This is one of those things that you've probably used a million times as a home cook, but never realized that it has a fancy name all it's own. A bouquet garni (boo-KAY gar-KNEE) is really just a chef's term for the bundle of herbs used to flavor soups, stocks, sauces, and brines.
Not intended to be major players or even eaten with the dish, the herbs in a bouquet garni perfume your dish with their individual flavors and are a way of adding your own twist to traditional recipes.
In classic cuisine, a bouquet garni is made of fresh thyme sprigs, parsley stems (leaves reserved for garnish), and dry bay leaf. But in these days of culinary adventure, we like to throw all sorts of things in our bouquet garni!
The tough leaves from lemon grass, nubs of ginger root, and the fronds of fennel can add interesting and unexpected notes of flavor. The flavors of whole dry herbs like juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves make an excellent addition to braises.
Whatever you decide to use, wrap your herbs and spices in a bit of cheese cloth or tie them into a muslin bag (like these available on Amazon for $8.99).
This way, you won't have to go hunting around for errant leaves right before serving. Plus, this is a great technique to use in dishes where you don't necessarily want little leaves floating around in your bowl, like creamy leek soup.
(Photo Credit: RecipeTips.com)