Burgundy is responsible for some of France’s most celebrated dishes. The chefs, farmers and everyday citizens of Burgundy are passionate about all things food and wine. Add to this the area’s unique terroir and the result is tantalising meals that utilise the full range of the region’s signature flavours. Below are a few Burgundian dishes that you need to try when you visit.
Boeuf bourguignon: the eponymous stew of beef braised in Burgundian red wine that’s been making mouths water since the 19th century. Joining the tender meat is typically a combination of onions, garlic, carrots and a bouquet of aromatic herbs. Boeuf bourguignon is best accompanied with boiled potatoes or noodles, though it is just as enjoyable on its own.
The fish stew, pôchouse, was once considered a ‘poor man’s’ meal. The story goes that fishermen from the village of Verdun-sur-le-Doubs found where the Saône and Doubs rivers meet and created the dish from their catches and white wine from the Burgundy vineyards. Traditionally, pôchouse is concocted from four types of fish: two lean (pike and perch) and two fatty (eel and tench). Pôchouse is garnished with croutons, lardons (French-style bacon) and potatoes.
Legend has it that coq au vin, which is chicken braised in wine, traces all the way back to the times of ancient Gaul. As its name would suggest, the original plate called for rooster (coq), whose tough connective tissue was said to be better for braising. Modern-day renditions settle on using chicken as it’s easier to come by. Coq au vin reached international acclaim when its recipe was published in Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and appeared on her cooking show, The French Chef.
Cuisses de grenouille (frog legs) are a delicacy around the globe but have been particularly noted as a staple in French cuisine over the past few centuries. In Burgundy, they’re most often presented lightly fried with garlic and parsley. According to many, the flavour and texture of frog legs closely resemble that of a chicken wing.
The super-rich and creamy dish, oeuf en meurette, consists of eggs poached in a red wine sauce known as meurette. This typical Burgundian sauce is comprised of lardons, onions, mushrooms and shallots. While the food in Burgundy isn’t exactly kind to vegetarians, omitting the lardons can make this dish an animal-friendly meal.
Poulet de Bresse (chicken from Bresse) is said to be one of the tastiest poultries the world over; it’s so coveted that it even bears AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) status. The chickens spend their entire upbringing outdoors, feeding on the bugs, seeds and leaves of the area, which contribute to their flavour. They’re then fed a diet of grain soaked in buttermilk to render them plump and juicy. Since the chicken is the star, it’s usually served without any added fluff; just a simple white sauce and a vegetable on the side.
Escargots (snails) have been on the menu for centuries. While there are many ways in which they’re prepared, in the version à la Bourgogne, they are first cooked in a bouillon. Left in their shell, they’re then filled with a mixture of butter, chopped garlic and parsley before they’re placed in the oven. Escargots are often served as an appetiser (called an entrée in French) on French menus and are best paired with a dry white wine, such as a Chablis.
Jambon à la Chablisienne is a casserole that uses thick slices of ‘white’ or Paris ham (similar to lunch meat ham, only better), which is prepared in a sauce of Chablis white wine, crème fraîche and tomato concentrate. It’s often served with a side starch, like pasta or potatoes, to soak up all the left-over sauce. Its savoury and straightforward flavour is sure to be a hit with the palettes of kids.
Fluffy and savoury gougères are a combination of choux pastry, the light pastry dough also used for profiteroles and éclairs, mixed with cheese. Typically, Gruyère is the fromage of choice or its regional counterpart, Comté. Gougères are sometimes served cold to accompany wine tastings or warm when taken as an appetiser. You can find them at most bakeries in Burgundy and they also make a great snack during the day.
You’ll find cassis (blackcurrants) featured in many desserts throughout the region. Sorbet is a great way to concentrate the small berries’ sweet flavour and offer something light after a hearty meal. Crème de cassis, one of Burgundy’s favourite liqueurs, makes up part of the famous Kir cocktail: a blend of crème de cassis topped off with white wine. You’ll often see Kir on the apéritif menu.