Fines Herbes are used in many lighter dishes in our home and we wanted to highlight the very strict requirements there verses the casual nature of herbs de Provence.
Fines Herbs mix consists of chopped parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. This gives it a light anise to licorice aroma and flavor with an earthiness from the parsley. Whereas herbs de Provence is a mixture of rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and savory with an option to add fennel, sage, French tarragon and even Lavender in Northern America.
There is much more to the origins of these herb mixes and hopefully learning a little history will help with our cooking!
Culinary Influences On The Provencal Region Of France
Both mixes consist of herbs found Native to the Provencal region of France. It is a region heavily influenced by it’s geographical location. As you can see from the above infographic it sits happily on the Mediterranean coast.
The Ancient Greeks were seafaring traders from as early as 6th Century BC. There is significant evidence to suggest that they were settling and influencing the area we now know as France at this time. In 600BC modern day Marseilles became a major trading port too. This trade in Gaul can be seen in Ancient vases but also in the plants and herbs that they brought with them.
This then carried over to a Pre-Empire Rome invading and taking over large areas of Southern France in as early as 125BC. They brought with them Oils and herbs to help season the local cuisine.
These legacies remain and we have a more varied cuisine in this region as a result. However these two very different herb mixes need to be used in different ways as Fines Herbes are very delicate flavors that will be lost in heavier dishes. Whereas Herbs de Provence are robust and make for a longer cooking period with heavier meats and vegetables alike.
The landscape is mountainous with little in the way of fertile land, perfect for herbs to grow and thrive. There is plenty to be found in the sea in way of cuisine and you will find that your Fines Herbes mix goes very well when added to seafood dishes.
Origins Of Fines Herbes And Herbs De Provence
Auguste Escoffier in his 1903 work entitled Culinary Guide stated;
This is the first recorded instance of using Fines Herbes to mean a specific mixture of herbs. This blend is not to be ignored when it comes from such an esteem gastronomy.
The term ‘herbs de Provence’ is used to cover all of those herbs that we traditionally associate with this South Eastern region of France. Herbs that grow native to the Provencal region. However in the 1970’s it became popular to use specific dried herb blends and the ‘herbs de Provence’ blend became popularized.
Fines Herbes Recipe And Use
Fines Herbes require equal parts of freshly chopped parsley, French tarragon, chives and chervil. The key is for a fresh herb mix that is finely chopped. Used in fish, egg and chicken dishes. Introduced towards the end of the cooking process to ensure that the vibrancy of the colors are not lost.
French tarragon can be held to blame for taking the lion’s share of the flavoring, so be cautious in your use here. It has a strong licorice taste profile.
Parsley is used to lighten the overall flavor and has a peppery earthiness that will draw out the best in more subtle flavors.
Chives off that light allium note to cut through other flavors that are a little too harsh. Often using fines herbes mix and then adding a few chive flowers to the finished dish is well received.
Chervil is often the hardest herb to get hold of through the year, dried certainly but not fresh. You can get around this by following our tips to grow your own here. It makes it a lot easier to include this gentle herb. Very much a cross between tarragon and parsley.
How To Substitute Fines Herbes In A Recipe
Basically it is the chervil that people struggle to find. Therefore add to your mix a more tarragon and parsley to a ratio of 1:2. This will replace chervil and allow you to still use fresh herbs.
Some recipes are accused of titling themselves as Fines Herbes recipe when actually they use many more different herbs. This is actually quite common and so, rather than dismissing them as modern interpretations, it can be seen to be part of the tradition. We love this recipe for Chicken Saute in fines herbes from Epicurious, in spite of the additional herbs!
I would be reluctant to use dried herbs in the place of fresh fines herbes as you want that lovely bright green to be added to your dishes. You can also add your fines herbes to a sachet d’epices and remove after cooking. This is if you needed it to be cooked for longer. At that point I may prefer to rely upon a different herb mix, more suited to longer cooking, like Herbs de Provence.
Herbs De Provence Recipe And Use
Herbs de Provence include Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory. This mix has a real history of adding and using any herbs that you may need to make your family favorite recipe. From French Tarragon to Lavender. Due to the woody nature of these herbs it suits being a dried mix. Dried herbs need to be added to a dish at a point where they can be rehydrated to not cause issues whilst eating. Alternatively they can be added as a bouquet garni or sachet d’epices (more on those methods here).
Most people find that herbs de Provence is use all herb mix and one we can add to most Italian, Greek or French dishes without too much cause for concern.
Further Reading & Suggested Items
For more on different herb mixes and how to use them in cuisine we have an article , here.