Classic bistro foods would of course be French rustic dishes, after all the Bistro emanated from Paris and was a form of cheap wholesome food that could be termed as classic French country food.The Bistro’s of Paris made easy to prepare dishes that would last a long time, such as vegetable stews, and cassoulets, these would be made from locally sourced ingredients to old classic recipes. Today the term Bistro has evolved just to mean a small restaurant, and has no real connection to its former meaning. And now there are Bistro’s all over the world, so the term typical Bistro food is really a contradiction, as it would depend what country you are eating in. So, for this exercise we have gone back in time, and have put together some traditional French dishes that would have been served in the Bistro’s of Paris a hundred years or so ago.
A real one pot classic French casserole, in many ways it epitomizes classic Bistro fare. In essence Pot-au-Feu is a beef stew and at its heart is a rich marrow bone imparting a deep meaty flavor to the dish, of course root vegetables are cooked in the same pot. In the classic Bistro way, the large cauldron would be constantly topped up with more ingredients as dishes were served during the day. Accompanied by nothing more than fresh crusty bread to dip into the delicious hearty stock.
Pate-en-Croute is a French version of the famous Cornish Pasty, with of course more Gallic flair and imagination. Often in rural France the dish would have game and perhaps local truffles as a filling topped with a thick crunchy pastry lid. The dish is strongly seasoned and the seasonal ingredients are all held in place by a tasty jelly. This dish could be made days ahead of consuming, and was an excellent item for Bistros to have as a larder ingredient as it would keep for weeks.
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
Soups were always a Bistro classic, and there is none better than the hearty French Onion Soup. Onions, garlic, stock are a classic combination for soups and with the addition of crunchy croutons and grated cheese make this a bowl of winter cheer. A cauldron of bubbling French Onion Soup is a delight to see in a Bistro, especially on cold winter days. The thick soup lines your stomach with a satisfying glow that will cheer you up to face the day.
Saddle of Hare
Bistro food is very much seasonal food, dishes that the ingredients can all be sourced locally. And a big favorite is game, rabbit and hare. The saddle is actually taken from the rear of the animal but is a terrific cut and suits long cooking in various stocks. It can also be prepared with hops to impart a delicious flavor to the meat. Served with seasonal vegetables game is a classic Bistro dish. Other classic Bistro dishes would include, boeuf bourguignonne, bouillabaise, navarin d’agneau, coq au vin, duck confit, steak tartare, and pâtés & terrines.
Originating in Paris in the 18th Century, a bistro is essentially a small diner that serves simple food at a moderate cost. Today many bistros are recognized by what type of foods the restaurant serve. Bistro’s started to become popular in the basements of Parisian apartments, where it was fashionable for tenants to pay for a room and a meal. Therefore, landlords had to prepare simple meals for his paying customers, the food was always easy to prepare and could be produced in quantity that lasted one or two days. A classic dish of the time in bistro’s would be cassoulet which is a type of bean stew that would often contain regional sausages.
As time passed astute landlords decided to open their basements to the public as well as their tenants and paying diners could also eat the simple fare. Due to the lack of legislation during this period, wine and beer were also served.
Cafe’s v Bistro’s
Cafe’s v Bistro’s
A cafe is basically an overgrown coffee house, that specializes serving simple dishes that can accompany coffee, sometimes they offer daily specials. Whereas a bistro often has one or two dishes that might change at lunch and dinner if it has all been consumed. Very often a bistro will use what is locally available in the area’s season, such as the catch of the day. Usually a cafe will offer easy-to-cook foods such as sandwiches or baked potatoes, perhaps a soup and breakfasts. A true bistro will offer rustic dishes that have their origins in the local region, these are often slow cooked dishes such as slowly braised rabbit stew, or vegetable stews and different types of casseroles.
Cafe’s often decorate in a particular theme that the owner has created, which could be almost anything from retro 60’s music type cafes to a modernistic and minimalist chic look. On the other hand, a bistro’s interior and décor normally reflects the type of food the proprietor prefers to serve his customers. Therefore, there are many Italian, French, Mexican bistro’s all decorated to reflect their cuisine and create an authentic atmosphere so patrons can enjoy an hour or two in their favorite holiday destination. Where cafes usually are twenty-four-hour operation, a bistro is a far more laid-back affair and can often actually close for one or two of the quieter days of the week.
Bistro food was originally rural French food, but now that definition has expanded widely. To construct a list of today’s typical bistro food would almost be impossible, as mentioned above there are many types of bistro today offering not just regional food but specific food of a particular nation. On the spectrum of types of cuisine, bistro food should be considered somewhere between haute cuisine and home cooked food, leaning more to the latter. This type of food is affordable, simple, familiar and most of all delicious.
Bistro dishes are often classics of a particular country’s cuisine, such as a Moroccan Tagine, or a Mexican Chili con Carne, or even a British Classic Toad in the Hole. This is the beauty of bistro’s, simple food in a great atmosphere that will not break the budget.