By Carl Hanson

The French invented fancy, formalized cooking. They invented the restaurant, and they own the cooking lexicon: restaurant, cuisine, chef, menu, sauté, vinaigrette -- these are all French words that we've co-opted into English. French cuisine may have a reputation for being difficult and intimidating. But these top-rated French recipes are actually surprisingly simple. So if you're looking for meals that are truly impressive but don't require pro skills, here they are. Delicious and accessible French recipes!

1. Chef John's Coq Au Vin

"I like to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs instead of an old rooster for my coq au vin," says Chef John. "Like all braised dishes, tougher cuts with lots of connective tissue work best, and on a chicken that would be the thigh/leg section. Of course, someone will ask if they can use chicken breasts; please don't. They just will not add that sticky goodness to the braising liquid that the thighs will."

2. Salad Nicoise

"This French-inspired salad makes a delightful summer dish," says Bob Cody. "You can dress it up with other garden vegetables like corn, blanched broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus!"

Photo by Allrecipes

3. Madame Cristo - Grilled Ham and Cheese

"What started as a Croque Madame with custard instead of the usual white sauce turned into a Monte Cristo with a poached egg on top," says Chef John. "Unable call it a Croque Madame anymore, I turned to Twitter for help. Some dude who goes by the name Zap Shakur suggested I go with Madame Cristo, and the rest is history. Top with poached or fried eggs and garnish with fresh chives."

Photo by Chef John

4. Cassoulet

This classic French comfort food takes some time to prepare, but the meltingly tender, flavorful beans with sausage and pieces of duck is beyond worth it. "This is the world's greatest baked bean recipe, and a classic French dish," says Chef John. "It's perfect for a cold winter night." For a short-cut version, check out Chef John's Quick Cassoulet.

Photo by catherine.drew

5. Poached Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce

"Here's my recipe for poached salmon bathed in a classic hollandaise sauce," says luna. "I serve this dish with boiled, cubed sweet potatoes and broccoli."

6. Chef John's Bearnaise Sauce

"I adore a good hollandaise and couldn't survive without mayonnaise, but if I had to pick an all-time favorite 'aise, it might just be béarnaise," says Chef John. "This tarragon-spiked, shallot-infused hollandaise is absolutely perfect with any and all steaks or roasts, especially lean ones."

Photo by Chef John

7. Alsatian Pork and Sauerkraut

"This is a French recipe, very easy and a real comfort food," says 4Nancy. "An all-in-one-pot meal! I have gotten people who say they don't like sauerkraut to try this dish. They couldn't believe how good it is and asked for more." Enjoy this with a bottle pinot gris or dry Riesling from the Alsace.

Photo by naples34102

8. French Onion Soup Gratinee

"About as good as it gets!" raves Jersey Tomato. "This is the version of French Onion Soup that people seek when they go to restaurants. I have been making it for 30 years and it never fails to please. It makes an exquisite presentation, too!"

Photo by France C.

9. Poulet a la Moutarde (Chicken in Dijon Mustard Sauce)

"This is a fantastically easy and delicious chicken dish, basically made with onions, white wine, heavy cream and Dijon mustard," says Diana71. "Your family will feel like they've had a meal made by an impressive French chef. Serve with rice, pasta, or crunchy French baguettes."

Photo by Diana71

10. Beef Bourguignon I

Plan ahead! This recipe calls for a two-day marination of the meat, followed by long, slow cooking for unbelievable tenderness and flavor. Hearty but elegant enough for a dinner party. "My sister sent me this recipe and the delectable smell of this hearty yet fancy dish brings my teenaged boys running," says COOKPOT. "Serve with potatoes, noodles or rice."

Photo by catherine.drew

11. Tartiflette (French Potato, Bacon, and Cheese Casserole)

This beautiful recipe preps in about 10 minutes. Potatoes are layered with bacon and fried onions and topped with crème fraiche and melty Reblochon cheese. "Loved this recipe," says Cooking Daddy. "It is great comfort food, comes out really nice and creamy, and it's not hard to make."

Photo by Chef John

12. Carly's Salmon En Papillote (In Paper)

"Moist, delicious, almost fool-proof salmon," says carly. "This salmon is wrapped in parchment paper and steamed in the oven. No fishy taste in your mouth, no fishy smell in your house. Just a delicious meal."

Photo by pelicangal

13. Chicken Cordon Bleu I

"This entree is easy and delicious," says Kiersten. "It's one of my husband's favorites! Try to use the largest chicken breasts you can find so you'll be able to roll them easier."

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Check out our collection of French Recipes.