Friday, March 02, 2012

French food standards

French food, at its base, is very simple. Good ingredients, simply prepared. Fancy stuff abounds, as in any culture and any cuisine, but the basics, the standards, are the foundations upon which haute cuisine is built. The French use a phrase all the time, la cuisine de grand-mère (grandma's cookin'), that encompasses most of the standard home recipes and techniques of French food. And since that is the kind of food that Ken and I prepare and eat most often, I thought I'd start a little series to showcase it.

The first thing you need to make carottes rapées is a good bunch of carrots.

The first time I came to France (1981) I was, as many people are, amazed by the food I saw in the windows of Parisian bakeries, delis, butcher shops, and at street markets. Everything looked so appetizing and delicious, whatever it was. It wasn't long (even on my meager student budget) before I was a regular consumer of prepared salads from the charcuterie.

Peel the carrots, trim off the ends, and cut into lengths that will fit your food processor.

Among my favorite salads is carottes rapées, made from grated carrots and dressed with a simple vinaigrette dressing. It took me a few years to try making it on my own. Grating carrots on a box grater took a little time, and I'm sure I lost a little skin in the process, so I didn't make the salad often.

Process the carrots using the fine (small holes) grating blade on your processor.

Then, in 1988, we bought our first food processor that came with grating blades. Grating carrots became quick and easy, and this salad has been a staple in our house ever since. It's great as a starter course, served on a bed of lettuce. The carrots can also be served with a combination of other raw vegetable salads (dressed beets, celery root, cucumbers, or corn) in what's called une assiette de crudités (a plate of raw vegetables). If we're having cheese at the end of the meal, we sometimes eat the salad as a refresher after the main dish, just before the cheese.

All done and ready for the dressing! Can anything be more simple?

One tip: I process the carrots on their sides rather than from the ends (see the photo of the carrots lying sideways in the food processor tube). That way I get longer strands of carrot. I think the salad looks nicer that way.

So there you have it. My first French Food Standard. Next time (I'm not sure when yet) I'll talk about the standard French dressing: vinaigrette.


  1. Carotte rapée is delicious. I agree it is one thing the food processor does really well. I like to make it half carrot and half beetroot - and in fact was planning to do so this week sometime. I also put a little ground cumin in the vinaigrette.

  2. Pauline does a recipe from Madhur Jaffree's BBC book that is carottes rapées dressed with quickly fried black mustard seed and lemon juice.... scrummy stuff.

    I like the thought of Susan's method too.

  3. Are you enjoying your new processor? (That's what you bought recently, isn't it?)

  4. How do you manage to make the basic carrot look so delectable?

  5. Tim, I believe I use that same recipe--Gujarati carrots. It's delicious.

  6. We eat this a couple times a week. It's delicious!

  7. A lovely salad and I hope this series lasts a long time! If I put cumin in it my son might like it. Do you do this with celeriac?

  8. Grating carrots on their side in the food processor ..... that is a good tip I never thought of.

  9. Oh la la! (That's my French for the day Walt) :)

  10. that was educational for me. I imagine -and I think many others are like me - French cuisine is complex/complicated and too much trouble to do/or you need to be an expert to make it. It remains a 'snob' cuisine to too many, despite what Julia C did.

  11. susan, interesting combination. I'll bet it looks amazing!

    tim, I have a couple of MJ's books. I'll take a look.

    judy, yes, and yes!

    scott, they're nice carrots! And fresh food always looks good. ;)

    carolyn, I'll have to give it a try.

    mark, ah... so Fred hasn't lost his French roots! Or root vegetables!

    kristi, I do use celeriac, but with a rémoulade sauce, which is a bit different. I'll try do do that as part of the series.

    scott, cool!

    ron, very good! Très bien !

    michael, Julia did do a lot of complicated stuff, but mostly she described the basics. I think it all comes down to good ingredients and a few basic techniques. Just like anything else, I suppose.

  12. Yes, Gujerati carrot salad [BBC p170, Eastern Vegetarian cooking p370]... and I like the sound of p106 Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots... we've a lot of cabbage to use quickly... I'll leave the book open at the page... just need to find some fresh coriander!

  13. this is healthy and protein packed salad.


Pour your heart out! I'm listening.