A Guide to Quick and Easy French Meals

Since I spent three years living in France and eating their food, I can say that the easiest guide to creating any meal in the French manner is to use a cream-based sauce with mushrooms and wine, not “cooking wine” that grocery stores sell but a good bordeaux for red meat and sherry for poultry. With seafood “a la King,” always use white wine, chablis or chardonnay to give your seafood an extra “je ne sais quoix.” A little wine goes a long way towards making any casserole a smash hit with your guests.

Marinating meat overnight in a wine-based marinade will add extra zest to the flavor of your meat, choosing chicken, pork or beef. Use one bottle of Italian dressing for your marinade, adding one fourth cup of wine. Discard the marinade before cooking as it is considered “raw” and may contain bacteria that can lead to an unpleasant episode of food poisoning. Always marinate meat in a separate dish, covering and refrigerating for a minimum of four hours. When you are ready to cook your meat, always use clean utensils and a clean roasting pan with a lid.

First of all, start a “roux,” a base of butter, onion, spices and flour, to which you will add one fourth cup of a good dry wine, one cup of heavy cream and one cup of chicken stock, allowing it to simmer for a minimum of ten minutes. Corn starch may be used to replace flour, as you will create a smoother texture without lumps. Some recipes may require doubling the ingredients to allow for more than four servings.

Once the sauce has been finished, brown your meat, transfer to your roasting pan, and add your sauce to a 325 degree oven, allowing it to cook slowly for an hour to an hour and a half.

In addition to your main dish, you may serve boiled new potatoes tossed in one tablespoon of dairy butter,not margarine,and sprinkle with a fresh sprig of parsley. Homemade or store-bought noodles are also a very good choice, adding a green vegetable for a more appealing color palette, remembering to consider the artistic display of food as an art form, especially if your main dish is cream based.

For tomato based sauces, add a mixture of seafood instead of beef, and you will have a true Mediterranean delight, remembering to season with garlic and a pinch of red pepper for variety. Serve with genuine French bread, fresh dairy butter and a bottle of your favorite wine. Bon appetit!