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WINTER

The 10 heartiest French dishes to get you through winter – with recipes

Winter is here, so it's time to start culinary planning for the cold months ahead. Luckily France is the perfect country for it. Warning: Waistlines may expand.

The 10 heartiest French dishes to get you through winter - with recipes
Check out these hearty French dishes designed for maximum insulation. Shutterstock/www.taste.com

Rich, hearty dishes don’t necessarily come to mind when you think about France's refined cuisine.  But the French have a mouth-watering array of stomach filling dishes for winter, albeit with a couple of them pinched from Switzerland.

Here are ten of the best winter dishes from France and links to recipes if you fancy trying to cook them.

READ ALSO The six best French winter dishes made with cheese

Pot-au-feu

[Canal Gourmandises Paris]

Pot-au-feu is a mouthwatering stew of different kinds of meat, marrow bones and root vegetables. Preparation is easy but the stew needs to cook on low heat for quite some time. The meat, veggies and broth are served in separate dishes, accompanied by horseradish, spicy Dijon mustard and pickled gherkins. The bone marrow is spread on to toasted pieces of bread, but this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. 

Click here for recipe

Onion soup

[Shutterstock]

French onion soup is well known outside of France, and with good reason. It’s easy to make and it’ll definitely warm you up when it’s cold outside. There are a few different, but equally delicious, variations on the recipe. Some suggest a slice of bread on top while others are gratinéed to create a crusty layer of cheese.

Click here for recipe

Aligot

[www.sbs.com.au]

If you’re a fan of mashed potato then you’re going to love aligot, a speciality from the Aubrac region. Blend the mash with cream, cheese, butter and garlic until you’ve achieved a perfectly smooth texture. Cheese from the region is normally used, such as Tomme d’Auvergne or Tomme de Laguiole but if you can’t get your hands on that then mozzarella or cheddar work fine too.

Click here for recipe

Backoeffe

[www.gourmettraveller.com.au]

The Alsace region bordering Germany is famous for rich dishes. Backoeffe is a type of stew with cubes of mutton, beef and pork which are marinated overnight and then slow-cooked with vegetables in a casserole.

Click here for recipe

Fondue

[Shutterstock]

It would be impossible to survive an Alpine winter without this famous dish from the Savoie region. It’s easy to make, delicious and the best way to refuel after a long day on the slopes. Pick from a variety of cheeses including Comté, Beaufort, Emmental, Appenzell or Gruyere.

Click here for recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon

[Shutterstock]

This hearty meat dish is one of the most famous recipes of the Burgundy region and is well known outside France too. It’s prepared with cuts of beef, onions, carrots, celery and pancetta. To stay true to the recipe’s origins, use a Burgundy red wine for the marinade and the sauce.

Click here for recipe

Tartiflette

[Shutterstock]

Another delicious winter dish out of the Savoie region, tartiflette is a potato gratin with onions and bacon covered in melted Reblochon cheese. Make sure to work up a proper appetite before digging into this dish or you'll be full after just a few bites.

Click here for recipe

Cassoulet

[www.taste.com]

Cassoulet is a stew from the Languedoc region made with beans, meat and sausages. It takes a while both to prepare and to cook but the result is definitely worth it and will be a big hit on a cold winter night. 

Click here for recipe

Choucroute Garnie

[www.epicurious.com]

Choucroute garnie is another Alsatian specialty. It's similar to German Sauerkraut except that it’s cooked in wine. Topped with ham hocks, bacon, onions and apples, it makes for a tasty and filling dish.

Click here for recipe

Gratin Dauphinois

[Shutterstock]

Gratin dauphinois is a rich and creamy potato gratin from the historic Dauphiné region in the south east. It’s a bit of a calorie bomb because of all the cream but that's what makes it so tasty. Traditionally, the gratin is made with just milk, cream and potatoes but many recipes suggest putting cheese in as well.

Click here for recipe

*Raclette: A few of you, in fact hordes of you, are probably wondering why Raclette is not on this list. It's not that this dish featuring melted Raclette cheese, accompanied by cold meats and potatoes (usually) is not hearty enough to make the top 10, it's more that we have it on good authority that its origins are actually Swiss, even though it's synonymous with France now. Hence the reason we thought it best not to include it in this list.

But here's a pic anyway to whet your appetite:

What else would you add to this list?

Member comments

  1. Boy, oh boy, would I love to know how to make that delicious green sauce for steak from Relais de L’Entrecote ! I know it’s a mystery, but would love some suggestions to try.

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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