Real Simple Recipes Cooking Tips & Techniques Essential Ingredients for French Cooking Checklist Essential Ingredients for French Cooking Checklist Stock your pantry with a few basic ingredients to create an authentic French meal. By Sara Gauchat Advertisement Save FB Tweet ellipsis More Pinterest Mail Email iphone Send Text Message Print Image zoom Gadge Checklist Bread Ideally, serve it in baguette form. It’s definitely worth searching out at a local bakery. Butter Butter is not typically offered on the table alongside the bread. However, it is a key component in French cooking and baking, so buy the best high-butterfat brand your budget permits. Cheese Considered a separate course in many French meals, a selection of cheese is always good to have on hand. French cheeses are a solid place to start (think Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort). Fleur de sel This is a coarse, hand-harvested sea salt. It’s on the pricey side, so don’t cook with it. Instead, use it as a finishing salt, sprinkling just a few grains on vegetables and grilled fish. Look for it in specialty food stores like select Whole Foods locations and Williams-Sonoma. Herbes de Provence Used liberally with meats and vegetables in French cooking (it can really make a roast chicken sing), this dried-herb mixture typically has rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, and a handful of other flavorful herbs. Leeks The slightly oniony vegetable adds a sweetness and flavor that are distinctive to French dishes. Mustard A smooth Dijon mustard should be on hand for salad dressings, but a grainy mustard that goes with meats (like steak au poivre) is also a must-have. Olive oil When deciding which type of quality olive oil to purchase, let your taste and budget be your guides. Save the expensive oils for drizzling on dishes for that extra hit of flavor; use less expensive oils for marinades, sautéing, and mustardy vinaigrettes. Shallots Shallots offer the flavors of both onion and garlic. Roasting them alongside a chicken will make them soft and mild, like roasted garlic. Tarragon, fresh Tarragon is the main go-to fresh herb for chicken dishes. Vinegar Red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar are both key—they’re tangy and make for great vinaigrette and marinade bases. Sometimes a dish calls for the more potent sherry vinegar to provide a little extra kick. Wine Used for cooking, both red and white wines are staples in any French kitchen.