Provençal cooking falls quite easily into the category of “cuisine du soleil” – much like its Italian & Greek counterparts, it relies heavily on the use of olive oil, herbs, and the bounty of the Mediterranean sea. Eating in Provence is a constant process of discovery – the following list highlights some of the specialties which can be found on tables around the South.
L’agneau de Provence:
Lamb is from Provence is regarded as having a particular taste & quality – most notably the lamb from Sisteron is the highest regarded of the region.
Learn more about “red label” lamb on the official Sisteron site (in French): http://www.agneaudesisteron.fr/
Aïoli is a garlic mayonnaise used as a spread for vegetables, fish, and crusty breads. In the case of a grand aïoli, there is a well-defined list of foods to be served with said spread, namely salt cod, snails, mussels, eggs, potatoes, and summer vegetables.
Purée of anchovies, mixed with olive oil & capers, very thick – often found at local markets where olives & tapenades are sold.
Le boeuf en daube:
Chunks of cooked beef cooked with olive oil, lard, onions, oil, and herbs; served with sauce or red wine. Provence’s answer to boeuf bourguignon.
There are at least a dozen fish are used in this well-seasoned soup. Once a dish of the poor, it’s become a plate for the rich due to the rarity of the fish needed for its creation. Fish commonly used are scorpion fish, sea bass, and the red mullet or “goat fish”. Accompanied by a think & spicy sauce, la rouille, & grilled croutons generously rubbed with garlic.
A cheaper type of bouillabaisse, made with white fish (mullet, monkfish, whiting) & served with aioli.
A (delicious) speciality of Aix-en-Provence, these tiny “cookies” are actually a mix of crushed almonds & candied melon topped with royal icing. Not-to-be missed…
Check out Roy René calissions, based in Aix-en-Provence, for some of the best calissons in Provence.
Although its origins are not from the south, there are several great makers of chocolate in Provence. Arguably the best, and most well-known, is Puyricard – whose headquarters are just outside of Aix-en-Provence (where you can sign-up for a chocolate factory tour!).
Les grenouilles à la provencale:
Frog legs grilled with oil & garlic after being rolled in flour.
Le lapin à la provençale:
Rabbit slow-cooked in white wine with garlic, mustard, herbs, & tomatoes.
A specialty of Marseille & Sisteron, this dish is made of sheep’s offal (stomach and feet), simmered in a sauce of white wine and tomato. The stomach (or paunch) is cut and rolled in the shape of “packages” to be stuffed with parsley, garlic, pepper, & bacon.
Covered in parsley, layered with garlic, or simply left on their own, no trip to Provence is complete without sampling as many varieties of olives as possible.
Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur and the drink for apéritif hour in the south of France. Pastis is filled about a quarter full in a tall glass to which the drinker adds water to his/her desired taste. One of the most famous pastis makers is Ricard.
A well-known regional favorite where tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini are mixed with onions, garlic, and a mix of herbs such as herbes de Provence.
This indispensible partner for making bouillabaisse calls for fresh chili pepper, garlic, sea urchin, & potatoes – later spread on bread or croutons & added to soup.
La soupe au pistou:
Another legend of Provençal cooking; soup composed of beans & vegetables using a base of basil & garlic ground in olive oil.
Purée of black olives (or green) and capers mixed with olive oil, often served on grilled bread.
Found from November to March, people travel for miles to benefit from the truffles found at local markets in Valreas, Richerenches, Apt, Aups, Vaison, and Carpentras.