Monday, September 28, 2009
Thanks to Marcelle in (yes!!) Provence for sending me this useful snippet of information!
What is a bouquet garni?
French : bouquet, bunch + garni, past participle of garnir, to garnish
Bouquet garni is a bunch of aromatic herbs used to flavor stocks, soups, casseroles, and other liquid-based dishes. There is no such thing as a standard recipe, although most variations begin with fresh parsley stems, sprigs of thyme, and a dried bay leaf, all wrapped together with kitchen twine. Possible additions include rosemary, celery (leaves and/or ribs), the green part of the leek, tarragon, savory, or fennel. In some parts of France the mixture may contain spices (especially whole peppercorns or cloves) as well as a slice of bacon to serve as a wrapper.
The untied end of the string is often left long enough to wrap around the handle of the pot; when cooking is finished the herb bundle is then easily retrieved and discarded. If dried herbs are used, the mixture is traditionally enclosed in a small piece of cheesecloth and tightly tied to prevent leakage. The main reason for this is aesthetic—herb flecks can mar an otherwise clear broth. However, you can omit the cheesecloth, since many clear broths are poured through a fine-mesh strainer anyway.
Here's how to make your own herbes de Provence
In Provence they sell dried, herbes de Provence in little terracotta pots topped with the local patterned cloth, or in brightly coloured bags of the same material.
Make, and use, this secret blend with fresh herbs - it proves that fresh is always best. It also proves the culinary guideline of “There are no rules” when it comes to using herbs to enhance your cooking.
Mix one tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh oregano, savory, thyme, marjoram and rosemary.
This traditional French bouquet garni will add real French flavour to any Provencal dish. If you’re not into French cuisine use it to complement your salads, vegetables, meat dishes and even hot desserts.
Fines herbes consists of tarragon, parsley, chervil and chives. Although the blend is sometimes used dried, none of the herbs have much flavour in the dried form.
Maximum flavour is obtained by using fresh herbs. Rather omit a herb that is not available fresh than to substitute it with dried herb.
All four herbs used in fines herbes have subtle flavours that blend well together and complement and enhance each other’s flavour. The subtle nature of the blend also ensures that it does not overpower any dish.
To make your own fines herbes, finely chop equal parts of tarragon, parsley, chervil and chives. Fines herbes should be added to cooked dishes at the end of the cooking period as the herbs, with the exception of tarragon, do not stand up well to heat. For the best results, sprinkle the mixture over dishes as a garnish, or place it in a bowl on the table.
Fines herbes are excellent when sprinkled over green salads. It goes particularly well with egg dishes, especially omelet's. Use it to garnish light vegetable or simple cream-based soups. Chicken, especially when poached, greatly benefits when sprinkled with this blend before being served. Fines herbes are excellent with simple fish dishes. Steamed vegetables, like beans, marrows and broccoli becomes a delicacy when flavoured with fines herbes.