Saturday, November 14, 2015

Romarin - Rosemary, the Herb in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Unlike diners in many other countries, most French diners want to know in detail which herbs and spices are used in menu listings.  As a result few French chefs will omit  from the menu the details of how a dish was cooked and how it is flavored. Seeing the herbs and spices used on the menu tells the diner much about how the dish will taste.
The wide variety of herbs and spices in French cuisine.
French cuisine uses a wider variety of herbs and spices than any other European country. Initially, this was due to Catherine de Medici when in 1553, at age 15, she came to marry Prince Henry of France, (later King Henry II). Catherine came with a unique wedding retinue that included chefs, cooks, vintners along with market gardeners who brought new herbs and the ways to use them from Florence, Italy. At that time Florence was considered the leader and creator of the best European cuisine. Later, would be added to French cuisine  herbs and spices from the New World, India and Africa. France’s wars and colonies would bring even more herbs and spices. When wealthy French colonists came back to visit France, they often brought their colonial cooks with them. To those cooks add the French chefs who had gone to serve the overseas French administration and returned to France with new ideas. They brought into French cuisine the flavors and aromas of  new herbs and the way they are prepared.

Cultivating Rosemary.
Rosemary in French cuisine
Rosemary; however, is not a French colonial import, it is native to the Mediterranean.  Rosemary would have been part of French culinary traditions long before the Greeks and Romans, with their own refined cuisine, occupied and settled in France over 2,000 years ago. Apart from Rosemary’s use as a herb on its own it is part of France’s most important herb groups Les Fine Herbes and the Herbes de Provence.

Tartelettes au Mirabelles et au Romarin
Small tarts made with France’s popular Mirabelle plum flavored with Rosemary.
Using Rosemary in French cuisine.
French chefs always prefer fresh herbs, usually because dried herbs loose much of their flavor and aroma when dried.  However, fresh Rosemary is always used as a fresh herb because its fresh leaves provide a much gentler flavor than the dried variety.   In France, obtaining fresh Rosemary is never a problem as it is an evergreen plant.  Wild Rosemary and that grown by market gardeners assure French consumers of a plentiful supply all year round. Mediterranean wild Rosemary is naturally abundant as it is able to withstand heat and requires little water. In France, and many Mediterranean countries, Rosemary is also cultivated as an ornamental shrub that may be seen in hedges alongside roads.

Rosemary hedges in the Mediterranean.
Rosemary on French menus:
Carré d'Agneau Rôti au Thym et au RomarinA rack of lamb roasted with Thyme and Rosemary.

Rosemary Roast Chicken
Compote de Mangues au Romarin A mango compote flavored with Rosemary. 
Mignon de Veau à la Fondue d’Oignon, Jus de Viande au Romarin -   A cut from a veal fillet, the veal tenderloin, served on a bed of very well cooked onions, practically an onion jam.  The veal is served with the juices from the meat flavored with Rosemary.
Filet d'Agneau aux Senteurs d’Ail et Romarin, Écrasé de Patates Douces.  A lamb fillet, the tenderloin, scented with Garlic and Rosemary and served with crushed sweet potatoes.  Écrasé or Écrasées in French may be translated on your menu as mashed; however, the word for mashed in French is purée. Écrasé indicates a rougher  texture.
Fraîcheur de Melon et Mousse de Chèvre au Romarin – Chilled melon served with a goat’s cheese mousse flavored with Rosemary.
Calamars Grillés au Romarin, Salade de Roquettes et Copeaux de Parmesan – Calamari, squid,  grilled with Rosemary and served with a rocket salad flavored with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Pêche Rôtie au Miel et Romarin – Peach roasted in honey and Rosemary.

Selle d’Agneau de Lozère,
Févettes et Petit Pois Primeurs Juste Ėtuvés, Gnocchis au Romarin.
A saddle of lamb from the department of Lozère in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Here the lamb is served with lightly steamed fava beans, also called the Windsor, butter or broad bean, and young petit pois peas, accompanied by Gnocchi flavored with Rosemary.
Dishes prepared with France’s most important herb groups:
Les Fine Herbs and Les Herbes de Provence.
Both herb groups include Rosemary.
Feuilleté de Tome de Limousin aux Fines Herbes et Piment d'Espelette - Thin leaves of puff pastry made with the Tome de Limousin cheese and flavored with the Fine Herbs. The flavor comes along with the unique chili pepper from in and around the town of Espelette in the Basque country. There are many fine tomme cow’s milk cheeses in the region of Limousin,  but the Tome de Limousin is different and not only because it only has one M in its name, the Tome de Limousine is a goat’s cheese.

The region of Limousin is also home to the city of Limoge -  The home of some of the world's most fabulous porcelain creations.

Flowering Rosemary.

Filet de Dorade Royale Rôti aux Herbes de Provence et Son Beurre Blanc. A filet of gilthead, the fish, roasted with the herbs of Provence and served with a white butter sauce.

Gilthead with lemon and sprinkled with Rosemary.
Rumsteck Mariné aux Fines Herbes (Salade ou Légumes du Marché et  Frites)  -  A marinated rump steak flavored with the Fine herbs. (Served with a salad or the season’s vegetables and French fries).
Tartare de Saumon aux Petits Légumes et Fines Herbes, Bouquet de Salade – Salmon tartar with young vegetables flavored with the Fine Herbs and served with an attractively displayed salad.
Rosemary as a homeopathic medicine.
Rosemary, in French homeopathic medicine, is used for many aches and pains. All French homeopathic pharmacies, and there are nearly as many as regular pharmacies, will offer Rosemary in many forms and explain their uses. There are Rosemary herbal teas, tisanes in French and Rosemary creams and more.
If you travel a great deal you will find Rosemary all over the world, especially in Asia, where it is just as much as home as it is in the Mediterranean. 

Rosemary in the languages of France's neighbors:       
(Catalan -  romaní ), (Dutch -  rozemarijn), (German – rosmarin), (Italian – rosmarino), (Spanish – romero).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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