a bouquet garni – detail with a difference



a bouquet garni


Ce sont les petits choses qui font toute la différence (it is the little things that make all the difference).   In life and cooking the details matter.   A bouquet garni (a little gathering of herbs) is a detail that makes all the difference.

A bouquet garni imparts flavor to its surrounding and typically used in anything that simmers (i.e., braises, stocks, and soups).  A kitchen string keeps the herbs in a bundle and is usually tied to the handle of a stockpot (so when the garni has done its job, you grab the string and toss the bouquet).

Traditionally a bouquet garni is Italian parsley, thyme, and bay leaves wrapped inside a leek.  However, the combinations are endless (some chefs will wrap the herbs in a slice of bacon or add a piece of citrus peel).  A sachet is used like a bouquet garni but the herbs and spices (i.e., peppercorns, juniper berries) are placed inside a piece of muslin or cheesecloth.   Sachets are preferable if you are using dried herbs and small spices.  A bouquet garni (or sachet) should be small so not as to overwhelm the food, but create a subtle aroma.

This week’s simple pleasure is making a bouquet garni for use not only as a flavor enhancer but as a place-setting/party favor and a host gift.  The bouquets can be used fresh or when they dry out.  This project is easy to do.  Moreover, it adds a personal, fresh touch to your dinner (or a thoughtful host gift) and is something you can do with your children to incorporate them in preparing for the festivities.   Focusing on the detail of a few fresh herbs this Thanksgiving will impart more than flavor, it will impart smiles.

Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !



bouquet garni

a place setting and a party favor

There are a number of bouquet garni combinations you can make but some fresh herbs dry better then others.  Chervil, dill, tarragon, parsley, lemon verbena, lovage, all of which are wonderful for  fish and lighter favors, tend to fall apart when dried. On the other hand, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, marjoram, savory and sage dry the best.   This bouquet uses thyme, bay leaves and sage all of which go well with the flavors of the season.

what you need:

fresh thyme
fresh sage
fresh bay leaves
kitchen string
piece of paper
a sharpie or pen

how to:

  • Make A Bouquet.  Gather 4-5 branches of thyme, a cluster of sage, and a cluster of bay leaves (you can also use marjoram or oregano if you want).
  • Tie.  Hold the herbs in a small bundle and tie the kitchen string around them about one inch from the bottom.
  • Trim.  Trim the herbs with scissors to make the bottom even.  Cut one side of the kitchen string and leave the other side long.
  • Make A Name Card.  Use a hole-punch to punch a hole in a small piece of paper.  Write your guest’s name on the paper.   Attach the tag to the bouquet with a piece of ribbon.
  • Place Setting.  Lay the bouquet across the napkin or above the plate.

* * *

a host gift


what you need:

fresh thyme
fresh sage
fresh bay leaves
kitchen string

how to:

  • Gather Herbs.  Gather 4-5 branches of thyme and sage leaves.   Lay on top of 2 large bay leaves (the shiny side of the bay leaves should face down, away from the thyme and sage).

  • Roll And Tie.  Wrap the two bay leaves around the thyme and sage.  Wrap one piece of sage horizontally around the rolled bay leaves.  Tie the kitchen string around the bundle, on top of the sage.

  • Trim. Trim the herbs with scissors to make the bottom even.  Cut one side of the kitchen string and leave the other side long.
  • Package.  Place a minimum of three in a box or a decorative bag (or a cigar box).



* * *

a wine glass tag

You have seen those little trinkets that go on the bottom of a wine or champagne glass to identify the guest’s beverage.  If you have left over bay leaves, you can easily make these beverage tags (kids love to do this).

what you need:

fresh bay leaves (can you use dried)
hole punch
sharpie marker
kitchen string (or twine)

  • Make The Tag. Punch a small hole in the bay leaf toward the stem end.  Thread a  3 inch piece of kitchen twine or string through the hole.
  • Write Guest’s Name. Using the sharpie, write the guest’s name on the leaf.
  • Attach. Tie the tag around the stem of a glass.


last notes on fresh herbs and host gifts

Instead of brining a bottle of wine this year, give your cooking host a gift that will continue to give.   Place a small bay tree or a potted collection of fresh herbs inside in a stockpot.  You can add a bag of special salt such as Sel de Guerande or Fleur de Sel and peppercorns to the stockpot to round out the seasoning gift theme.

where to buy

Fresh herbs are found at most  grocery stores, farmer’s markets and some nurseries.  If you do not have the time to make a bouquet garni, you can buy them dried.  I like the ones sold by Oliver & Co.  You can purchase them on their website. www.oliviersandco.com

food for thought . . .

Bay leaves were used by the Greeks and Romans
as a symbol of wisdom and glory
and they made wreaths of bay leaves for their
poets and athletes to wear

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