(CNN) — The roots of French cooking run deep. The foundations of the country’s culinary empire were laid as early as the mid-1600s when chef François Pierre La Varenne penned his hugely influential “Le Cuisinier François” recipe book, emphasizing regional and seasonal ingredients, highlighting complementary flavors, and beginning to document its terms and techniques.
“There is some mystery and magic to French cuisine that still draws people in. Even the basics — a perfect baguette, flaky pastry, potatoes simmered in cream — are astonishingly good even if we can’t quite figure out what makes them so delicious.”
The impacts of France’s culinary contributions have been widespread. When famed TV chef Julia Child tried sole meunière for the first time in 1948 at La Couronne restaurant in Rouen, she was overcome by the simultaneous simplicity and delicacy of French cooking.
The dish inspired Child to pursue a career in cooking that subsequently prompted an entire generation of Americans to throw out the TV dinners and gelatin dessert molds and return to fresh, flavorful foods made with whole ingredients.
Child’s experience was not unique. There is a reason, after all, that so many of the words we use to describe a lover of good food — gourmand, gourmet, gastronome — are French in origin.
“French cuisine has been explored by generations and generations of chefs, home cooks, passionate people like Julia (Child), and food writers,” said Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, owner of 14 restaurants worldwide. “And French cuisine keeps inspiring people. It is entertaining. It is delicious. It is accessible. It is possible.”
Whether it’s country fare or haute cuisine that inspires, French food is rife with dishes that could captivate even the most discerning of critics. Take a look at 20 of them.
Boeuf Bourguignon: Julia Child called it the “stew of stews.”
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