The Côte d’Azur, a paradise of sapphire blue waters in the south of France, draws millions of visitors each year with its stunning ocean views and regional food specialties. Niçoise cuisine has a strong Mediterranean influence, combining olive oil, tomatoes and other classic ingredients found along near the Italian border. Stuffed peppers, tapenades, fresh pasta, seafood, and whole roast fish with Herbes de Provence are some of the classic dishes you will find here.
There’s a myriad of choices, but here’s my list of the top 5 must-have dishes when visiting the French Riviera.
Beef stew slow-cooked in red wine, this classic Niçoise dish is a hearty and sumptuous dish of fork-tender meat served with polenta or pasta. Restaurant Acchiardo in Nice serves their version with hand-made ravioli. Other dishes to try there: Escalope Maison, a breaded veal cutlet stuffed with proscuitto, cheese and basil, then smothered in tomato Sauce Provençale; Gnocchi aux blettes (swiss chard), Panisse (fries made with chickpea flour).
Restaurant Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite, 06300 Nice, France, +33 4 93 85 51 16
SOUPE DE POISSON AT HOME
The following recipe is from chef Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations” and author of eight books, including best seller “Kitchen Confidential.” A 31-year veteran of professional kitchens, Bourdain is the executive chef at Les Halles in New York City.
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 small onions, thinly sliced
- 2 leeks, whites only, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 can (18 ounces) plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 pounds tiny whole fish (such as porgies or whiting), gutted with heads intact, or 4 pounds fish bones and heads
- 1 bouquet Garni
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 strands of saffron
- 1 ounce Pernod
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, leeks, and fennel and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Add tomatoes and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, then add the small fish or bones. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water to cover, as well as the bouquet garni and orange zest. Stir well; add saffron, a dash of salt and pepper, and Pernod. Lower the heat and simmer for about an hour.
Remove pot from heat and let soup cool slightly. Taking care not to splatter or scald yourself, strain liquid into a large bowl. In the pot, crush the heads, bones, and vegetables as much as possible, then transfer that to the strainer. Push and squeeze every bit of liquid and solid goodness through with a mallet or heavy wooden spoon. Return to the pot.
Bring the soup back up to heat and serve with croutons, rouille, and some grated Parmesan on the side. The idea is to smear a little rouille on the croutons, float them in the soup as garnish, and allow guests to sprinkle cheese as they wish.