French in a Flash: Provençal Sablés Recipe

Photograph: Kerry Saretsky

When I took Air France's navette shuttle plane from Nice to Paris last month, I was enchanted. The male flight attendant paid me almost medieval-level chivalrous courtesies. Women traveled with dogs on leashes and in the laps, as they ate little crumbs from their fingers. And when they came through the aisle offering drinks, they also offered shortbread, with the simple question: "Sucré ou salé?" Sweet, or savory? I said sweet, but my accent's not perfect, and the savory somehow landed next to my sparkling mineral water on my tray table.

I took a bite of a salty shortbread cookie, known as a sablé in French, studded with fennel seeds. They were so good that I thought perhaps my knight of a flight attendant had purposefully misheard me and offered me the better choice. They were sophisticated, simple, and satisfying, with the (albeit beloved) greasiness of chips. Here is my version done with salty, nutty Parmesan, and earthy rosemary and thyme. These flavors of Provence go perfectly as an apéro along with a bottle (or two) of Côtes de Provence rosé. Bon app.

Recipe Facts



Active: 5 mins
Total: 25 mins
Makes: 36 sablés

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  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely grated good Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


  1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, salt, cheese, and herbs until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add the egg. Mix until just combined. It will look a bit curdled.

  2. Add the flour, and run the machine just until the dough comes together (you can’t see any dry flour), and not a second more. Turn the dough out onto a big sheet of plastic wrap, and knead two to three times, so the dough has no air pockets or cracks. Roll the dough, using the plastic wrap, into a 10-inch log. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the ragged ends off the log of dough, and then slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake until the edges of the sablés are just golden, 15-17 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes outside to cool, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve with lots of rosé!

Special equipment

stand mixer