Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2018
Make your own salad.
These forty, tasty, but simple salads are not the stars of French cuisine, but they will be on menu listings from the restaurant on the corner to restaurants with three Michelin Stars.
Salad in the French Kitchen.
When the word salad is on a French menu without any additional wording, it means a small green salad served with a vinaigrette dressing. On a fixed-price menu at lunch, a small green or mixed green salad may be included. Traditionally, in France, a small mixed green salad is served after the main course and before the dessert. Now that is French tradition, and the salad is intended to prepare your taste buds for the last part of the meal. Nevertheless, in a restaurant, you may defy tradition and order your choice of salad to be served whenever you wish as you are paying the bill. That being said, when you are invited to a French home, your host’s tradition has priority so do not be surprised when a small green salad is served after the main course.
France’s special salads.
Truly distinctive salads that carry the name of a person, a particular town, region or ingredient will have, on the menu, a concise description. More in-depth information of such a salad, or any other dish on the menu, is the most important part of the job of Maitre’ D and or the waiter or waitress. These salads may be the entrée, the French first course, or the main course on a fixed price lunch menu.
In the book behind this blog, many truly famous salads such as Salad Niçoise have their own links. Other salads, without links, while bearing famous names may vary widely from restaurant to restaurant and chef to chef; that is when you need the knowledge of the serving staff.
The salads here are listed alphabetically.
Salad au Bleu – A green salad with blue cheese. A salad bleu is frequently served with walnuts, and the vinaigrette dressing will vary at the chef’s discretion. Sometimes the oil in the dressing will be walnut oil.
Salade au Chèvre Chaud – A green salad with warm goat’s cheese and a vinaigrette dressing. France is justifiably famous for its excellent goat’s cheeses; many of these cheeses will come from the region of Poitou-Charentes, itself now part of the super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.
Salade aux Choix – Your choice of salad; you will be offered a choice of two or three, or possibly more, different salads.
Salade aux Foies de Volaille – A mixed green salad served with warm chicken livers.
A chicken liver salad.
Salade Capresse or Caprese – Salad Caprese is a very popular French entrée, the French first course; that despite its Italian origins.. A Salad Caprese is made with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese served along with slices of fresh tomatoes and fresh leaves of basil; all will be served with a few drops of olive oil and a little salt and pepper; it is a superb and simply made salad and is easily made at home. The mozzarella cheese will be French unless noted on the menu.
Button mushroom salad.
Salade Choux – Cabbage salad; usually the chef’s version of coleslaw. This may also be a version of the Alsatian sauerkraut cabbage dish so very well known as Choucroute. Choucroute is the base for that ginormous Alsatian dish called a Choucroute Garnie. N.B. The Alsace has now joined together with the Lorraine and the Champagne-Ardennes in the new super-region of The Grande Est.
Salade Composée – A house salad. Now all the chef’s options are open. The translation just means a composed or arranged salad. A salade composée to some chefs may be a relatively straightforward mixed salad while other may create beautiful offerings. When you see this on the menu, ask what is in it.
Salade Composée aux Herbes – A salad as above with an emphasis on the addition of various herbs.
Salade de Betteraves Rouges – A red beetroot salad. It was in France that I first learned that not all beetroots are red. Beetroots are available in a number of colors including one, that when cut, shows red and white circles.
The Chioggia beetroot.
Photograph courtesy of www.groworganic.com
Salade de Chanoine – Another name for a mâche, a lamb’s lettuce salad. (See Salade Mâche).
Salade Camarguaises – A salad in the manner of the Camargue; this will include rice from the Camargue, along with tuna, eggs, capers and the season’s young uncooked vegetables.
Salade de Chèvre Chaud, the same as Salade au Chèvre Chaud –– A green salad prepared with warm goat’s cheese.
A warm goat’s cheese salad.
Salade de Foie de Volaille – A green salad served with warm cooked chicken livers; the same as Salade aux Foies de Volaille.
Salade de Fruits – A fruit salad; this should be a fresh fruit salad. Ask.
Salade de Fruits de Saison – A fruit salad made with the fresh fruits of the season. Ask which fruits.
Salade Grecque – A Greek salad; this salad may be prepared very differently in Greece. Nevertheless, most French versions will include cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives, sliced red onion and oregano combined with a vinaigrette dressing. Some include button mushrooms.
Salade de Jeune Épinard- A salad of young spinach leaves or spinach shoots.
Salade de Lardons et Épinards – A spinach salad with pieces of warm bacon.
Salade de Prêtre – This translates as a priests salad. Prêtre is another of the many names for mâche, lamb’s lettuce or field lettuce; lamb’s lettuce is one of the tastiest salad greens in France. Its association with priests belonged to the Christian tradition of Lent when traditionally meat was not eaten. (See Salade Mâche).
Salade de Mâche, Salade de Prêtre –– Mâche, in English is called corn salad, lamb’s lettuce, and field salad. Unfortunately, few ever see this great salad green in North America or the UK; though, it is occasionally available in farmers’ markets. In my opinion mâche is France’s most significant contribution to the world of mixed green salads. The small leaves and their stalks are eaten just like any other salad green. However, it is their taste, slightly nutty, and its pleasant texture that makes this salad green a star. Over many years a star among the many items I would always bring home from France was mâche. Why it is a star in France and not in the UK and or North America, I do not know. France’s neighbors of Germany and Switzerland have mâche in nearly all the markets I have checked. Mâche will not usually be served on its own. One Mache salad that I really enjoyed was a Salad du Mache au Pamplemousse et au Figues; that is mâche, grapefruit and fig salad. The mâche and the grapefruit were fresh, but I was disappointed that the figs were dried. However, one bite of the salad, the wonderful mâche, grapefruit and dried figs served with a genius Balsamic vinegar vinaigrette change my view completely. That was a great mâche salad.
A mâche salad
Salade d’Endives aux Noix – A salad with endives and walnuts; that will be Belgian endives The Endive, Endive Blanc or Chicon is the Belgian endive. Endive leaves are mostly white with yellow to slightly light-green tips and are firm and crunchy; they are nutty and slightly bitter. Cold, the leaves will be part of a salad or used to display other dishes such as a seafood cocktail or a pâté. Endives may also be cooked, as a garnish for a main dish or the menu may offer a soupe à l’endive, an endive soup. The light color of an endive is obtained by shielding the leaves from light while it is growing. If a whole endive were green, it would be very bitter.
If you are into endives, then you may meet your friends and colleagues every year in the lovely town on Bethune. Join them at the Fête de l’Endive, the town’s Endive Fete; it is held on the last Sunday of February every year. Bethune is a lovely small town in the center of a major agricultural area and just 35 km (22 miles) from the city of Lille. It is in the department of Pas-de-Calais in the region of Nord-Pas de Calais. The regions of Picardie and Nord-Pas de Calais have now become the new super region of Hauts de France
Salade d’Été – A summer salad; expect this salad to use summer vegetables and or fruits. Ask.
Salade du Maraîcher – A market gardener’s salad. A salad that a market gardener would make for his or her family. A salad with a name like this should include the freshest of vegetables, including those that are out of season. If the waiter’s explanation sounds just like a rather ordinary mixed salad, choose something else.
Salade Mesclun or Salade de Mesclun – A salad of mixed young salad greens. A well-balanced salad mesclun will include lettuce (sweet and crunchy), Treviso radicchio (bitter), mache (sweet, nutty), escarole (crispy and bitter), rocket (spicy), etc. The ingredients will change with the seasons. A salad mesclun will be served with a vinaigrette sauce. The name of this salad is from Provence, and the name comes from the Provencal word mescla, That just means mixed in French.
Smoked duck’s breast salad.
Photograph courtesy of Agathe
Salade de Saison – A salad with the fresh vegetables of the season.
Salade de Tomates – A tomato salad.
Salade de Truffes – A salad made with thin slices of truffles; usually that is a mixed green salad accompanied by a vinaigrette sauce. Before you order a dish like this try and find out which truffles are being served and how much of each. Many dishes with truffles added use minute amounts that have very little taste. Other truffles themselves are practically tasteless. These types of salads often do not justify the extra costs for the truffle. When little truffle is used the truffle essence or truffle oil should be an inexpensive addition and does provide some of the taste, but none of the texture.
White Truffle Risotto – Risotto al Tartufo Bianco
This truffle is, unfortunately, not available in France
You must cross into Piedmont, Italy, for this unique dish.
France has its own white truffles,
but they are a different species with a very mild taste.
Salade de Volaille – A chicken salad. A name like this leaves the chef with quite a number of options. The traditional chicken salad will be cold or warm chicken with salad greens, often with walnuts and croutons served with a vinaigrette sauce. If your menu reads Salade de Volaille aux Agrumes, the chef will have added citrus fruits, usually grapefruit. Read the menu carefully and ask if the ingredients are not clear.
Salade du Chèvre Chaud – A salad with a warm goat’s cheese.
Salade du Marche aux Herbes Fraîches.- Salad, with fresh vegetables
Salade Tiède du Pécheur – A warm fisherman’s salad. Along with the salad leaves a salad like this may, in season, include artichokes or avocado. However, the fish offered will depend on the area and the daily catch. Near the coast this salad may include pieces of freshly grilled sardines, crevettes, shrimps, and or moules, mussels; sometimes these salads may include bigorneau, winkles or bulots, whelks. Elsewhere this salad may just be smoked salmon and tinned sardines; this is another case where asking for details is very much recommended. The vinaigrette with a salad like this is equally important. Ask.
Salade Fraîche d’Été – A fresh summer salad with fresh vegetables of the season.
Salade Folle – Another name for a mixed salad and on a menu that simple notation doesn’t tell you very much. Ask what your particular restaurant’s salade folle is or look again at the menu for more definitions. These salads, in restaurants where they have a creative chef who likes understatements, may include ris, sweetbreads, foie gras, fattened duck’s liver, fromage de chèvre, goat’s cheese, or something else entirely.
Salade Fraîcheur – A fresh salad; the name just indicates a fresh salad of the chef’s choosing. The ingredients may change daily, weekly or with the season. In a small restaurant, this may be a simple mixed salad while others may include cheese, avocado and fresh fruits such as grapefruit.
Salade Italien – An Italian salad or rather an Italian salad as seen by French eyes. The salad will come in a number of variations; all will be served with some cold pasta. Usually, salami or ham is added, and most will be served on a bed of lettuce or another salad green along with tomatoes and olives and the white Italian Haricot Cannellini beans. These Italian beans are much like the French Haricot Blanc white beans. Ask for more information.
Salade Mélangée – A mixed salad. A nicely presented mixed salad.
Salade Mêlée – A mixed salad.
Salade Mixte – A mixed salad.
Salade Panachée – A mixed salad.
Salade de Pomme de Terre – A cold potato salad. In France, this may be made in many ways. My favorite, in a small Bordeaux café, was cold boiled potatoes served with a sauce made with olive oil, wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, parsley, chives, salt, and pepper. It took two visits to this restaurant to get this simple recipe, but I got it.
Salade Repas – A large salad; enough for the main course. Repas, in French, means a meal and some menus, especially lunch-time menus, may offer a large salad for the main course as part of a fixed-price lunch menu. When a salade repas is on the menu more details about its ingredients will usually be on the menu.
Salade Variée – A mixed salad.
Salade Verte – A green salad.
Salade Tiède – A warm salad; usually an entrée, the first course. Most of these salads will be made with lettuce and other salad greens served at room temperature along with warm goat’s cheese or chicken liver, bacon pieces or whatever is the chef’s preference. The menu will usually add more detail.
Salade Tiède de Foies de Volailles aux Crouton et Herbes Fraîches – One of the many salads that will include warm chicken livers; they are very popular. This one comes with croutons and fresh herbs.
Salade Tiède au Chèvre– A green or mixed salad served with warmed goat’s cheese.
Salade Tiède de Truite Fumée aux Agrumes – A salad served warm smoked trout and citrus fruits.
France has hundreds, possibly thousands of different salads.
Salads are named after people, places, events, regions and of course the ingredients. Alone, the salads of France would fill two or three books. I have left the joy of the research involved on tasting every one of those salads to others. These are the salads that will be on many French menus. To limit the list above to forty, I have had to exclude many other well-known but ordinary salads, and I apologize to those who think their favorites should have been included. I have left out the options that may be listed as Salades Végétarianne, vegetarian salads. The vegetarians among you will know what to ask for.
Asking the Maître D’, waiter or waitress.
N.B. When asking for assistance from the Maître D’ or a waiter, please watch your French. In France the use of the word garçon for a waiter is forbidden, it means boy, and if you use that, or use Mademoiselle for a waitress, you may find the soup in your lap. The job title of a waiter in French is a serveur, and a waitress is a serveuse. Correctly, the Maître D’ and a waiter are addressed as Monsieur; a waitress, if she is over 15, is addressed as Madame. Calling a young lady, or an older one, Mademoiselle has a derogatory meaning. In France, a the profession of serveur or serveuse is exactly that, a profession. They have over 35 days per year paid annual vactions, a 35 hour work-week, a pension and more. The waiter and or waitress should treat you, the diner, with respect and they expect respect in return.
Vinegar, Vinaigrette and Verjus in French Cuisine.
Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words “Behind the French Menu” and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman