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Uses of Thyme in the Cuisine

Updated on September 8, 2011

Thyme retains its flavor on drying better than many other herbs,  and while flavorful it does not overpower and blends well with other herbs and spices.It is widely used in cooking to impart its flavor even when used dry or powdered.

The herb is a basic ingredient in Arab, , Indian, Italian, French, Albanian, Persian, Portuguese, Assyrian, Spanish, Greek, Nigerian, and Turkish cuisines, and in those derived from them. It is also widely used in Caribbean cuisine where traditions were brought from the many homelands of this region's population.

Culinary Uses of Thyme

Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavorful but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters (leaves) spaced ½ to 1" apart.

Usually when a recipe specifies 'bunch' or 'sprig' it means the whole form; when it specifies spoons it means the leaves that are removed from the stem. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme. Estimate that 6 sprigs will yield one tablespoon of leaves. The dried equivalent is 1:3, so substitute 1 teaspoon of dried or ¾ tsp of ground thyme for 6 small sprigs.

Bouquet Garni

The bouquet garni (French for "garnished bouquet") is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is boiled with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption.

There is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most recipes include parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, celery, leek, parsley stem, peppercorns, savory and tarragon. Traditionally, the aromatics are bound within leek leaves, though a coffee filter and butcher twine can be used instead of leek leaves.

Dishes made with a bouquet garni include Beef borguignon, Pot au feu, Brown Windsor soup, Poule au pot, Carbonnade flamande, Lapin chasseur Blanquette de veau, Ossobuco, Bouillabaisse.

Herbes de Provence

Provençal herbs is a mixture of dried herbs from Provence invented in the 1970s. The standard mixture typically contains savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and lavender flowers and other herbs. The proportions vary by manufacturer. Thyme usually dominates the taste produced by the herb mixture.

Herbes de Provence are used to flavor grilled foods such as fish and meat, as well as vegetable stews. The mixture can be added to foods before or during cooking or mixed with cooking oil prior to cooking so as to infuse the flavor into the cooked food. They are rarely added after cooking is complete.


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