Chervil [Anthriscus cerefolium]
This delicate, Spring herb may have you asking 'what's that?' when mentioned, but if you're a fan of French food, you are probably more familiar with it than you realize!
Here we will take a look into how to grow it & how to use it, along with some of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy it & a recipe for a tasty Warm French Potato Salad. Allons-Y!
A cousin to parsley & member of the umbelliferae family, chervil is a dainty, lacy herb that can be a challenge to track down. Here in mid-coast Maine, I know that Goranson’s Farm at the Damariscotta Farmers Market & Moose Crossing both have seedlings for sale. Sabbathday lake Shakers also offer it dried here, but fresh is definitely preferred when you can swing it! Can’t locate any near you? No worries! It is easy to grow from seed as well. Chervil is an annual herb that self-sows. It prefers a moist area that provides some shade & dappled light. We often keep a pot growing inside as well so we can have it handy year round. Cut it frequently to keep up your supply. Flavor is best if you can keep it from flowering, so nip off any blooms you see forming.
Chervil has an elegant & quite unique flavor profile. It is best to add chervil to dishes at the last minute to preserve its flavor. It lends a subtle warmth to dishes that is at-once soft, but also strong enough to hold its own. Chervil can be used this way on its own tossed with lemon as a quick side-salad, to brighten an omelette, or in a cream of chervil soup. It also plays nicely with other herbs -- most notably chives, tarragon, & parsley. Indeed, mix those four together for the classic ‘fines herbes’ blend that is so widely used in French cooking. The most well-known use of chervil is Béarnaise sauce, where it is paired with these others. [If you have not had the pleasure of Béarnaise on a nice steak, give that a go post-haste!] Chervil is often swirled into French sauces & dishes. Best uses include adding it to egg dishes, mushrooms, steak, potatoes, & fish, but let your imagination loose! Chervil is even lovely muddled in gin-cocktails!
Our family’s favorite way to enjoy it is in a Warm French Potato Salad [recipe to follow.] Here is a short list of some other really
delicious ways to enjoy it.
It is worth the effort to grow it & is sure to become a
favorite if you give it a try :
And now, without further ado, here is my recipe for a flavorful-but-simple French Potato Salad. This is a French-style potato salad-- served warm & containing NO MAYONNAISE.
Serve it with a simple grilled steak or roasted chicken & enjoy!
Warm French Potato Salad
Place potatoes, water, & salt in a large saucepan; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to medium. Simmer potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.
Meanwhile, toss shallot & herbs in a small bowl. Buzz [or whisk] garlic, reserved cooking water, vinegar, mustard, oil, & pepper in food processor [or bowl] until combined. Drizzle dressing evenly over warm potatoes; toss & allow to absorb for 10 minutes. Put potatoes in a large serving bowl; add shallot/herb mixture & gently combine to coat with rubber spatula. Serve immediately.
Well, there you have it! Take some time to track this elusive herb down & give it a spin! I hope you enjoy our recipe. Let me know how you use chervil-- I am always happy to hear of new & exciting uses for herbs & flowers, & I would love it if you would share yours with us.