Creating Your Own French Pantry

As I’ve been reading through cookbooks and ‘French Entertaining’ books, I’ve had to make a list of items I needed to purchase for this month’s recipes.  For those looking to start French cooking, here’s how to build up your pantry.

1. Wine.  The number one thing I did not have in my arsenal was wine.  I haven’t had alcohol in five years, so bringing alcohol back into my life has been an interesting endeavour.  When it comes to cooking, you want to pick up a basic white wine and a red wine.  Don’t worry about spending a lot in this department.  This is for cooking.  For drinking…that will be a post for next week.

2. Unsalted Butter.  While you can get unsalted butter anywhere, I usually have the stuff I can find at the deli, and then I have French butter.  Generally speaking, I prefer the French butter, especially on baguettes.  Cooking, you can use the regular (or the French).  If you can find French butter at your grocery store (which is generally a little more expensive), pick up a block.  You won’t regret it.

3. Heavy Cream.  Not too many people keep this in their refrigerator, especially in this day and age of Almond Milk, Soy Milk and Greek yogurt.  Many French dishes call for Heavy Cream or even Créme Fraîche.  If you can’t find Créme Fraîche, you can easily make it with some heavy cream and buttermilk (see previous post).

4. Fleur de Sel and Herbes de Provence.  While both of these ingredients are called for in a lot of recipes, I have yet to use them (perhaps later this month).

5. Egg Noodles.  When you need something quick for dinner, egg noodles with heavy cream, lemons and some cheese is your answer (see Sunday’s Dinner in last post).

6. Lemons.  I was a little surprised by how many recipes call for lemon zest or lemon juice (fresh from the lemon, not the bottle).  I’ve gone through so many lemons since I started cooking French food.

 7. Red Wine Vinegar.  Saturday’s dinner of Lyon-Style Chicken in Vinegar Sauce required a vinegar.  Since I had no idea where I was going to find the French vinegar it asked for, it said ‘or red wine vinegar’ which I had.  If you’re like me and have no idea how to find French vinegars unless you stumble upon it in a random store only to pay $18 a bottle…stock up on the red wine vinegar.  It serves the same purpose.

8. Cheese.  If you think I’m going to say stock up on camembert or brie…you’re not going to read that.  Sure, buy it for your aperitif or that time you, the cook, are sitting down to relax with a glass of wine while the food is baking in the oven.  For cooking, though, I found that having plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand will suit what you are cooking very well.  And woo hoo…it doubles for the Italian food you may make the next night.

9. Dijon Mustard.  Dijon mustard comes from Dijon, France.  It also appears in a lot of recipes.

10. Paté/Caviar.  When all I want is a snack, I have a box of specialty crackers on hand and put some caviar or paté on them.  It’s definitely something I really enjoy and serves as a bit of a filling treat.

11. French Jam.  Almost every grocer has Bonne Maman.  You’ll find it next to the Smuckers and all of the other jams out there.  I love the strawberry jam.  I’m addicted to the apricot jam.  There’s a wide assortment you should be able to find.  Just look for a label that looks French.  You can’t miss it.

Additional Reading

While I could go on and on, there are others that have created their own pantry lists that you may want to review and add to your pantry accordingly.

You don’t have to go out and buy everything on the lists all at once.  Take it recipe by recipe.

The best way to start building up your French pantry is to take a look at the recipes you want to make, and then buy accordingly.  Usually, when I start reviewing recipes, I look at all of the ingredients to make sure I have the majority of the items on hand already.  I also look for common ingredients in the majority of the recipes I’ll be cooking up (like Créme Fraîche, heavy cream, red wine or lemons) so that I can use all of the ingredients up so they won’t spoil or go wasted.

Also for fresher perishable ingredients (dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables) try to only purchase the amount you need.

Here are some suggestions from a few other sites:

What’s in a French Girl’s Kitchen from Bistro Chic.
From the Food Network “The French Pantry.”


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