Fines Herbes: A Fresh Look at a Classic Combination

| February/March 2007

  • Chives is one of the classic French seasoning blend fines herbes.

Fines Herbes Recipes

• Red Snapper in Parchment with Fines Herbes
• Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Fines Herbes 

Fines herbes, the classic French seasoning blend made of equal parts parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil, is a perfect reason to grow herbs year-round. All four ingredients are at their best fresh and lose most of their flavor when dried. And while parsley, chives and tarragon are available fresh in many supermarkets today, chervil has such delicate leaves that you’ll rarely see it for sale in the produce aisle. These four herbs are easy to grow, do well in containers and indoors, and taste divine when partnered in the traditional blend.

Fines herbes (pronounced feen erbs) combines a hint of onion flavor from the chives with a subtle anise aroma from the tarragon and chervil and a fresh green note from the parsley. But what makes the blend a classic is that the ingredients combine to create a taste that is unlike any of the individual herbs. Use fines herbes to bring out the sweetness of mildly flavored, cream-based recipes while also adding an intriguing savory note. Traditionally added to egg, dairy, and seafood dishes, fines herbes is also delicious with potatoes, rice and fresh corn.

Some recipes for fines herbes add other herbs to the classic four. However, most of these add-ons—among them thyme, marjoram, cilantro and basil—have bold flavors that can overpower the other tastes, so I think it’s best to stick with the classic four. These herbs lose most of their delicate flavor if they are exposed to heat for more than a few minutes. Add them at the end of cooking, or use them in dishes that do not cook longer than 15 minutes.

Grow Your Own French Flavor

You can grow these four plants together in a spot where they receive a few hours of direct light but are shaded during the hottest part of the day (although chives, parsley and tarragon prefer full sun). Outdoors, they do well in the cool temperatures of early spring and late autumn, as long as nighttime temperatures are not below freezing. In areas with mild winters you might be able to harvest them outdoors throughout the year. Grown indoors, all four need a bright, sunny window.

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