Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Need to Know: The 4 French culinary fines herbes, and a Recipe

Much virtue in herbs; little in men. – Benjamin Franklin

Photo: opacity, Flickr ccl
I mentioned these in passing in my last post so I had better explain myself, as there can be some confusion around what the term means. These classic herbs can all be easily grown in your garden, and thus give the advantage of harvesting only what you need at any given time for your recipe. Always fresh, and no waste.

The four fines herbes in classic French cooking are:
Parsley. Photo: cathepsut, Flickr ccl

  • parsley
  • chives
  • tarragon
  • chervil

These fines herbes play an important part in classical French cooking. The above list was the original meaning of the term. In earlier times chopped mushrooms and/or truffles were also often included.  

Chives. Photo: Crystl, Flickr ccl
These are not bouquet garni herbs, which are stronger flavoured and release their flavour during long cooking. Most bouquet garni combinations include parsley, thyme and bay leaf but can also include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savoury and tarragon.

To add confusion, fines herbes today often refers solely to parsley, so an Omelette avec Fines Herbes is usually an omelette with parsley and salt and pepper, plus other ingredients if desired.

Omelettes are not as difficult as some people make them to be if you follow one simple rule: have confidence in yourself. You CAN do it. Julia Child had a great segment on her PBS show where she walked through the steps to the perfect omelette...with parsley, I believe.

My directions for making a perfect omelette can be found here.

So make sure your recipe is clear. Is it fines herbes, bouquet garni or parsley they intend you use?

Here's recipe to try that uses some of the fines herbes, plus lots of other company. It's a rolled omelette so you have to actually flip the whole thing half way through, but directions to make that step easier are included.

Tarragon. Photo: Jasmine&Roses, Flcikr ccl
Rolled Omelette with Prosciutto, Chèvre and Fine Herbs
Serves 4 (sorry, no picture...yet)

6 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon EACH of parsley, chervil, mint and coriander (dried is fine)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly cracked
2 tsp butter
4-6 slices prosciutto
1/2 cup crumbled chèvre

Chervil. Photo: The Croft, Flickr ccl
Mix together the eggs, water and herbs and beat well.

Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet. When hot, add in the eggs and let cook on the one side until browned and the top is somewhat set.

Take a plate and put over the skillet. Flip the omelette onto the plate. Then slide the omelette back into the pan. Top with the chèvre and let brown slightly on the other side. The chèvre should be warmed.

Move the omelette to a flat surface. Cover the top side of the omelette with the prosciutto and roll up, jellyroll style. Slice into four pieces.


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