Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thyme in France. Thym, Serpolet, Farigoule and Thym Citron, Lemon Thyme in France. Thyme. One of the most important herbs in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Photograph courtesy of  JanetF.
Thym, Thym Vert, Serpolet, Farigoule and Thym Citron – Thyme, the herb. Thyme will be on French menus and in recipes using cultivated thyme or wild thyme. Most cultivated varieties of thyme will be on the menu as thym or thym vert. Wild thyme will be on menus as serpolet in French, and in the south of France as farigoule in the Occitan language. Occitan is the original language of much of Provence and other regions of France. Provencal and Nicoise are among the many languages and dialects related to Occitan.

Wild thyme.
Photograph courtesy of
Thyme in the French kitchen.
 Thyme is absolutely essential to French cuisine and preferred when fresh. Thyme will be flavoring sauces and soups, fish and poultry, lamb, veal, fish and, of course, herbal butters.  The juices pressed from thyme may will be noted on a menu as jus de thyme or be made into a thyme based sauce.  The juices of certain herbs like thyme and parsley are used when their taste is wanted but not the texture.

Lemon Thyme.

Thym Citron - Lemon thyme. The herbs looks similar to garden or cultivated thyme, but its leaves have a strong lemon scent. That lemon scent is accompanied by a lemon flavor. I have included lemon thyme in this post as it may prevent someone from ordering a dish expecting thyme and ending up with an enjoyable but unexpected lemon accented dish. In the French kitchen lemon thyme will be added to dishes that want that lemon accent, especially fish dishes and desserts.
Thyme on French menus:

Carpaccio de Thon à l'Huile de Farigoule – A Carpaccio of fresh tuna marinated in the oil taken from wild thyme. For the origins of Carpaccio and how to order a Carpaccio in France click here.
A rice and carrot risotto.
Côte de Veau Sauce Thym – A veal chop with a thyme sauce. France offers the best veal in Europe, so enjoy.

Filets de Rouget au Thym –  Filet of red mullet cooked with fresh thyme.
Flowering wild thyme.
Photograph courtesy of Printemps ete
Filet Mignon de Cochon Miel de Thym, Risotto aux Agrumes, Navets Glacés à l’Orange. – A cut of pork fillet, a pig’s tenderloin, cooked with thyme honey and served with a risotto made with citrus fruits, glazed turnips and flavored with orange. Thyme honey comes from the bees that pollinate the wild thyme that grows all over the south of France and much of Corsica.

N.B.: When you see the word filet mignon on a French menu it will nearly always be an indication that the cut comes from a pork fillet. For French beef, the cuts from the end or narrowest part of the filet will be called a filet de boeuf, a beef fillet. From the thick center of a beef fillet come the tornados, Chateaubriand and cœur de filet. No French filet mignon of beef!
A Gruyere and thyme croissant.
Photograph courtesy of feministjulie.
La Cuisse de Canard Confite a la Fleur de Serpolet – A duck’s leg confit flavored with wild thyme flowers. In a confit, the duck’s legs will have been cooked and then kept in a covering of the natural fat produced while cooking.  This confit of duck or other meats is allowed to cool and then kept refrigerated for a few days, that allows the flavors to blend; only then will it be reheated, with the fat removed and served. For more about confits on French menus click here.
Pièce de Veau aux Légumes de Saison, Jus au Thym.  A cut of veal, probably a veal cutlet, served with the season’s vegetables and the natural cooking juices  flavored with thyme. 
Filet de Sandre Roti, Beurre Blanc au Thym-Citron - Roasted pike-perch, the fish, served with a white butter sauce flavored with the lemon lime herb.   
Suprême de Volaille Roti, Pomme de Terre, Carotte, Jus au Thym  - Roast chicken breast served with potatoes and carrots, flavored with the juice pressed from thyme.
Fresh berries flavored with vanilla and thyme.
Photograph courtesy of  Stijn Nieuwendijk
Vinaigrette au Thym – A vinaigrette sauce flavored with cultivated thyme. The vinaigrette used here will be one of France’s many excellent olive oils with a wine vinegar.
Where thyme grows in France.  
 The wild thyme used in cooking grows wild in warm climates. Most of the wild thyme in France comes from the Garrigues in Languedoc-Rousillon and the Maquis in Provence and Corsica. On these, stony, windy, practically treeless, hills wild thyme will be decorating the countryside all year round, as wild thyme is an evergreen shrub. Corsica is uniquely famous for its six AOP honeys. Two of those honeys come from bees that collect a large part of their pollen from herbs, especially the wild thyme that grows in the Corsican Maquis. Dried thyme is available but no French chef will choose it over fresh thyme whether wild or cultivated. In the north of France market gardeners will be supplying local restaurants with cultivated thyme fresh from their green houses in winter.
A veal roast flavored with olives, sage, and thyme.
Photograph courtesy of r.g-s

The importance of thyme in French cuisine
 Thyme is nearly always part of a bouquet garni and absolutely always included in the herb groups the Fine Herbes and the  Herbes de Provence. That puts thyme among the six most important herbs in French cuisine!
Thyme tisanes, teas, in France, and thyme in homeopathic medicines.
Homeopathic pharmacies, in France, with their distinctive green cross or green store front sign are nearly as conspicuous as regular pharmacies. Thyme oil is an essential oil with antiseptic properties and thyme tisanes or infusions, teas, are recommended for easing the effects of cold, flu and digestive troubles.
 Fresh thyme in the languages of France’s neighbors.
(Catalan - farigola), (Dutch – tijm), (German – tymian), (Italian – timo),  (Spanish – tomillo).
Wild thyme in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -  Serpoll), ( Dutch  - wilde tijm), (German - quendel, feldthymian), (Italian – serpillo),  (Spanish – serpoleto), 
Connected posts:
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu.
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