Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: A French phrase for a not-so-scary technique is the key to the most flavorful braises, soups, and sauces.
Before we begin, put yourselves at ease: there is no real, recognized recipe for bouquet garni. Which means it is impossible to mess up. You may still be working on a perfect croissant, a flawless folded dumpling, but here, there is no failing. It's just not in the cards. Feel better?
Okay, let's wrap some herbs.
A bouquet garni is French for "garnished bouquet" -- it's basically a bundle of aromatic herbs (you choose), held together in some way (you choose again), used to flavor stocks, soups, and sauces. They almost always include a bay leaf or two, parsley, and thyme, but the way you hold them together is up to you. We'll cover four methods, but don't let that stop you from wrapping your herbs in, say, a few pieces of bacon. (Really.)
The Type-A Method
You're a control freak. But it's okay, because your bouquet garni will be prettier than everyone else's. Trim a leek's root end and green leaves, then make a vertical, shallow cut lengthwise and remove the first couple outer layers. Remove one more, and make sure it's clean -- this will be your wrapper. Stuff with aromatics, and wrap with butcher string. For each one of these methods, wrapping the string around the bundle multiple times before tying will result in the tightest, most secure bouquet garni.
The Rogue Method
This is the opposite end of the spectrum. While your classicist self-esteem may suffer, and you may try to discretely cover your work if there's a Type-A in sight, your soup will not. Take your herbs, make a bunch, and tie with string. It's going to be wild -- rosemary sprigs may come undone, parsley leaves may go down the wrong path. Let it happen. You can strain it all later, if you feel the need.
The Cheesecloth Method
Using dry spices? This is how to contain them so they don't fleck your soup. Wrapping everything up in a neatly tied cheesecloth pouch is especially great for soups or broths you won't be straining. Cut a swatch large enough to fit your aromatics, wrap them, and secure with butcher string.
The Tea Strainer Method
Think of this as the reusable cheesecloth method -- same principle, just with a tool you likely have hiding in a kitchen drawer. It'll work well, too, for holding spices like peppercorns and star anise. Same deal: fill, fasten, and in the pot it goes.
What do you put in your bouquet garni? We want to hear it in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom