Chervil: quickly savor this delicate herb

June 30th, 2013
chervil's delicate flavor warms the palate...

Chervil’s delicate flavor warms the palate…

Is there enough time – even with longer days – to savor all that this grab-it-while-in-season offers?  Of the fresh herbs that are in abundance now, the vagabond’s attention has turned to feathery green fronds of chervil.  One good thing about our long, cool springtime has been an extended flourishing of chervil: normally, it has bolted and gone to seed as hot weather arrives.  But what is so special about this ancient plant?  Anthriscus cerefolium, known to us as “sweet cicely” or chervil, was long a symbol of new life and sincerity.  Myrrhis, its ancient name, reflects the similarity of its essential oils to the scent of myrrh.  It was long thought to aid digestion (as many herbs do) as well as sharpening the wit and making the old feel younger.  Chervil warms the palate, and in a decoction it can soothe tired eyes.  Not only does the plant itself cringe and bolt in the heat, but the leaves themselves lose flavor when heated, so are best chopped and stirred into sauces or soups just before serving.

Now is the time to season new potatoes with chervil butter or mince the delicate fronds to fold  into an omelette.  A classic Béarnaise sauce has a distinctive hint of anise with its essential teaspoon of finely chopped chervil stirred in before serving – and a velvety Ravigote sauce for fish is improved with chervil.  In fact, why not tuck chervil into trout before poaching them breifly in white wine?  Mix it with soft cheeses to spread on toast for lunch or snip chervil into dips for crudités with an apéro.  Whenever I toss a salad of pasta or greens, adding chervil is a delicate touch of this evolving green season.

July:  more savory herbs to follow….the best of Basil, and Rosemary