Cooking With Chervil: The Dos and Don’ts

Chervil is a herb in the Apiaceae family, making it a relative of parsley and cilantro. Chervil has a distinctive flavor profile and certain visual characteristics that separate it from its relatives. Chervil can be difficult to use in the sense that you can easily miss what makes it a great ingredient. If you are unfamiliar with the herb, below are some dos and don’ts of chervil that you can use as guidelines on how to use it.

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Do use chervil to make a variation of Béarnaise sauce.

You can use chervil to make a lighter-tasting version of the French classic Béarnaise sauce. Béarnaise sauce is a daughter sauce of the iconic Hollandaise sauce. Traditionally, Bearnaise sauce is flavored with the herb tarragon. Tarragon is known to have a licorice or anise flavor, which is also the main flavor note in chervil. Chervil makes a good substitute because it has the right flavor, and it is also a staple of French cuisine, just like tarragon.

Do add chervil at the end of your food’s cooking time.

Chervil’s flavor is not as assertive as the flavors of most other herbs, which means that it won’t stand up to extensive exposure to heat. You can’t afford to use it the way you would use tarragon or basil. If you must add chervil to a cooked dish, the best time is right after you have removed the dish from the heat and just before you serve it. Chervil makes a great edible garnish.

Do use chervil in egg dishes.

Egg dishes cook quickly, which means that you won’t cook away chervil’s light flavor. One of the classic applications for the fines herbes blend — featuring chervil — is an omelet called omelette aux fines herbes. If you don’t want to make an omelet, just sprinkle some chopped chervil over your scrambled eggs.

Do use chervil in your French herb blends.

Chervil is associated primarily — if not entirely — with French and French-style cuisine. Chervil is not widely used in many food cultures, even in Europe. Mainly, you will see it used in the French fines herbes blend and herbes de Provence. One of chervil’s other names is French parsley, which indicates how closely connected it is to France’s food culture.

Do use chervil in salads.

Chervil works best if you never cook it at all. It is an attractive and flavorful addition to green salads. You can pair it with strong-tasting greens like arugula and parsley.

Do use chervil to complement seafood.

The anise seed flavor is considered an excellent complement to fish, in the same way that fennel — another licorice-flavored herb — and fish is a classic combination in French cuisine. With chervil, the lighter the fish the better, since the herb’s flavor is on the subtle side.

Don’t eat chervil if it has blossomed.

If your chervil has little white flowers, this means that it has matured past the point where it will taste good. You can still use mature chervil as a garnish, but it won’t bring an enjoyable flavor to your food.

Don’t use dried chervil if you can help it.

Chervil does not have a flavor profile that stands up well to being dried. While you can find dried chervil sold by some retailers, this is not the ideal form in which to consume the herb.