French Christmas culinary specialties

Whoever says “holidays approaching” says good meals savored around the table with the family. Whether it’s starters, main courses or desserts, you’ll be sure to find French specialties to cook during the end-of-year celebrations.
Are you a fan of cuisine and you want to discover the origin and the French specialties tasted at Christmas? So you are in the right place!

The foie gras and its various confits.

Tasted on a toast with its candied fig, onion or apricot, foie gras is a culinary specialty known throughout the world and mostly appreciated especially during the holiday season.

In France, the two regions producing foie gras are Alsace and Gers-Landes but its origin is very old since it dates from Antiquity. Indeed, it was the Egyptians who reproduced and especially intensified the force-feeding, which was done naturally by geese and ducks to prepare for the harshness of winter. Then, this technique developed in the Roman Empire where the feeding was done with dried figs. It was the Jews who then adopted this technique because for lack of fat resources such as butter or olive oil, they used goose fat to cook. Finally, towards the end of the 15th century, the technique of feeding the geese will not be done with figs but with corn following the discovery of this cereal by Christopher Columbus.

Snails and marbled butter sauce.

The most famous specialty in Bourgogne at Christmas but which is also very popular in the rest of France, snails are usually accompanied by a sauce with parsley butter or garlic.
But in reality, Bourgogne snails do not come from Bourgogne because it is forbidden to collect in France following their state of disappearance. Since 1979, a law has been published to limit the collection. The snails of Bourgogne are a species coming from the countries of Eastern Europe, in particular from Poland. On the other hand, it is possible to find snails from France which come from a French breeding but which are not from Bourgogne.

Crustaceans (salmon, scallops, lobster and crawfish).

During the Christmas periods, shellfish are greatly appreciated during meals before the meat.
Smoked salmon is very popular on a toast with butter, slices of onions and capers. Prior to breeding in 1980, salmon was not common at holiday meals. Today it is usually tasted as a starter.
The scallops harvested in Normandy are also a famous starter during the Christmas period. Seared in cream, roasted with a knob of salted butter or even baked in a bechamel sauce, scallops are very affectionate during the holidays. Lobster and crawfish, very often grilled in their shells with herbal butter or citrus, the French also love it as hot starters at Christmas.

Oysters and lemon juice.

Known for their acid taste and being very juicy, oysters are tasted throughout the year but especially during the holiday season. They are usually accompanied by lemon.
In the 17th century, the first culture of oysters developed in the basin of Marennes-Oléron, a region of the Charente-Maritime, that is why they were very long reserved for the littoral because they were too expensive for the central countries. But following the development of transport, they are gradually imposed throughout France and the world.

Confit of duck and vegetables.

A dish originally from Dordogne, a region in the south-west of France, duck confit is actually a method of conservation practiced since ancient times. Indeed, once cooked, the meat was kept with salt and covered with air to keep it for several months.
Today, it is no longer a method of preservation but a popular recipe that is used for the tenderness of the flesh but especially for its taste. It is a dish also famous during the end of the year and is often served with vegetables and sauce.

The famous Christmas turkey.

Traditional meal by excellence in France during the Christmas period, the turkey first conquered Anglo-Saxon families in the 19th century. It can be stuffed with chestnuts or not, the whole turkey is enough to feed a family during the Christmas meal.

The traditional chocolate log.

The chocolate log is THE Christmas dessert. Although today it can be made in several flavors, it remains the flagship dessert of the French Christmas meal. Traditionally, the log was an ancient rite that celebrated the winter solstice. The goal being to place in the chimney a big log and which was burned during all the evening of Christmas. But following the disappearance of fireplaces in homes, this tradition has disappeared and it is a Parisian pastry chef who reinvented this log for dessert in 1945 and has become a flagship dessert in France.
In contrast, in Provence, the custom is a list of 13 desserts with: dried figs, dried grapes, almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts, grapes, melon, orange, dates, an exotic fruit (kiwi, pineapple or mango), the “oil pump” which is a cake with orange blossom, white nougat, red nougat and finally black nougat.

The “bredeles”, Alsatian biscuits.

As at every Christmas, traditional Alsatian biscuits are back. The recipes have been handed down from generation to generation so that this Alsatian tradition is never lost. Generally bredeles are shortcakes made from butter, flour and egg but there are several kinds of bredeles that are flavored differently : vanilla, cinnamon, anise, spices, candied fruit or almond. Some have icing on top, which makes them more greedy. In addition to having several flavors, they can have several forms according to their name: spritz bredeles are formed by a piping bag, butterbredeles are usually cut with heart-shaped swords, like stars or fir, and covered with egg yolk to make them shine or anise bredeles which are round and puffed biscuits.

And you dear Fuzzy, what is your French favorite dish ? Do not hesitate to say it in comment!

For other tips on Christmas holidays you can read : Christmas : design fir tree or Meisenthal’s Christmas balls

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