Like any good Francophile, I love having a kitchen filled with French goodies, including French food items. If you’re wondering how to stock a French pantry, then this is the post for you!
French Cooking 101
French cuisine is renowned around the world for its elegance, complexity, and attention to detail. It is characterized by its use of high-quality ingredients, widely-practiced cooking techniques, and emphasis on balance and harmony in flavor and presentation.
Some of the most famous French dishes include:
- Coq au Vin – A classic French dish of chicken braised in wine, mushrooms, and onions.
- Boeuf Bourguignon – A rich and flavorful beef stew made with red wine, bacon, onions, and mushrooms.
- Ratatouille – A colorful vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
- Quiche Lorraine – A savory tart made with a flaky pastry crust, eggs, cream, and bacon.
- Sole Meunière – A dish of dover sole fish dredged in flour and cooked with butter and lemon.
French cuisine also places a high value on presentation and aesthetics, with dishes often being arranged and garnished in an artistic and visually pleasing way.
Furthermore, French cooking is a sophisticated culinary tradition that has had a profound impact on the world of food and cooking, which is why knowing how to stock a French pantry can be beneficial inside and outside of France.
What Do the French Eat
The French diet is characterized by its emphasis on high-quality, fresh ingredients, simple preparations, and balance in flavors and nutrition.
The traditional French diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, with an emphasis on enjoying food in moderation and savoring the dining experience.
Thankfully, you can eat many of the same foods that the French eat whether you’re living in France or not; having a stocked French pantry will allow you to do exactly that.
How to Stock a French Pantry: Staples of French Cuisine
While it’s always fun to shop for French pantry staples when you’re visiting France, you can often find many items imported into your country from various French regions and brands.
Here are some key items to consider when you’re deciding how to stock a French pantry at home:
- Flour: French flour is essential for making bread, pastries, and crepes. Look for types such as T55, T65, and T80. Their gluten content varies, just like American All-Purpose Flour, Pastry Flour, and Bread Flour do.
- Salt: French sea salt, such as fleur de sel, is a must-have for seasoning dishes. This one is my favorite.
- Olive oil: French olive oil is known for its fruity and robust flavor. Look for oils from Provence or the Cote d’Azur.
- Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and white wine vinegar are staples in a French pantry.
- Mustard: Dijon mustard is an iconic French condiment that is essential for vinaigrettes and sauces. It’s also used as a marinade in recipes like this one.
- Herbs and spices: Herbs de Provence is a classic French blend that includes spices like savory, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram. Other key herbs and spices to have on hand include tarragon, chervil, bay leaves, and black pepper.
- Canned goods: Canned tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and anchovies are frequently used in French cuisine.
- Butter: French butter is renowned for its rich and creamy texture. I love both unsalted and salted French butter. My favorite brands can be tricky to find (Beillevaire and Le Beurre Bordier), but I’m lucky to be able to purchase them at a local French shop.
- Cheese: French cheese is a must-have for any French pantry. Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, and Comte are all great options, and, thankfully, many of these are imported into chain grocery stores. I’ve found the most authentic ones at Whole Foods.
- Wine: Wine is a key ingredient in many French dishes. Choose a red wine, such as Burgundy or Bordeaux, and a white wine, such as Chablis or Sancerre, to have on hand for cooking.
By stocking your pantry with these key ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to creating delicious and authentic French dishes.
French Meal Planning with Your Newly Stocked Pantry
Once you’ve got your French pantry stocked, you can easily plan out your French meals.
French meal planning typically involves a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and a balance of flavors and textures. A traditional French meal consists of several courses, starting with an appetizer or “entrée,” followed by a main course or “plat,” cheese course, and dessert.
The main course often includes a protein, such as meat or fish, accompanied by a variety of vegetables, rice, and/or potatoes. In addition, French cuisine often incorporates rich sauces and flavorful herbs and spices (hello, herbs de Provence!).
French meal planning also places an emphasis on taking time to savor each course and enjoy the company of others at the table. It is common for meals to be accompanied by wine (a glass of Sancerre, please!), and for conversation to flow freely throughout the meal.
Overall, the French culinary experience aims to create a feast for your senses, which can only be done with quality ingredients from a fully stocked French pantry!