A bouquet garni is a little bundle of herb and spices tied together with twine or wrapped in cheesecloth. Add these packets to soups, stocks, sauces, braises, or any other dish with a lot of liquid and a long simmer. A bouquet garni keeps all of the herbs together, making them easy to remove. This way, we can use the full fresh herb without having to strip the leaves from the twigs. And you also don't have to fish around for the bay leaf before serving a stew.

The standard trio are parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. Use four or five parsley stems, a sprig or two of thyme, and a bay leaf.

Other aromatics can give your dish a more complex flavour. A few whole cloves add a touch of warmth and sweetness; a strip of citrus zest enhances stews and braises; a sprig of rosemary, sage, or savory provides a Mediterranean tone; and a few cloves of garlic intensifies almost any selection of herbs.

You can tie a bouquet garni together with twine, but if you're using small spices like peppercorns or cloves, or if you're worried about thyme leaves getting into a clear soup, you should bind everything in a more secure wrapping. Cheesecloth is ideal (some chefs call this kind of bouquet garni a sachet), but scrubbed leek leaves or wide celery ribs also work. If the leek leaves are especially thick and difficult to fold, soften them first by dropping them briefly in boiling water or zapping them in the microwave. Just pack the herbs and spices within the leek leaves or between two pieces of celery and tie them together. Bury it toward the bottom of the pot to extract the most flavour.

Some people leave a few inches of twine on the bouquet garni and tie the end to the pot handle so it's easier to retrieve.

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