In modern times we tend to keep our food and our medicines separate, but that was not always the case. The ancient Greeks and Romans were less strict about what was tasty and what would heal you, and would use chervil for both purposes.
Known for fine red or white wine, French cuisine has added many distinct flavors to the world’s palette, some of which are less well recognized. Chervil in particular, and the fines herbes blend of herbs, are part of the unique flavor of many French dishes that have helped to shape global cuisine. Despite its important role in many recipes, chervil itself is not well known to many Americans.
What Does Chervil Taste Like?
Now known for its place in French cooking, Anthriscus cerefolium, commonly known as chervil or French parsley, is a member of the fine herbs mixture that is a mainstay of French cooking. Chervil is a versatile herb and is used in everything from rich Béarnaise sauce to omelets and even chervil soup. With a flavor that mixes hints of parsley, tarragon, and even a touch of the licorice taste of anise, fresh chervil helps to make up that indefinable essence of French cuisine.
Part of the allure of chervil is its flexibility. It can be found in all kinds of dishes either alone or in concert with other herbs and spices. Chervil shines in lighter sauces and herb butters, and it pairs well with mild cheeses. When it comes to pairing with proteins, chicken, white fish, eggs, and even steaks can benefit from the complex flavor of chervil in sauces and dry rubs. Chervil also stands out when seasoning spring vegetables and potatoes. Even dishes that most Americans would not associate with France can benefit, like chervil pesto, can be captivating and delicious.
Is Chervil the Same as Parsley?
Though often mistaken for parsley, chervil is a different plant altogether. Visually similar to cilantro, chervil leaves are small, curled, and look something like carrot leaves rather than flat-leaf parsley. Its delicate flavor can be lost during long periods of cooking, so this culinary herb is often added at the last minute in cooking or even as a garnish. When picking bunches of chervil, it is important to avoid wilted or browned leaves as is the case with any fresh herb. If chervil plants have started to sprout small white flowers, they will have developed a bitter taste and should not be used in cooking.
You may not be able to find chervil plants at your local grocery store, but they can readily be grown in an herb garden in most temperate climates. Chervil is an annual herb that is often harvested in the late spring in warmer climates, but in cooler climates it can be found throughout the summer. With the aid of greenhouses, it can even be harvested into the late fall.
Like cilantro, chervil does not last long after it is harvested. Keeping it stored in a damp paper towel or standing up with its stems in an inch or two of water will help, but the delicate flavor of this herb does not last long. It takes careful preparation to retain the subtle anise flavor of chervil when dehydrating it, but dried versions of this herb can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores. If prepared carefully, chopped chervil leaves can be frozen for long periods of time and only thawed when needed.
Cooking with Chervil
Food trends come and go, but attention to detail never goes out of style. As consumers continue to look for new and more invigorating flavors, authentically replicating the flavors of different cuisines takes a more careful approach than may have been necessary in the past. Trying to replace unique ingredients with mixtures of other spices and herbs will only get you so far toward replicating a beloved dish found elsewhere in the world.
French cooking is known for intense attention to detail and exacting preparations that most home cooks, or even professional chefs, might shy away from. Despite this, the enduring appeal of a properly made omelet or a delicately crafted pan sauce helps to keep diners enthralled with French cuisine. It should be no surprise that the exacting combinations of flavors demanded in many of these dishes would require particular ingredients to get everything just right.
In food production, bringing the essence of an expertly prepared and exacting dish to grocery store shelves or commercial kitchens means not cutting corners. If you have a recipe that calls for chervil, you can create a similar flavor by mixing other fresh herbs and spices like parsley, tarragon, and fennel, but the authentic flavor of chervil is as unmistakable as it is delicate.
At Silva, we maintain a product list that covers the essentials like onions, peppers, and tomatoes, and we also give our partners options like chervil that can open up the wonder of specific regional cuisine. Turning casual consumers into dedicated purchasers of your products means infusing your dishes with the subtlety and nuance people expect. With our long list of products, Silva gives you the ingredients you need to expertly craft whatever flavor you are looking for.
If you have been looking to add depth and nuance to dishes in your product line, contact a member of our customer relationship team today. You can also begin testing out new recipes with samples of our high-quality ingredients.