Tips from the 212 Kitchen “Fresh Herbs”
I was approached the other day, by a regular customer who asked about fresh herbs: She grows them and loves how they smell, but “never knows when or how to use them”.
There has been a resurgence of the “farm-fresh” food ethic over the last few decades. And, gastronomical vernacular like “Slow-Food” and “Farm-to-Table” have helped carve a plight for the movement that was stalled during the Industrial Era. With that, Farmer’s Markets are now what is “chic”, and somehow chefs are being labeled “the new rock-stars”…amusing to me, as “cool” is hardly the adjective I would use to describe myself. But, it is reassuring that more and more customers are fed-up with mediocrity, demanding ethical production of their core food ingredients, and are willing to pay extra for them.
The other trend that has “boomeranged” its way into mainstream food is (Minimalism). Chefs and restaurateurs across the globe are using all of their resources to acquire the best ingredients available to them, and presenting them simply. (If you have purchased a beautiful organic chicken from a local farm and, paid (extra) for it…don’t cloud its quality with a lot of fussy techniques.) A humanely raised chicken, seasoned and roasted properly is a virtuous thing, in itself! To put it plainly, let the ingredients that you have so thoughtfully chosen (speak for themselves)! The same “school of thought” should apply to fresh herbs.
Fresh herbs have some of the most recognizable aromas, flavors and textures in food, today. And, the same minimalism that applies to other fresh ingredients should apply to them: “Fresh is Best”. With that, fresh herbs are at their utmost quality when they are used to finish a dish. When you cook a fresh herb (especially in liquid) too long, its flavor can dissipate and even bitter the finished product. So, experiment with these special ingredients, adding them to your dish right before service. I.e. Instead of putting your parsley and thyme in the stock-pot while you simmer your chicken soup, add them fresh 10-15 minutes or even seconds before serving. I think you will find the results dramatic.
I urge you to stay enthusiastic and positive in your cooking experiments as many guarded cooking techniques were learned as a result of failures, first! And, come see us soon in the Bistro, because we want to cook for you!
Chef Sal @ Bistro 212