Whether you're making your way through Julia Child's culinary bible or David Lebovitz's modern anthology, French cooking is a timeless trend that never goes out of style. And while your daydreams of biking through the Provençal countryside, baguette in hand, may be out of reach at the moment, there's still plenty of other ways to live out your Francophile fantasies. Take the humble pantry for instance—once you stock your cupboards with these nine essential French ingredients, making dinner will transport you all the way to Paris, without the expensive plane ticket.
① European Butter
A higher fat content than the conventional plastic-wrapped sticks you'll find in the dairy aisle gives European butter a richer taste and a pronounced yellow hue. Your ambitious French baking projects will be patisserie approved, though it's worth splurging for this luxe item just so you can spread it liberally over crusty baguette slices.
Plugra European Style Unsalted Butter, $20 for 1 pound
② Dijon Mustard
Keep bottles of both whole-grain and smooth Dijon mustard on hand to add a zingy backbone to your homemade vinaigrettes, or to slather on a pork or beef roast for a quick, flavorful rub.
③ Fine Vinegars
Winemaking regions also happen to produce stellar vinegars for cooking. Stock up on a few bottles of red wine and Champagne vinegars for sophisticated salad dressings, or use them to add a hit of acid to rich braises like cassoulet and boeuf bourguignon.
④ Crème Fraîche
In lieu of half-and-half or butter, add a complex richness and subtle tang to your pan sauces by adding a spoonful or two of this cultured cream.
⑤ Dry Wine
No, this isn't just for drinking. As long as you have a bottle (it doesn't have to be pricy!) of a dry red and a dry white wine on hand, you're only an enameled Dutch oven away from a classic French stew. Need something stronger? A brandy, such as cognac, is also a must-have for deglazing your pan or for making a boozy, liquored-up dessert.
⑥ Finishing Oil
A bottle of extra-virgin olive oil is a mainstay you might already have on hand, but finishing oils, such as pistachio, hazelnut or walnut, can be used to add a satisfying nutty flavor to your salad dressings and desserts.
⑦ Hard Cheeses
There's never any harm adding funky, aged Gruyère to your béchamel to make a gooey cheese sauce, and despite its Italian origins, Parmesan cheese is the perfect golden topping for vegetable gratins.
Gruyère de Comté, $15 per pound
⑧ High-End Salt
Light flakes of Maldon or fleur de sel not only add a satisfying crunch and last-minute punch to finished dishes, but can be used to balance out decadently rich desserts.
⑨ Boutique Chocolate
Generic chocolate chips aren't going to cut it if you're splurging your calories on a French dessert. Stockpile a few high-quality brands, such as Valrhona or Callebaut, for the next time you're in the mood for pot de crème.
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