipes for more hearty comforting stews.
Cote de Boeuf Recipe Courtesy of Chef Pierre Gagnaire in Paris
Last on our list of iconic French recipes to cook on French National Day is one of the most popular recipes on Grantourismo, our Cote de Boeuf recipe – or more correctly, côte de bœuf recipe – from superstar French Chef Pierre Gagnaire, which became one of our most memorable souvenirs of our stay in Paris.
This cote de boeuf recipe was almost a couscous recipe too! Back in the spring of 2010 in Paris, about a quarter of the way through our 12 month global grand tour aimed at inspiring you all to live like locals and travel more slowly, sustainably, and more experientially, we asked the legendary French chef Pierre Gagnaire his opinion as to what the quintessentially Parisian dish was that Terence should learn to cook in Paris for his series The Dish.
“Think of a dish that you would tell someone they had to have if they came to Paris,” we prompted the chef. After what seemed like an eternity, Chef Gagnaire, who had his head bowed, elbow on knee and chin in hand, raised his head, eyes sparkling, and pronounced: “Couscous!”
“Couscous?!” we both exclaimed. While it wasn’t the suggestion we were hoping for, the chef had a point. Old-school Paris may have been struggling with issues of cultural and national identity and some Parisians were struggling with the city’s increasing cosmopolitanism, as I’d learnt on a walk that explored Paris’ multiculturalism. But Parisians had firmly embraced the food of the Maghreb and couscous was a common dish found in many bistros, cafés, and take-away food joints across the city at the time.
However, as we’d just come from Morocco, where we’d settled into Marrakech and Essaouira for two weeks, where we’d been eating couscous daily and Terence cooked lamb tajine for The Dish, we asked the chef for a more classic French dish and without hesitation Pierre declared “Côte de bœuf!”
Please do let us know in the comments below if you cook any of these iconic French recipes on French National Day as we’d love to know how they turned out for you.