Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more. This post was brought to you by our friends at Evolution Fresh, who like fresh, flavorful ingredients as much as we do.
Today: Once you get your hands on this hard-to-find herb, you'll see it's all too easy to work it into your meals.
Chervil looks similar to parsley, and they are indeed related: They both belong to the carrot family -- along with cilantro, fennel, and parsley root -- many members of which have similarly feathery tops. And if you stumble upon a fluffy pile of this lacy-leafed (1, below) herb, don’t pass it by. It seems only fair to warn you that although chervil is popular in Europe, it's going to be a challenge to procure in most parts of the U.S.
It's worth seeking out though, mainly for its subtle blend of anise and fresh grassiness (in a pleasant, sweet, springy way, not an "I just chewed on my lawn" way), but also to maintain variety in food production. If the demand isn't there for any product, it isn't going to be grown; and if it's too hard to come by, it's not going to be talked about or show up in recipes. And the cycle will continue. Chervil deserves better -- it's time to start a chervil-ution. Check your farmers market, ask your specialty grocery store to carry it if they aren't already, or try growing your own.
Once you acquire your chervil, you can start testing out its purported benefits: According to Pliny, it’s an aphrodisiac, and could also be used to cure hiccups. Folklore has it that chervil "makes one merry, sharpens the wit, and bestows youth upon the aged." Talk about a versatile herb.
More: Expand your collection of go-to herbs: Start using shiso in, well, everything.
Chervil is used in Béarnaise sauce, and is traditionally included in mesclun salad mix, so much like tatsoi, you might already be acquainted. In fact, you should start adding chervil to every one of your green salads -- it will bring them all up to Chez Panisse standards. David Lebovitz says that when he worked in the restaurant downstairs, “a handful was added to the green salads served after dinner, and customers always remarked on how especially good our salads tasted. Aside from lovely greens picked that morning, it was often flecks of chervil leaves that did the trick.”
Come springtime, chervil is one of the first available herbs, so it's no surprise that it goes well with all of spring’s darlings: asparagus, radishes, mushrooms. But it's available at other times too, and really, it works with produce in every season: from carrots and tomatoes in warmer weather to beets and cabbage in cooler seasons. Use chervil with seafood, like salmon; pair it with eggs every chance you get; and use it in any other herb-highlighting dishes, like Sauce Gribiche -- but if you’re okay with breaking the rules, we highly recommend a handful or two in green rice.
Tell us: How do you like to use chervil?
Photos by James Ransom
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