HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

French-American cuisine

There are Americanized versions of Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, etc. But is there such a thing as French-American cuisine? I can't think of any examples offhand...if not, why not?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. All these versions of immigrant cuisines come about because of substantial concentrations of immigrants who 1) can't get the ingredients they'd have had access to in the home country and 2) (and more importantly) get assimilated to one degree or another and adopt American ingredients and methods as well as adapting their home country cuisine to America. But the key factor is a substantial ethnic concentration. Since the 18th century, there's simply never been any major French immigrant community in the U.S.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Masonville

      Borrowed from Wikipedia - "The French resettled in Louisiana, establishing the culture and language there. Through the Acadian French language, Cajun is ultimately descended from the dialects of Anjou and Poitou. The word "Cajun" is an anglicization of "Cadien," itself a shortened pronunciation of "Acadien."

      French immigration continued in the 19th century until the start of the Civil War, bringing large numbers of francophones speaking something more similar to today's Metropolitan French into Louisiana. Over time, through contact between groups, including a high rate of intermarriage, the dialects would mix, to produce the French we today call Cajun French[5].

      Over time Cajun became the firmly established language of many south Louisiana parishes. Cajun was not only spoken by the Cajun people but also by other ethnic groups that lived in Acadian settled areas. Creoles, Amerindian ethnic groups such as the Houma, Chitimacha, Pointe-au-Chien,[6] Bayougoula, Tunica-Biloxi, Atakapa, Opelousa, Okelousa, and Avoyel, through their cohabitation in south Louisiana's parishes eventually became proficient in Cajun French. Creoles and Amerindians already spoke French prior to the arrival of the Acadian people in Louisiana."

      Growing up in SW Louisiana, I was surriounded by people who spoke French. I'd hazard to guess that at least half of the local population was bi-lingual. I new of many older Cajuns who only spoke French - they were born and lived in communities where Cajun French was the predominant language and they never learned English.

    2. How about the overstuffed omelet (i.e., Denver omelet) versus the classical French version with just cheese and some herbs?

      And what about the American version of pepper steak (aka Steak au Poivre)?

      Also there are certainly various bastard versions of Croque Monsieur floating all around menus in American restaurants.

      1. You mean like Franco-American's Finest product, the Spaghetti-o? Just kidding!

        From what I've put together from reading a bit of culinary history, working in a handful of kitchens and now working in a foodi-friendly grocery, French Cuisine's impact on American cookin' is sort of an on again-off again relationship and dishes people think of a old fashioned might have climbed out of a french stew pot in the first place!

        Let us take Julia Child- She took the old-school french recipes and techniques and reduced them to their essentials while preserving their "Frenchness." Her work was on the vanguard of a the "Nouvelle Cuisine" movement which turned Stodgy old culinary technique on its ear with things like fresh global ingredients and not boiling things for 12 hours when you could cook them a la minute.

        As Haute Cusine soared into the sublime, then the absurd in the 1980s, our food never seemed further from classic French- what does a microwaved hamburger resemble from La Rousse Gastronomique?

        As foodie culture re-emerged, we redicovered fresh, regional seasonal produce, hormone free meat and dairy, we also rediscovered the joy of slow food. That's not to say that French is old fashioned and slow, merely that we had to come back around to appreciating good food for good food's sake.

        Anything that we create by marrying aromatic with savory, perfumed with sweet, and take joy in food that is appealing to the eye as it is to the mouth, we're paying tribute to classical French cuisine.

        As for specifics... well... I've been helping my GF sift through old cookbooks for recipes she can share with her senior clients- stuff they remember from their younger days that can be remade with one pot and a stop at the local Saveway. We've found lamb shanks braised in tomatoes with herbs, daube de provincale, and simple pan roasted chicken and fish dishes with integral pan sauces- the kind of stuff that inspired any stew or meat & sauce dish you'd throw together yourself if you have an hour, rather then 20 minutes to make dinner.

        Having trained in a French-tradition culinary school, then worked with a Bocouse D'Or competitor, and a CMC chef, and now working as a humble food buyer,I cant take the French OUT of everything I prepare, I celebrate its presence in anything I cook!

          1. It's may not seem that close of a relationship, but there's a lot of French influence in the Cajun and Creole food in Southern Louisiana.

            1 Reply
            1. Would French-Canadian count? I know it's different than traditional American, my grandmother made "sucre creme", toutier, crepes for supper and dynamite. Don't know if there are French equivilants.

              3 Replies
              1. re: breakfastfan

                Dynamite? Is a food? The traditional Québecois dishes I suppose come closest to French-"American", but like Québec French which retains a number of words that have fallen out of use in France, they seem to hew closer to dishes from the days of the first settlers (pea soup, meat pies) etc.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Yes, dynamite is ground beef and pork simmered with celery, peppers, onions and tomatoes and served in rolls. What you said about the first settlers make more sense than true French cuisine.

              2. Interesting theories all—I suspect the answer lies in some combination of them? Although Masonville's point that the US just has never had the immigrant community that begets such hybrids makes sense above all, esp. considering those who point out that there *is* French-Canadian food, where there *is* a French history.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tatamagouche

                  Come to think of it, the mother of the family I used to go to on exchange visits in Québec cooked a lot more "Frenchy" than my mom in Ontario did - a bowl of soup to start, thin steaks, rare, salad, crusty bread and fruit to finish was a typical dinner. So at least in that household (the grandfather was from Switzerland) home cooking was along French lines. I don't remember being served any of the traditional dishes, but the visits were in summer and the trad dishes are more suited to winter.

                2. It seems to me that the old "Continental" cuisine (served at the local Maison de la Casa House, per Calvin Trillin) can be considered French-American.

                  1. What about the "mother sauces"? Wasn't it a Frenchman who standardized those? The macaroni and cheese I make starts with a bechamel sauce for example. And where/how did a "classic American" pot roast originate (I have an inkling that it may be French in origin, but I'm really really not sure)?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Popkin

                      Yes - the Cajun dishes of Southwest Louisiana are versions of rustic french cooking adapted to local ingredients and resources. The Cajun "Holy Trinity" - sauted celery, onion and bell pepper - is very similar to the French mirepoix. And a white roux (in Cajun cooking roux can range from "white" to "dark chocolate" in color, depending on the dish) is similar to bechamel. Try a meal of Shrimp Etouffe or a Crawfish Bisque - I think you will see similarities between the cuisines.

                    2. Yes - the Cajun dishes of Southwest Louisiana are versions of rustic french cooking adapted to local ingredients and resources. The Cajun "Holy Trinity" - sauted celery, onion and bell pepper - is very similar to the French mirepoix. And a white roux (in Cajun cooking roux can range from "white" to "dark chocolate" in color, depending on the dish) is similar to bechamel. Try a meal of Shrimp Etouffe or a Crawfish Bisque - I think you will see similarities between the cuisines.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: khoujw

                        Yes, to all have discussed Cajun/Creole—I didn't think of that while writing my OP because to me Cajun/Creole aren't Americanized versions of French cuisine so much as totally their own thing. You're right of course—and yet I'd never call Cajun or Creole "French-American," I'd call it "Cajun" or "Creole." You know?