Behind the Dish: Salmon Provençal

What makes James Beard’s Salmon Provençal so Provençal? Well, the cooking of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France is distinctive in that it is heavily influenced by Mediterranean cooking. That means hot spices and seafood play a large role and, because the region is mountainous rather than farm country, dairy products figure in only a small fashion (such as in the use of goat cheeses). What you will find in Provençal cuisine is an emphasis on garlic, olive oil and olives, and the herbes de Provence, including savory, fennel, basil, thyme and lavender.

James Beard’s Salmon Provençal uses several elements of this cuisine — salmon (the seafood), olive oil and garlic — and we’ve added another — basil. Otherwise, our recipe is quite similar to his. It involves preparation of a rich sauce created by sautéeing onions and garlic in olive oil, then making a roux with butter and flour and adding white wine, parsley and basil. To this chopped tomatoes are added and stewed until the sauce becomes thick and full of flavor — a perfect complement for the baked salmon fillets.

We’re serving our salmon with a vegetable accompaniment of zucchini, yellow squash and spinach, on a bed of pappardelle pasta.

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