Flavor Profile: Classic French Cuisine

frenchHere are some basic spices and herbs used in French cooking.  This is just a starting point and some good tips.  Ultimately, cook what you like and what tastes good to YOU!

Poultry Spices
Salt and pepper are the primary spices in the vast majority of French cooking. Chicken dishes are prepared most often with mustard, paprika, garlic, ginger, thyme, basil, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Mustard also rates high in turkey dishes, along with garlic and parsley. Cumin is an important seasoning for orange duck.

Red-Meat Spices
Beef French-style invariably is seasoned with bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs including bay leaf, parsley and thyme; other popular spices are garlic, rosemary, ginger, saffron and mustard. Lamb is often prepared with cumin, cayenne, tarragon, mint, thyme, bay leaf, basil, tarragon, parsley, ginger, coriander and cloves. Roast pork recipes include laurel and nutmeg.

Seafood Spices
Fish dishes are typically prepared with paprika, saffron and ginger. Scallops, a favorite seafood, are cooked with basil, thyme, white pepper and garlic. Herbs de provence are spice mixtures in two varieties often used in cooking seafood: either thyme, marjoram, rosemary and savory, or tarragon, chervil, fennel and lavender.

Vegetable Spices
Zucchinis and other squash in French cooking are often seasoned with combinations of clove, thyme, basil, garlic, nutmeg, parsley and chives. Thyme and bay leaf are favored for potatoes, and many tomato-based dishes rely on garlic, parsley, brewer’s yeast, oregano, thyme and basil.

Spices for Fruit
Various fruits are used for sauces and deserts. Favored spices include mint and vanilla. Bananas are cooked with ginger and rum extract.  In Canadian/American-French cooking, cinnamon is often used with apples, but this is not so in traditional French cuisine.

Dessert Spices
From chocolate cakes to fruit crumbles, French desserts are flavored with many spices. These include: vanilla, almond extract, lemon and orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom, salt–and, surprisingly, pepper.

Bouquet Garni
A French herbal mixture. It consists of a collection of herbs, gathered together and tied into a bundle or sachet in cheesecloth, or directly tied together when using fresh herbs. It is used to enhance the flavor of stews, broths or stocks

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