Herbes de Provence
Herbes de Provence is a dried herb mix that refers to wild herbs that grow in the region of Provence in southern France. It is similar to the popular herb baskets, bouquet garni and fines herbs. Herbes de Provence is most commonly used in French cuisine, however it is also a popular pairing for Mediterranean cooking. It is one of the latest additions to the world of French cooking and makes the cuisine accessible to the rest of the world through the aromatic flavours.
The term originated as a way to refer to the flavouring used by Provencal chefs, wild herbs that grew around the region. However, in the 1970s herbes de Provence became a commercial herb mix that was packaged and sold in stores. The most common used herbs in these commercial mixes include marjoram, rosemary, thyme, fennel, bay leaf, basil, oregano, and savory. In the United States, lavender is also added to these commercial spice mixes.
In Provence, there is no set ingredients for making herbes de Provence. Every household and every chef will have their own blends and recipes.
History of herbes de Provence
The term Herbes de Provence was originally used to refer to a number of herbs that are used in Provencal cooking. The term itself never referred to a particular mixture of herbs but rather to a grouping of separate herbs.
The herbs used in Provence eventually grew more popular all over the country, and in the 1960s were taken to the mainstream by Julia Child. Her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, included a recipe for Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence. This was the first time herbes de Provence were properly classified and identified under an umbrella term. In the 1970s, French brand Ducros (now known as McCormick & Company) began packaging and selling herbes de Provence mixes. These were then distributed all over the world and became synonymous with French cooking at home.
How to cook with herbes de Provence
Herbes de provence is a versatile mix and has a number of different applications in cooking. The herbs are used traditionally in Provence when roasting chicken, lamb, or vegetables, and grilling fish. However, they have many uses in contemporary cooking. You can use herbes de Provence to season meat and fish or add it to soups, stews, sauces, and salad dressings. Herbes de provence can also be mixed in doughs to make pizza bases and aromatic breads. Another way to use herbes de Provence is to sprinkle it on hot coals in a grill or barbecue. This allows the aromatic flavours to infuse with the grill smoke and impart its flavour to your food.
Because herbes de Provence doesn’t have a defined ratio of mixing the herbs, you can play around with the amounts used to have different overall flavours. You can make a herbes de Provence mix that has a higher amount of oregano, or one with fennel. You can make a blend where marjoram is the major flavour, and one with the addition of lavender. These blends can be used on different dishes – you will find one more suited to lamb, another better with chicken, and so on.
What’s the difference between herbes de Provence and fines herbes?
Fines herbes is another popular French herb mix, however it is different from herbes de Provence. The major difference between the two is that Fines herbes is a specified mix of herbs, including ingredients and quantities. It is designed to achieve a particular unique flavour each time. The herbs used to make fines herbes are chopped chives, parsley, tarragon, and chervil. On the other hand, herbes de Provence has no one particular flavour. It can refer to a variety of different herbs that are used in different quantities.