Delicious crepes suzette with orange syrup on plate.
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12 Fancy French Dishes to Test Your Culinary Skills

If you don’t have the dedication to cook your way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you can familiarize yourself with French cooking with this list!

French cuisine is known for being complex, technical, and artistic — and also extraordinary. If you want something more challenging than chili or meatloaf, we have some tricky recipes for you to conquer.

If this list feels too advanced for you, we suggest mastering the five French mother sauces to create your foundation. After that, have at this list, keep a cool head in the kitchen, and enjoy the fruits of your French labor.

Croissants

Plate of croissants baked.
Image Credit: Katarzyna Golembowska and Shutterstock

Croissants are a French pastry that you’ve probably eaten a few times. You can buy fresh, buttery croissants from bakeries or buy a cheap bag full at your grocery store. The commonality of croissants makes them seem simple, but making them is quite the task.

The whole ordeal takes at least half a day, involves many precise steps, and requires intense attention to detail. The butter won’t layer right if your kitchen is too warm or cold. You won’t get a flaky texture if you don’t laminate enough layers. For most, perfecting croissants takes a few tries.

Cassoulet

Plate of french specialit the cassoulet.
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Cassoulet is one of the most iconic French dishes. It’s a casserole made with baked white beans and meat, offering a robust, farmy flavor. When it comes to comfort food, cassoulet reigns supreme. This hearty peasant dish is a long process and, when done correctly, should take multiple days to execute.

The driver of this dish’s flavor is the slowly developed meat flavors, so you can’t rush it. Time is the key, but you must be attentive to the dish to ensure it crisps well without burning. While this may be one of the most time-consuming and complex dishes you’ll ever make, the flavors truly sing with warmth and will enchant you.

Oeufs en Meurette

Oeufs en meurette Poached eggs in a red wine sauce with pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon closeup on the plate on the table.
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Oeufs means eggs. How hard could eggs be? Thanks to the French, they can be incredibly difficult. Oeufs en Meurette features soft-poached eggs in a rich red wine sauce infused with flavorful ingredients, like onions and bacon. People often eat it with toast, which is the simplest part of this recipe.

If you want a quick breakfast, this isn’t it, as it takes around two hours to make. Poaching the eggs and making the red wine sauce are precarious tasks that can quickly go wrong. On top of that, you have to chop and cook all the other ingredients. However, it’ll all be worth it when you take that first sumptuous bite and realize that red wine and eggs are, in fact, the perfect marriage.

Cheese Soufflé

Cheese Souffle.
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Cheese soufflé is a humble dish in flavor and appearance. There’s nothing complicated or pretentious about the taste and look, but making a cheese soufflé is not so simple. Achieving that light, airy texture and warm, cheesy flavor takes a lot of effort. If you ask a pro what the “key to a soufflé” is, they’ll probably list five different things, as every aspect must be perfectly executed.

Our best advice here is to move with grace and thoughtfulness. When whipping, beating, and folding ingredients, don’t do so haphazardly. Treat the ingredients and steps with love and care, and you might just make a dreamy cheese soufflé on your first try!

Gougères

Gougeres. Traditional french cheese choux buns.
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Gougères are small pastry puffs of choux dough with cheese mixed in. More cheese? Yes, of course, cheese is life, especially for the French. Once you get this recipe down, they’re easy-peasy to make. However, mastering the finesse that it takes can require a few attempts.

Many people find these fall flat instead of puffing up like they should. Choux pastry, as fabulously delicious as it is, is a massive pain to make. This recipe exemplifies how the complexity of French food can actually come from the simplicity of ingredients. While tricky, gougères might be the easiest recipe on this list, so maybe start here.

Coq au Vin

French cuisine Coq Au Vin stew with crimini mushrooms pearl onions and carrots in a red wine brandy sauce served over mashed potatoes
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Coq au Vin is a classic French stew made of meat slowly braised in red wine. If this list can teach you anything, it’s that red wine should be your secret ingredient in everything. Traditional Coq au Vin uses chicken legs, so we suggest doing chicken!

This dish is another French recipe that is simultaneously straightforward and complex. The main preparation is basic, but it’s all the tiny details and small steps that add up to make it laborious. The time-consuming recipe can be a wonderful test of your skills and help you refine those little techniques.

French Macarons

French assorted macarons.
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Macarons might be the greatest test of baking excellence. This adorable French pastry is revered as one of the country’s most elegant and lovable treats. Putting the flavor and texture aside for a moment, achieving the correct size and thickness is a challenge in itself. The perfectly circular, identically-sized macarons you see in the bakery or store are a feat of greatness and precision.

Once you try making these, you’ll have a whole new respect for these little cookies. If you tackle this recipe, we highly recommend starting with just one flavor and nothing too unorthodox. We also regretfully advise you to head out and buy all the specific equipment because it makes a huge difference.

Rillettes

 Two Homemade Rillettes French meat spread made of pork on a baguette bread.
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We considered adding pâté to this list but decided to discuss rilettes instead. Rilette is a meat spread like pâté but much chunkier and rougher (in a good way). Rillettes can use a variety of meats and proteins, including pork, salmon, duck, goose, and shrimp. Pork is one of the more traditional choices if you want to start there.

Making rillette properly can take over 10 hours, so don’t make any plans to go out. It involves seasoning and submerging meat in fat for a long braise. If you misstep, you’ll end up with a fatty, oily spread that won’t be appetizing.

Crêpes Suzette

Delicious crepes suzette with orange syrup on plate.
Image Credit: Tatiana Volgutova and Shutterstock

If you’ve ever tried to make crêpes at home, you already know how tough it is. Crêpes are delicate, finicky, and, honestly, infuriating. You can make any type of crêpe you want, but we recommend Crêpes Suzette, which comes with an orange-flavored syrup. If you don’t execute them perfectly, they’ll fall apart, have a tough texture, or burn.

However, nothing beats the triumphant feeling of perfectly flipping a crêpe, so you can look forward to that. Dealing with the thin crêpe batter and properly cooking it in a hot pan is challenging enough, but making this decadent orange sauce is also tricky. The end result is an orangey, buttery heaven, making it all worth it.

Chicken Chasseur

Classic French chicken chasseur with mushrooms and tomatoes in spicy sauce on table.
Image Credit: AS Foodstudio and Shutterstock

Chicken chasseur has some technical challenges, but achieving the traditional flavor is the biggest obstacle to success. It’s a stew-like dish with chicken, vegetables, white wine, and tomato sauce. First, you need to know how it’s supposed to taste, which is extremely difficult if you’ve never had an authentic version.

It has a hearty, meaty flavor with freshness from the herbs and a prominent tomato taste that shines through. The profile is complex, balancing all ingredients to meld together magically. You also need to nail the cook on the chicken, making it juicy and succulent inside with a decent crisp outside.

‎Boeuf Bourguignon

French Boeuf Bourguignon with Dutch carrots and a creamy mash served in a black cast iron pot.
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When discussing classic French dishes, ‎Boeuf Bourguignon almost always comes up — specifically Julia Child’s famous ‎Boeuf Bourguignon. For those who have seen Julie & Julia, you know what can go wrong with this recipe.

Depending on your technique, it takes three to six hours to make, requiring patience and attention. It’s a beef stew that redefines what stew can be, elevating the peasant dish to be gourmet. We recommend taking a whole day to tackle this recipe and prioritizing your mise en place and use of timers.

Pear Tarte Tatin

pear tart tatin, french caramel pear cake.
Image Credit: Anna Shepulova and Shutterstock

Pear tarte tatins are works of art with a gorgeous caramelized crust and mesmerizingly layered pears. This buttery, gooey tart combines some of the best elements of French cooking, making it a spectacular recipe for those who want to dive head-first into French cuisine.

In one dish, you can enjoy the indulgent caramelized fruit and flaky pastry crust, exemplifying the flair of French food. This is another dish that sometimes requires specific equipment, and we recommend getting the right tools if you want this to come out beautifully. It’s also about the ingredients, so don’t just get any old pears. Choose your ingredients thoughtfully, and never settle.

Decadent Chocolate Traditions From Around the World

Chocolate candies on counter.
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It’s hard not to do a double-take when someone says they don’t like chocolate.

This heavenly ingredient is one of the most universal foods, and almost every nation enjoys it in its own way. From heartfelt gifts to cheeky Valentine’s Day exchanges to symbols of progress, pieces of chocolate are more culturally significant than people realize.

Learn more about how different cultures embrace chocolate in their traditions.

Decadent Chocolate Traditions From Around the World

14 Simple Ways Anyone Can Elevate Their Cooking Skills

Happy smiling mature couple cooking meal together.
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Here’s the deal: no one becomes Gordon Ramsey overnight. I mean, even Gordon Ramsey didn’t become Gordon Ramsey overnight.

It takes time to master the art of cooking, and there’s no better time to start than now.

I used to joke that I wasn’t a good cook and felt sorry for the man I would marry one day. But I’ve since learned that it’s really the little things that make someone a good cook, and here’s the secret–anyone can do it. Here are 14 simple and easy tips to elevate your kitchen game.

14 Simple Ways Anyone Can Elevate Their Cooking Skills

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