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March 25, 2007

Herbes de Provence (Recipe: Mediterranean red snapper) {gluten-free}

Herbsdeprovence

"Herbs from the sunny province of France can change your cooking."

So says the tag on this little pot of herbes de Provence, a classic blend of thyme, basil, savory, fennel seed and lavender flowers.

Herbes de Provence combines the vigorous, resinous herbs that grow on hillsides in the summer in the south of France. As with garam masala, there are many formulations that can include, in addition to the herbs in my pot, tarragon, dried orange zest, celery seeds, white pepper, dried mint, oregano, rosemary, chervil and bay leaf.

In The New York Times Food Encyclopedia, Craig Claiborne wrote:

[In the early 1970s] I first noticed packages of dried herbs bearing the name herbes de Provence at Fauchon's on the Place Madeleine in Paris. Within recent years, of course, numerous food specialty shopes in Manhattan and across America have been selling what is labeled "herbes de Provence," and I'm sure the packagers and purveyors have made a good deal of money by using that lure. Whether any of this has been to the greater glory of the American kitchen, I cannot say. I suspect one would do better by adding one's own "herbes de Provence" depending on the recipe.

Whether you buy it in the cute ceramic crock, or make your own, you'll want to use it in an elegant chateaubriand, delicious butternut squash soup, a sauce for pork tenderloin, an earthy pomme de terre or — surprise! — kimchi de Provence.

If you do want to mix your own, here's a traditional recipe. And once you have this justly-famous spice blend on hand, herbes de Provence surely will change your cooking, just as the tag promises.


Mediterranean red snapper

Every year, Sequim, a small town on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, hosts a lavender festival (July 20-22, 2007, if you're planning ahead). A few years ago, my friend Candy brought home from the festival a small paperback cookbook, Northwest Provence: Cooking with Lavender, by Cynthia Pinsky. The package of culinary lavender that came with the book is long gone, but herbes de Provence make a perfect substitute in many of the recipes. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

1-1/2 lb red snapper filet (or other flaky white fish)
1 rib celery, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
16 oz chopped canned tomato
12 each Kalamata and green olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp herbes de provence
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Olive oil for drizzling
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Layer the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with onion and celery. Top with fish filet. Pour the wine over the fish and sprinkle on the tomatoes, olives, herbes de Provence and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil, cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, pour on the lemon juice, and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes more. Serve over rice.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

My favorite combination, fish and Herbes de Provence, I can almost taste it!!

Lydia, I have a sachet of these from Seasoned Pioneers that I've been wondering how to use - thanks for the hint!

I had a bottle of herbes de Provence in NYC that I used just once...for vegetable moussaka, and I gave it away to a friend before moving away. Now, with your great post, I need to make some and use it more!

This is a blend that has mystified me, although I've always had some on the spice rack. Your red snapper dish sounds wonderful, and I also like the idea of using it in a sauce for pork tenderloin. Thanks!

Lydia, I bought some from Penzey's recently and have been enjoying using it in a number of ways, including in eggs and other dishes where I would have never thought to try it. It's a delicious addition!

Here's the thing that probably makes 'herbes de Provence' that are *actually* from Provence - or Crete, or Italy, or - better than making your own: that the herbs themselves are much stronger. So if you can come up with the basil, etc., that is from a hot country - something recently dried, strong, etc. - then it would be worth it....

There isn't much that doesn't taste better with herbes de Provence! I'm using them today! And I have made my own, too.

Thanks for the link, Lydia.

Hoo lawdy -- while that little crock of Williams-Sonoma Herbes de Provence is adorable beyond belief, it is also unbelievably expensive. I'm a fan of making your own mix -- it's really nothing more than lavender, thyme, tarragon, oregano, anise seed and whatever else you want to throw in there -- but if you're lucky enough to live in a place that sells bulk herbs you may be able to find it there, for surely a fraction the price.

And yes, I too use HdP copiously. Along with Old Bay, it's my go-to seasoning to toss into pretty much anything.

I go through them by the sackful and, luckily, they are sold by the sackful here in France. If I can't decide what to use i use the mix!
Great fish recipe! I think fish stays so nice and moist when baked.

Pauline, fish and herbs de Provence ARE a super combination!

Freya, I look for these recipes that call for lavender, which on its own is a bit overpowering, but in the blend, is just right.

Nupur, the fun thing about making your own blend is that you can adjust. That's the best part about making your own masalas, isn't it?!

Kalyn, I know it doesn't have your favorite cilantro, but herbes de Provence will find many uses in your kitchen!

Genie, thanks -- good to know that the nice folks at Penzeys come through once again.

Paul, you're absolutely right. I can make the same blend from my herb garden (though I must say that Herbes de Chepachet doesn't have quite the same ring...), but it doesn't taste the same because the herbs are different varieties, and growing in a different climate. It's the same "terroir" concept that we use when talking about wine.

Mimi, I'll keep watching your wonderful French cooking blog for more ideas of how to use herbes de Provence.

Sean, you are sooooo right. I'd definitely check Penzeys for better value. Glad to hear that Old Bay is popular in your Bay area kitchen, too!

Katie, it would be wonderful to live where herbes de Provence come by the sackful! I'm always looking for new ways to use this wonderful blend.

I love the subtle yet distinct flavour of this herb blend.

I used to have a pot like this, I'm wondering if I still have it... I know I finished the herbes, but I might have kept the holder - hoarder that I am :)

I've used it with the pork tenderloin and loved it.
Your fish sounds wonderful. I don't have snapper but I'll try another white fish.

My Herbes de Provence came in exactly the same terracotta pot. How bizarre!

Where do you get that great crock? We made a recipe in my bread class last fall that was called Pain de Provence, flavored with black olives and Herbes de Provence. The lavender smelled like heaven.

You have inspired me to use more Herbes de Provence... Perhaps I should start from the beautiful red snapper recipe. :)

Kelly-Jane, I always save the little crocks. I grow lavender in my herb garden, and this would be a great place to store the dried lavender at the end of the season...now if only I could remember to do that!

Tanna, the herbs are a good companion to any mild white fish.

Roger and TW, I think this one came from Williams-Sonoma. The pot is traditional, especially for the exported herbes de Provence.

Anh, fish is a great place to start, but this herb blend also works with pasta and all sorts of stews. Have fun!

You are right about the cost, Williams & Sonoma really know how to hit a foodie below the belt sometimes....worth it though, as it was my first time finding it here in RI.
I use it in a lot of foods, it really raises the bar in taste.

i love the fennel and lavender combination. i made up my own batch and i sprinkle it on almost anything i want to taste 'special yet simple'

A definite staple in the pantry. I am surprised with kimchi de provence...that is pretty unique!

Pam, I think stores like W-S are great places to get introduced to new things. But then, I like to go look for other (i.e., more affordable) sources.

Connie, I'm still learning about fennel in all of its forms, and I'm really enjoying trying it in my cooking.

Veron, I thought the kimchi was a hoot -- so creative!

Every time I open your blog, I think, no way, she can´t possibly have anything else in there. And here we go. It´s a Mary Poppins cupboard you have there!

Lovely blog. I found you through a link. I've always wondered what one does with herbs de provence

Ximena, I love the image of Mary Poppins cupboards!!! My pantry does seem to be endless....

Mallika, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Glad you found your way here.

I saw a small jar of herbes de provence once but didn't buy it because I wouldn't know how to use it.
I'm very interested in fish recipes and this sounds great!

Patricia, I'll bet the herbes de Provence would be great with some of the wonderful Brazilian fish dishes.

Lydia, I don't know much about french cooking but I love to throw this stuff onto roasted things (esp veggies). The herbs de provence kimchi!!!! I cannot imagine that for the life of me.

Looking from afar, I've noticed it is a very popular combination of herbs in America but has gone largely unnoticed in Australia. I have never knowingly had it, but now I'm intrigued enough to either make some or search some out.

Callipygia, I'm coming to your house for dinner -- I love it when people use herbs in the way that works best for them, without feeling restricted by recipes. (and yeah, don't you want to meet the person who thought up the kimchi?!)

Neil, for many years -- going back to the days of the Kennedy presidency, and then of course Julia Child -- Americans have tried to emulate all things French, which probably explains our fascination with herbes de Provence. Or maybe we just like the little crocks.... anyway, if you can't find it in the market, I'll be happy to send some to you.

I like to flavor clarified butter with it to drizzle on vegetables, delicate fin and shellfish, and eggs.

This recipe sounds wonderful! I grow rosemary, thyme, 3 kinds of lavender and oregano every Summer and plan to make my own Herbes de Provence this year. I use it on and in so many things, soups, roasted veggies, really almost any savory dish that may need some perking up. I have not paired it with fish, so will be trying that next. I have also started eating vegetarian except for non-mammals that live underwater, so your blog posts are most appreciated!

Elaine, I love the thought that you will make your own herb blend from the garden. I do the same, and I even grow some herbs (like rosemary, which isn't one of my favorite cooking herbs) just to have on hand for those combinations. I noticed chives and tarragon coming up in the garden earlier this week, and I do have two kinds of lavender, and oregano and thyme. Oooh, Spring is sprung!

Lydia, a nice post about one of my kitchen mainstays. Sometimes I have to force myself not to reach for it just so I'll branch out and use other herbs. Recently I sprinkled a little over mushrooms I was sautéing in butter, then poured some beaten eggs around them for a delicious breakfast scramble.

Terry, it's one of my favorites, too. Particularly good paired with mushrooms and eggs -- I often use it in frittatas of all sorts, no matter what kind of vegetables I add in.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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