Chervil looks a little like flat-leaf parsley (a.k.a. Italian or French parsley) combined with cilantro. It has the same frilly leaves that can be flat or tightly curled. The big difference is that chervil leaves are smaller and thinner than those of cilantro and parsley. You will see chervil used a lot in French cuisine; it has a licorice-like anise flavor profile that is reminiscent of tarragon. Let’s take a look at some of the classic uses of this fantastic herb.
Table of Contents
- For egg dishes
- In salads
- In a fines herbes blend
- In a Bearnaise sauce
- Ravigote sauce
- Chervil sauce
- In vinegar
- With cooked vegetables
- Compound butter
- On fish
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For egg dishes
Chervil goes well with egg-focused dishes. Egg dishes are usually mild and therefore serve as a great background for chervil’s delicate flavor. Sprinkle chopped chervil (the finer the chop, the better) atop your scrambled eggs or in your omelet. It also makes a great addition to quiche.
Chervil is a great green element for tossed salads. Its flavor complements those of the more traditional salad greens. Chervil works well in potato salads as well — its flavor pairs well with those of mayonnaise and it can add an appetizing green color to an otherwise pale dish.
In a fines herbes blend
Chervil is one of the French fines herbes blend that also includes tarragon, chives, and parsley. Combined with these other herbs, chervil adds a fresh and aromatic element to the classic French seasoning blend. The basic fines herbes recipe is simple. Combine the four herbs (chervil, tarragon, chives, and parsley) in equal parts. Try it with omelettes, salads, soups, sauces, and grilled meats (just to name a few potential uses.)
In a Bearnaise sauce
Along with shallots and peppercorns, chervil is one of the main flavors in Bearnaise sauce. Bearnaise sauce is one of the fundamental French sauces and is derived from hollandaise sauce. Bearnaise is made from butter emulsified with egg yolks and has a thick, creamy consistency. Bearnaise sauce is traditionally used on steak.
Also known as sauce ravigote, ravigote sauce is another classic acidic French sauce that features the fines herbes; some recipes for it also call for mustard. Chervil, as it uses fines herbes, is one of the key ingredients. You use the ravigote sauce on mild meats and shellfish.
The most basic of all the chervil sauces, sauce cerfeuil, involves combining the herb with cream. Chervil sauce is usually paired with chicken or other poultry. It is also a popular option for serving on scallops.
Herbed vinegars are popular ingredients in French cuisine and chervil is one of the herbs that work best for flavoring vinegar. Placing the chervil in white wine vinegar preserves its flavors and increases the number of ways that you can use it. You can make mayonnaise with chervil vinegar, a vinaigrette, or use it as a condiment.
With cooked vegetables
Chervil is commonly used to flavor vegetables. Some cooks believe that it enhances the sweetness of carrots. But it’s also quite good with potatoes, asparagus, peas, spinach, and green beans. As with any dish, it is best to add chervil near the end of the cooking time because of its mild flavor and sensitivity to heat.
Chervil’s flavor does not stand up to long cooking times; in fact, even a short cooking time might degrade its flavor and aroma. It is best to eat it raw whenever possible, so making an herbed butter with it is a good way to enjoy its flavors with grilled or steamed foods. Combine the chopped herb with softened butter and use that butter to top your fish or seasonal produce. It is great with asparagus, beets and even cabbage.
Bearnaise sauce and chervil sauce are great French options for using chervil with fish, as is a chervil compound butter; however, not all of the methods are French. A Swedish method of using the herb on fish involves combining it with creme fraiche.