Here is my list of hand-picked gifts for your favorite cook, Francophile, or food lover. Rest assured, I’ve kept the list short and sweet—and everything here is something I personally love. Happy shopping!
Note that prices may have changed since I first wrote this post. Happy shopping!
1. The Wüsthoff Set: The Ultimate Gift for Artisanal Cheese Fans
Enjoy a little German craftsmanship with your French cheeses with the Wusthof Gourmet 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set with Cheese Board ($99.95). I especially adore the soft-cheese knife–it’s the one with the holes in in the blade. Use it for washed-rind and bloomy rind cheeses (like Camembert, Epoisse, et al.); the cheese won’t stick to the knife. The offset knife is stellar for cutting firm and semi-firm cheeses, while the cheese plane lets you cut those ultra-thin slices from favorites like Comté and Gruyère.
PS: If you want, you can just purchase the Soft Cheese Knife ($89.95), my favorite of the three. It would be a lovely gift for the cheese-lover in your life. But frankly, for $10 more, I’d go for the set.
2. The French Braiser: A Must for French Cooking
The cook in your family deserves one of these wonderful enamel cast-iron braising pans from either Staub or Le Creuset. In fact, I love these pans so much that I wrote a book about them! (See my Braiser Cookbook.)
Braising is a “low and slow” cooking method for transforming less-expensive cuts of meat into rich, succulent meals. Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguigon, Blanquette of Pork, Osso Bucco are all braises, as are a slew of great everyday recipes, like pot roast and beef stew. With its tight-fitting lid, wide base, and shallower-than-a-Dutch-oven sides, the braising pan is simply the best choice for this cooking method.
Whether you choose a Staub or Le Creuset pan may depend simply on which color you like best. Staub comes in a rich red or deep green color; Le Creuset’s colors are legendarily varied. Both would make inspiring additions to the French-food-loving cook’s kitchen.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 3-1/2-Quart Round Braiser. Pictured above, this size is perfect for recipes that yield 4 to 6 servings. Currently, it’s on sale for $269.95 (regular price: $360).
Staub Enamel Cast-Iron Braiser. Pictured at right, this pan holds 4-quart, so it, too is perfect for recipes that yield 4 to 6 servings. ($350). It’s a beauty, from Alsace.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-Quart Round Braiser. (Not pictured here). Those who entertain often will appreciate this size. I use mine when making recipes for 8 or more diners. Currently priced at $314.95 (suggested retail price is $420).
If that’s too spendy, scroll below for info on the Lodge Braiser.
3. My Favorite Slow Cooker
Truth be told, I wasn’t that great of a fan of the slow cooker until I started cooking with the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Four-Quart Slow Cooker ($113.39). I love the way you can brown and sauté ingredients directly in the cooker before switching it over to the slow-cooking mode. But what I love even more is that once the food has cooked for the set time, the cooker will switch to “keep warm” mode. That’s a boon to anyone who’s endured a mushy and overcooked slow-cooked meal. Find the 4-quart cooker ($129) at amazon.com. (The suggested retail price is $235.)
By the way, these babies are great for cooking many of the French soups, stews, and braises we love in winter. You’ll be seeing more and more French slow-cooker recipes from me in coming weeks.
MODERATELY PRICED GIFTS FOR THE FRENCH FOOD LOVER
I bought this cute Jessie Steele Café Toile Apron ($14.99) a few years ago, and I always get compliments on it. I wear it to dress up denim jeans and a black turtleneck for my casual gatherings. It’s also cute enough to slip in and out of when you’re wearing that little black dress for your more stylish gatherings. The bow—which I found a little too cute for my tastes—is attached with a safety pin and easily removable. Also look for other Jessie Steele Aprons for Women.
Great gift idea: Combine this gift with a great French cookbook….hmmm, I wonder which one….Well, I might have a suggestion!
5. The Lodge Braiser
True, the Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron 3-Quart Covered Casserole (Braiser) is not made in France, but it’s designed by a time-honored American company (Lodge, which has been making cast-iron cookware for over 100 years).
So, if you don’t want to splurge for French pedigree with the Staub or Le Creuset, I can recommend this braiser. It’s made of enamel cast-iron, just like the French pans; see my review for more information. (PS: This company doesn’t call it a braiser; instead it’s referred to a the Lodge Color 3-Quart Casserole, but take my word for it–it’s a braiser!). PS: For some reason, the Blue braiser is less-expensive ($64.99) than the red casserole ($73.90).
6. One of These Great Cookbooks
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking, by Molly Stevens ($21.37)
This book is a must for anyone who, like me, loves braising meats. The recipes are amazing–they show you how to take inexpensive cuts of meat and transform them into bold, full-flavored dishes that are great for winter. I can’t recommend this book enough! (PS: For a taste of her recipes, check out my adaptation of her Top Blade Steaks Smothered in Mushrooms and Onions.
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories, by David Lebovitz ($19.77)
I’ll say it again: David Lebovitz is the New York Times of French food bloggers. Not only is his food amazing, but he is also pretty hilarious: He take on life in Paris runs the gamut–his stories point out both the joys and annoyances of his life in Paris, with wit and insight. His photography is compelling, and his recipes always reveal plenty of a-ha moments. (In a way, he’s also the “Cooks Illustrated” of French cooking!) Another highly recommended tome, and a great gift for your favorite Francophile.
Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share, by Barbara Feldman Morse ($15.44)
Do you—or does someone you know—own a Madeleine pan? I do, and I must admit I don’t use it as often as I’d like to. Frankly, I just don’t have that many occasions to serve little French tea cakes, even though I love them.
It’s a brand-new, just-out-this-season book, and I’m really excited about it. (PS: There’s a crabby review on Amazon about this new book, but don’t let that deter you–the same reviewer dissed my cookbook, too. So what does she know? )
PS: If you are in the market for a Madeline mold, the author of this book recommends nonstick molds. I found a great one on sale at Amazon: Bellemain 12-Cup Nonstick Madeleine Pan. As of this writing, it’s on sale for $10.50 (regular price: $19.95).
CASUAL GIFTS FOR THE FRENCH FOOD LOVER
8. Small Silicone Spatula—Great for Crêpes and French Rolled Omelets!
Tuck the Le Creuset Small Silicone Spatula ($11) into a Christmas stocking (or tie it into the ribbon of a larger gift). The flexible top end gets right under a crêpe so you can loosen it perfectly and flip it like a pro. I can’t make crêpes without this cutie!
9. Piment d’Espelette from the French Basque Country
I adore Piment d’Espelette–I often use the spice in eggs, fish, chicken, and pasta dishes. It’s made from a dried chile grown exclusively in the French Basque country. But it isn’t just any chili pepper: While some dried chilis are more about the heat than anything else, the Piment d’Espelette is mostly about everything else: It’s beautifully warming, richly spicy, and lightly fruity—with a tinge (rather than flare) of heat as its backdrop. It’s a great stocking stuffer for anyone who loves both French and Spanish food. ($12.15)
PS: If you’re not sure your recipient will know what to do with Piment d’Espelette, print out a copy of my recipe for Pipérade, and give it alongside the gift. Pipérade is a beautiful sweet pepper and tomato side dish that goes beautifully with eggs, fish, and chicken.
10. Fleur de Sel
I once interviewed chefs about why they love Fleur de Sel; “You can taste the sea in it!” said one. “It tastes more ocean-y,” said another. Indeed, Fleur de Sel, a natural, flaked sea salt, really does something remarkable to foods. It’s a great finishing touch, but I also simply love sprinkling it on meats before roasting–I love the way it won’t entirely melt into a roast chicken, for example, giving a little bit of texture and pop of flavor to the bird.
Le Saunier De Camargue Fleur De Sel Sea Salt ($10.99) is the brand I always put in my suitcase and bring back from France. I especially like the pretty packaging.
I first discovered this Wusthof Silverpoint Fish Spatula($19.99) in the kitchen of a great French chef. Since then, I’ve noticed that every chef I know owns one (it’s called a “fish spat” in kitchen lingo). And bracket the word “fish”—you’ll use this for everything from lifting delicate cookies off sheets, to gliding under that fried egg for the perfect flip. The ultra-thin, slightly sharp edge lets you smoothly slip beneath the food, and those long, narrow slots work two ways: They allow fats and oils to drip away, while distributing the tension of the load, preventing even the most delicate food (like fish) from breaking apart. How did I live without this?
12. Soft-Cheese Cutter
It might not look like much, and it doesn’t cost very much, but for cheese-lovers, this Cheese Knife with Unique Patented Blade ($13.76) can be one of those “How Did I Ever Do Without It” kind of finds. The patented blade “slices through cheeses like it were melted butter,” says one satisfied customer. However, it’s meant for soft cheeses (so don’t use it for Parmigiano-Reggiano!). It’s beauty is in the way that it keeps those soft cheese from sticking to your knife.
If I were giving this as a gift, I’d probably pair it with a lovely washed-rind or bloomy-rind cheese. Enjoy!
Please note that any purchase you make through links on this page will help support my website—and it won’t increase your costs whatsoever. Add one, two, or a few of my items to your cart and keep shopping, if you wish—I’ll get a little credit for anything you buy when you get to Amazon through one of my links. Thanks so much for supporting Chez Bonne Femme.
Thanks for taking a look at my Food Gifts; even if you don’t care to purchase anything, I thank you, above all, for being a valued reader of Chez Bonne Femme.