Today we touch on the vast, aromatic world of Herbs - An amazing way for us flavor junkies to enhance an infuse distinct flavors to our culinary experiences.
This weeks subject comes from an inquiry by John Zabinski via my personal website - www.michaelfeker.com - where you can email any and all culinary questions and receive a personal response from me! Your fellow Fekeroodie wrote:
On April 3 on WISN you were on a cooking with herbs segment. I would like your comments on fresh versus dried herbs. Is there any real noticeable difference in flavor using either? Do you find the ratio of fresh to dry is 3 to 1 to be true?
I have a garden that I will use to grow the fresh ones and I would like to plan for the growth of fresh herbs. Which herbs should I consider for Wisconsin weather?
- John Zabinski
So let's talk Herbs, shall we!?
I only want to focus on what I know best and that is culinary related.
My humble opinion that I am strongly firm about, when it comes to cooking: dry herbs should only be used out necessity, not desire and intent. There, I said it. And I will bet all of you that you will be able to taste the difference, and let me tell you why. With that said Dry herbs have their use and that will be another blog but I use them alot for crusting and dusting. We shall talk about that at a later date.
As I said at the beginning, we cook with herbs so that we can infuse our food with a complementing flavor profile. To achieve this you need to allow the herb to release their juice, in turn aroma, in your culinary creations, then through the evaporation process or reduction you balance the intensity of the herb to please your palate.
It is difficult to achieve this result when using dried herbs. Many may say the water is gone but the flavor is still there. In my opinion, the flavors don’t even compare - the balance is different. Ask yourself, does a fresh peach taste the same as a dry peach. Or an apricot, fig, pear, apple grape/raisin for that matter.
If dried herbs are all that you have available, I suggest re-hydrating the dried herb. In the dehydrating process, the herb has lost its integrity and its pure and balanced flavor profile. Due to the chemical decomposition that the herb goes through , you will have a completely different flavor profile. To rehydrate, soak the herbs in 2 oz of Luke warm white wine for at least 1 hour. Prior to cooking, remove the herbs from the wine and chop the reconstituted herbs with some fresh curly parsley. Be sure to keep the soaking liquid for deglazing your pan while cooking!
In regards to the ratio of fresh vs. dried herbs: the reasoning behind this is because now that the herb is dehydrated it is supposedly more potent, due to the lack of water. If you have to use dry herbs, use the 1/3 ratio, but first rehydrate the herbs as describe above.
As to herbs for our area, I plant everything at home in planters and then move them in during the winter and this works great. I always grow, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cilantro and mint. I suggest you do the same, plus any other herb you may love and use most. These herbs complement many cuisines.
I hope I answered your questions, and if you have a culinary question, please contact me at www.michaelfeker.com
Ciao Ciao, touch a soul and help me fight childhood obesity.