Fines Herbes can be found dried, but many dishes can benefit by adding them fresh. The classic combination of Fine Herbes is parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives. Diets that require lower sodium intakes or no fat can benefit from adding any or all of these fresh herbs to many dishes.
These herbs can be easily used together in sauces and soups: take several sprigs of each and tie together and add to the finishing. They then can be easily removed at the end by plucking out the bundle. Fresh Fines Herbes are generally not long cooking herbs though, and are best used fresh. Create your own fines herbes by adding the following herbs in the proportions of your choosing: tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil.
Tarragon gives an anise or licorice flavor to a dish. It is made famous by béarnaise sauce, and is used in many seafood and poultry dishes. The leaves are tender and long, and can be picked off and added to salads and sprinkled on rice and vegetable dishes right before serving. Tarragon is often used to flavor vinegars, and is great for infusing fruit syrups and purees for fruit sorbets (orange and tarragon is a great combination). Tarragon stands up well to fish, meats and squashes.
Parsley: Curly and Italian
There are two basic kinds of parsley that can be found in the produce section: curly leaf and Italian flat leaf. Curly leaf parsley is the most popular variety, but if Italian flat leaf parsley is available choose that kind for better and more pronounced flavor. This herb is great added to soups, stews, sautéed vegetables and sauces. After picking all the leaves off, the stems can be tossed into stocks for cooking on the stove and with roasted vegetables that will be going into sauces. Although it is considered a base or basic herb, it is a very important element of cooking.
Chives: Herb and Flowers
Chives are the long, hollow and slender herbs that are commonly snipped. They give a faint onion flavor to dishes, and are often added to eggs, vegetables, and mixed in dressings. Chive flowers are often used in salads and for garnishing open-faced sandwiches. This herb is best used fresh but can also be found freeze-dried. Chives are easy to prepare: just chop up what you need for the dish.
This is an often overlooked herb. The flavor resembles tarragon in that it gives a light anise-like flavor to dishes. This herb is tender and fragile and is almost always used fresh. The leaves are similar in look to parsley, but much more delicate. Chervil is great added to soups and fresh vegetable dishes, and the leaves provide a nice touch to fresh mesclun salads. Chervil can also elevate a simple egg white omelet. Chopped fresh chervil is a great addition to steamed vegetables, too.
Storage of Fresh Fines Herbs
Pick these herbs right before using, or if purchasing from the market, select fresh bunches that are free of excessive moisture on the leaves. If purchasing in packages, inspect carefully. Avoid those sealed packages that have black spots on the leaves or have decaying stems. All of these herbs should be placed in fresh water for holding and can be kept in the refrigerator, changing the water when needed. Lightly cover with a plastic bag and keep away from the coldest part of the refrigerator to prevent frost. Alternately, rinse and dry the herb stems and leaves and lightly roll up in a paper towel placed in a plastic zipper bag.