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Dining Out, French Style

For centuries Europeans have considered French chefs to be the most talented in the world, so it’s no wonder French food has always been viewed with reverence in this country. Now you have another reason to try French food: if you choose carefully and make a few modifications, there are plenty of Atkins-friendly dishes.

As with most large nations, the national cuisine of France is actually a collection of regional specialties determined by climate, geology and proximity to the sea. You’ll find fish, herbs and olives in Provence; butter and apples in Normandy; wine for simmering stews in Burgundy; and Bordeaux, sausages and beer in Alsace. There's a huge variety of cheese everywhere.

Haute Cuisine and Bistro Cuisine

Within each of these regions, you’ll find the haute cuisine that has earned France's reputation as the dining mecca of the world. But you can enjoy many of the same marvelous flavors prepared with the same care and deft touch by dining on bistro fare instead. It’s heartier and considerably less pretentious—and usually less expensive. If you’re committed to eating healthy carbs and avoiding empty carbs, you'll be happy to know many French sauces are perfectly acceptable because they're based on butter or olive oil and thickened with egg yolks rather than flour. For example, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce is perfectly acceptable and remarkably delicious.

Low-Carb Fare

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about French cuisine is that it’s still a combination of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. You can choose how much of each of those elements ends up on your plate—and in your body. Here are some other classics—some with slight modifications—that are well suited for Atkins followers:

  • French onion soup. While it’s traditionally prepared topped with a large crouton of toasted bread under a layer of melted Gruyere cheese, you can request it without the bread. The flavor will still be remarkable.
  • Coq au Vin is chicken slowly simmered in a wine sauce. It’s fine as long as you pass on the potatoes that may be included.
  • French leg of lamb is generally prepared by inserting slivers of garlic and rosemary into slits in the meat before roasting. It’s fragrant and delicious.
  • Boeuf Bourguignon, one of the towering classics of French cuisine, consists of cubes of beef slowly simmered in red wine, beef stock, onions, garlic and herbs. It fits a healthy dining regimen, and the flavor is just about as Gallic as you can get.

Try This Instead of That

  • Rather than the bacon, onion and egg pie called an Alsatian Tart, try a Frisée Salad with thin strips of bacon and a poached egg.
  • Enjoy Coquilles St. Jacques, scallops in a cream sauce topped with cheese, instead of lobster in puff pastry.
  • For Vichyssoise, the famous French cream of leek and potato soup, substitute mussels in a white-wine sauce or the equally famous fish stew called Bouillabaisse.
  • Instead of Duck a l’Orange or aux Cerises, substitute Coq au Vin.
  • Order Entrecôte or Tournedos Bordelaise, steak in reduced shallot and red-wine sauce, instead of the egg-dipped, fried ham-and-cheese sandwich called Croque Monsieur.
  • Rather than Veal Prince Orloff, which is roasted and stuffed with rice, onions and mushrooms, have the Veal Marengo, a stew with tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Instead of any potato dish, order buttered French green beans.
  • For dessert, have a plate of some stunning French cheeses instead of Crêpes Suzette.

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