Bouquet Garni: The Iconic French Herb Mix To Experiment With

Somewhere, in a luminous corner of the supermarket where all fresh herbs exist (especially herbs that are underrated), a home cook faces one of the most important decisions of their culinary journey: What herb to grab and why. As the automatic sprinklers mist and snap the average shopper out of the herbaceous trance, reality strikes — they don't know where to begin. Maybe, just maybe, that shopper is you. On a quest for the right seasoning to enhance your next meal, rather than going for delicious Italian seasoning, a look into the historically amazing world of French cuisine might guide you in the right direction.

Fresh herbs are precious ingredients that must be used to their highest potential — and honestly, that's stressful. Nothing is worse than investing in a bundle of fresh rosemary, sage, or dill, and having it waste away in the fridge because you didn't know where to begin. It happens to the best of us. No matter what you're cooking, start with France's most iconic approach to herbs: The bouquet garni, a delicate blend of fresh herbs, tied together and easy to remove once the dish has been cooked. Best of all, chefs can use any number of herbs or spices to create different flavor profiles for various dishes.

How to use herbs in any dish

Herbs can be broken down into two helpful categories: Woody herbs like rosemary and thyme, and soft herbs like parsley and basil. The difference between the two lies in the way they are intended to flavor a meal, and if they can be consumed whole. Chef Jamie Oliver explains that woody herbs are tougher, too powerful to be eaten raw, and usually only intended to add flavor, so they are best removed before serving. Soft herbs can be eaten raw, stirred into cooked food, and used as a garnish.

Knowing the flavors you enjoy and how they can complement the components in a dish can usually direct you to the herbs you'd need. Across cultures, the intentional combination of spices and herbs often creates the signature of a region's offerings or approach to food. In French cuisine, some herbs and spices are essential to any dish, but there's one unique way they are used that can transform any meal.

How to make bouquet garni

Bouquet garni is a mixture of fresh herbs that are bundled and tied then cooked together with the other ingredients. There are many reasons to use bouquet garni to improve your next dish — whether that's being able to challenge the palette of anyone who tries your dish, giving it that certain je ne sais quoi, or — more importantly — easily removing inedible woody herbs and spices for an improved texture, taste, and appearance of your final dish. Making bouquet garni is easier than you think.

Gather fresh herbs from the store or your garden and any extra flavorful ingredients — like spices, aromatics, or items that are usually thrown away like the tough outer leaves of leeks – in one tight bundle or pile. Next, figure out the best way to encase and secure these ingredients, typically bundled up in kitchen twine or wrapped tightly in cheesecloth. Once secure, add the bouquet garni to your next dish as it cooks and be sure to remove the bundle before serving.