03 August 2009

The Wonderful Food of Provence

In 1953 La Veritable Cuisine Provençale et Niçoise by Jean-Noël Escudier was published. The French press was ecstatic encouraging husbands to rush out and buy a copy for their wives. La Veritable Cuisine Provençale et Niçoise was the first time that an authentic collection of Provençale recipes had been gathered for the home cook. It would not be the last time.

The book shown as bright Mediterranean sun on the cuisine of southern France. It was (and is) a cuisine influenced thousands of years earlier by the Greeks and Romans. Like the cuisine of the Italians, Provençale food was filled with olive oil and wine. In Provence, however, the cuisine was refined by the wealth of ingredients. In addition to the olive oil and wine, there are aromatics including the ever present garlic. La Veritable Cuisine Provençale et Niçoise has the first recipe for chicken cooked with 40 cloves of garlic though, in the English translation, it is suggested that American cooks to use only 10 cloves. There is a wealth of seafood, with much of the fish used in Provençale cooking, indigenous to the area. There can be no true bouillabaisse without rasccase or saint-pierre.

And the French, well they will eat anything, a trait they share with Southerners! Here is a Southern and a Provençale specialty.

Frogs’ Legs Provençale (Grenouilles Provençale)

Unless the frogs’ legs are unusually large, allow 3 pairs per person. They can (and should be) bought already skinned. Soak them in cold water for 3 hours, changing the water twice. Drain, and thoroughly dry. Roll them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and finely minced garlic. Fry them in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown thoroughly. Drain on adsorbent paper and serve with a small amount (about 2 tablespoons per serving) of Tomato Sauce.

It is such a simple preparation, yet it is a show-stopper on the plate and well worth searching out some nice frogs’ legs.

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