When it comes to cooking, I am all about creating dishes that are packed with flavor. I love incorporating fresh spices and herbs into my recipes because they not only enhance the flavor, but also aid in the creation of unique and interesting dishes. Over time as I have continued to improve my skills as home cook, there have been some great tips and techniques that I have learned along the way. These techniques are super easy to include in your recipes and make a huge difference with the overall flavor profile of final products/dishes (especially soups and roasted chicken and turkey).
A bouquet garni is a selection of various herbs and other aromatic plants that are tied together with kitchen string for easy removal during cooking, after the desired flavor has been extracted. A bouquet garni is a staple ingredient that I use to flavor my various soup, stew and roast chicken recipes. According to the Professional Chef (*a textbook used by Culinary Institute of America Students, and a favorite resource of mine), a standard bouquet garni consists of:
- 1 sprig thyme
- 3 or 4 parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 or 3 leek leaves and/or 1 celery stalk, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
- 1 parsnip, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
I will be the first to admit that this is a lot to have on hand, especially given that you are only going to be using a small quantity of each ingredient. I really am not a fan of wasting food, so I have come up with an alternative Bouquet Garni option. What I like to do is purchase the Poultry Blend fresh herb package (contains Rosemary, Thyme and Sage) and tie the contents of the package together with kitchen string. This makes for a wonderful flavor enhancing bundle that you can throw in a soup you are making or even in the cavity of a chicken or turkey that you are roasting. My version of the bouquet garni is something I would definitely recommend trying in your next recipe. It really makes a difference in the flavor and is so easy to do!
Mirepoix is the French name for a combination of onions, carrots and celery (aka the holy trinity of aromatics). Just like the bouquet garni, I love using a mirepoix whenever I am making a soup or roasting a chicken. The additional flavor and color that a mirepoix brings to the dish is unreal! It can really take your flavor profile to the next level and again, so easy to do!
Classic Mirepoix Recipe
- 2 Parts Onion
- 1 Part Celery
- 1 Part Carrots
If making a white stock or cream soup, use the White Mirepoix Recipe:
- 1 Part/4oz Onion
- 1 Part/4oz Celery or Celeriac
- 1 Part/4oz Parsnip
- 1 Part/4oz Leek
**For more information on the other types of mirepoix combinations, check out the Professional Chef
When cooking a soup, I will start out by sweating down a diced mirepoix and when roasting a chicken I like to fill the base of the roasting pan with chunkier mirepoix pieces. Whether you are directly incorporating the mirepoix (ex. in a soup) or indirectly (ex. roasting a chicken), these aromatics are a "must" in my recipes.
Parmesan Cheese Rind
Parmesan cheese rinds make for a fabulous flavor enhancer when cooking soups. Simply add a rind as soon as the liquid in your soup comes to a boil (*if using a crockpot to make soup it's ok to add the rind at the beginning when everything is still cold) and let the rind simmer throughout the duration of the soups cooking. The heat from the cooking will cause the parmesan cheese rind to slowly release rich and nutty flavor notes into your soup, leaving you with a finished product that is bursting with wonderful flavor. Just remember to remove the rind before serving the soup! In addition to cutting the rind right off of the parmesan cheese block, you can also find parmesan cheese rinds for sale at cheese shops or in the cheese section at some grocery stores. Un-used rinds will keep for a long time and can be frozen or refrigerated. This is a great use for something that would normally be discarded.
All three flavor enhancing techniques discussed in this post are easy to do, provide great flavor for your recipes and promote minimal wasting of food. Try one or all of these techniques the next time you make a soup or roast a chicken. At the very least, you can definitely count on seeing these techniques in recipes featured on Redefining Domestics.