Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Bouquet Garni (bō-kāz' gär-nē') is a French term literally meaning garnished bouquet.  It is a group of herbs used for seasoning sauce, stew, broth and soup.  Traditionally, it includes fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf.  Others may include basil, burnet, chervil, peppercorns, savory, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, rosemary,and  marjoram.  Vegetables such as carrot, celery, celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes used in the bouquet although this is not the traditional recipe.  

Herbs are tied together with string so they can be removed easily at the end of the cooking. Some people wrap the herbs in a bit of cheesecloth. Others will use a small tea strainer or coffee filter.  Various bagged bouquets may be purchased ready made.   Bouquet Garni is a way of taking the herbs out of the dish before it is served.  It is easier to tie fresh herbs and bag dried herbs.  Purists argue bagging inhibits flavor.

When you're out shopping for seeds or plant sets, consider herbs for use in a bouquet.  Herbs can be picked at peak times, bags assembled and frozen for use all winter. 

Recipes will usually list the herbs to put in your bouquet.  Recipes that call for herbs as a visual addition or want the pungent taste when munching, will not want to use the bouquet.  Here's an example of a recipe using Bouquet Garni, compliments of Alton Brown:

French Onion Soup

  • 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combo of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds)

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups white wine

  • 10 ounces canned beef consume

  • 10 ounces chicken broth

  • 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best)

  • Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string

  • 1 loaf country style bread

  • Kosher salt

  • Ground black pepper

  • Splash of Cognac (optional)

  • 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese, grated

  • Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise.  Remove peel & finely slice into half moon shapes.  Melt butter (300 degrees) and add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt.  Repeat layering and salting until all onions are in the skillet.  Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15-20 minutes.  After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups.  This will take 45 minutes to 1  hr.  

    Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

    Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler. 

    Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

    Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into oven proof crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

    And that, folks, is reason enough to plant herbs this summer!    

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