Pot herbs come in many flavors and forms. The term seems to cover any combination of fresh or dried herbs used to enhance our soups and stews. It is thought that the term is French in origin. The word is that those insightful chefs named their collection of herbs after the pot in which they made their flavorful soups and stews. Speaking of French cooking, let’s talk about the pot herb ‘wannabe’ …the bouquet garni. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
The French term “bouquet garni” is translated as a “garnished bouquet” …it is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption. When using fresh herbs, they are gathered and tied into a handy little bundle or bouquet using 100% cotton kitchen string. If adding peppercorns and/or seeds, all components are placed in a cheesecloth bag. Just cut a 7-inch square of double layered 100% cotton cheesecloth. Add ingredients, then bring up the corners of the cheesecloth and tie securely with 100% cotton kitchen string …forming a little purse. If you use only dried herbs, seeds, and peppercorns, you can place all ingredients in a tea ball or bag.
The most traditional bouquet consists of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf. My personal standard is a gathering of celery leaves, long-stemmed parsley and thyme, and a serrano pepper; all are nested in several outer layers of a trimmed leek. I choose to add the bay leaves separately. You can let them loose in the soup or stew… just make a mental note of how many you’ve added. They tend to float to the top and are easily removed when the time is right.
Our friends at Better Homes & Gardens have some inspirational ideas to consider..
For Spanish-inspired bouquet garni, tie up 6 sprigs fresh oregano or marjoram; 1 serrano pepper, halved; 2 cloves garlic, sliced; the peel from one lemon cut in long wide strips; and 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns.
For North-African flavor, tie up 2 sprigs each fresh parsley and thyme; 2 bay leaves; a 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced; 3 inches stick cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon each whole black peppercorns and coriander seeds .
Whatever your favorite combination may be… this is a great way to add extra flavor to your soups and stews without the worry of a stray stem or random peppercorn.