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French Food Demystified

Take a culinary trip to Paris (at home) with these uncomplicated classics

Salmon Papillote, Cookstr Unintimidating French Recipes

Bake salmon and a few simple ingredients sealed in parchment paper and you are serving French cuisine with a touch of theater. — Rua Castilho/Age Fotostock

French cuisine can sometimes seem intimidating, what with all the beurre blancs and béarnaises that seem to require elite kitchen skills. But much of French cooking is really about quality ingredients and straightforward preparations. Here are some of our favorite, relatively simple recipes to get you started.

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1. Poached Leeks With Mustard Vinaigrette

by Peggy Knickerbocker

A memorable first course, this easy recipe is excellent served at room temperature or chilled. And the versatile French vinaigrette will be a welcome addition to your repertoire.

Per serving: 298 calories, 3g saturated fat, 26g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 5g protein, 429mg sodium

2. Cassoulet Salad

by Bonnie Tandy Leblang

Cassoulet is usually a slow-cooked stew, considered hearty French bistro food, but in this recipe, it's transformed into a salad. Chicken and white beans provide lots of protein.

Per serving: 179 calories, 1g saturated fat, 18g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 10g protein, 326mg sodium

3. Salmon en Papillote

by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner

When you cook the salmon in a tightly sealed packet of parchment paper — the "en papillote" in the name — it stews in its own juices, retaining moisture and flavor. Allowing diners to open their own packet at the table is a fun bit of dinner theater.

Per serving: 406 calories, 6g saturated fat, 7g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 36g protein, 106mg sodium

4. Lentils in Red Wine

by Deborah Madison

It's best to prepare this recipe with the small green French lentils that hold their shape well during cooking. A hearty red wine and herbs provide wonderful deep flavor after about an hour of cooking.

Per serving: 366 calories, 4g saturated fat, 35g carbohydrates, 16g fiber, 13g protein, 302mg sodium

5. Pork Chops Niçoise

by James Beard

"Niçoise" technically refers to the French city of Nice, though in culinary terms it usually means the addition of tomatoes, as well as anchovies, capers and/or black olives. James Beard's recipe calls for searing pork loin chops before cooking them with the traditional ingredients.

Per serving: 470 calories, 8g saturated fat, 6g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 43g protein, 659mg sodium

6. Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

by Jacques Pepin

This recipe can turn an unassuming, inexpensive beef cut into something transcendent. Pepin uses cipollini onions, cremini mushrooms, baby carrots and pancetta as a tasty garnish atop the base of wine-braised beef.

Per serving: 540 calories, 12g saturated fat, 17g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 26g protein, 535mg sodium

7. Herbed Smashed Potatoes

by Debra Ponzek

Easy but elegant, this recipe leaves the herbs and olive oil uncooked. They lend their fresh flavors to the new potatoes.

Per serving: 321 calories, 2g saturated fat, 46g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5g protein, 308mg sodium

8. Blueberry Orange Clafouti

by Hans Rueffert

A clafouti "sits on the fence between a custard and a pancake," as Rueffert puts it. This is a simple rustic French dish that's wonderful in the summer with fresh blueberries, or with frozen berries all year round.

Per serving: 186 calories, 1g saturated fat, 34g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 5g protein, 8mg sodium

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