Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Potage aux Herbes de Saison

     A Delicious French Fine Herb Soup!
     Saison refers to farm regions of Northern France near Normandy and Belgium.  Herbes de Saison refers to common leafy green herbs from this same region.
     Just like with Herbs de Provence, there really is no strict definition of which herbs are in the mixture.  Herbs de Provence is defined as herbs that are easily collected during a walk through a meadow in Provence.  Many of the Herbs in a modern Herbs de Provence mixture do require cooking to be palatable.  Herbs de Saison basically requires a selection of soft leafy aromatic herbs that do not require cooking to be palatable.  In other words, an Herbs de Saison mixture is soft and gentle enough to be eaten fresh.
     While working with a French chef who was a culinary arts instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, he often asked me to mince a selection of soft leafy fresh herbs for specific entrées.  For some reason I never asked about the chef's order.  After doing some research, I found out that the herbs I selected were considered to be Herbes de Saison.  Literary resources mentioned that this herb mixture was more often called Fine Herbes de Saison.
     Many French restaurants offer Potage aux Herbes de Saison as a seasonal soup.  Potage is loosely defined as a peasant style vegetable stew or soup in some cultures.  In France, the broth of a Potage can be enriched with milk or cream.  In a fine dining restaurant, a Potage is often very refined and the word "Potage" refers to the simple peasant or farmer heritage.  Such is the case with today's Potage aux Herbes de Saison recipe.      
     Potage aux Herbes de Saison:
     This recipe yields 2 cups.  (1 large bowl of soup.)  
     Herbes de Saison is a mixture of soft palatable leafy green herbs that are grown in Northern France.  The choice of herbs is usually based upon availability.  Do not use tough, firm textured herbs like rosemary, lovage or thyme!  Try to use only soft leafy herbs that are found on farms in Northern France near Belgium.  Parsley is a chief component of this herb mixture.
     If this soup is made ahead of time, then only prepare the crème soup base and keep it warm.  The herbs can be added about five minutes before serving.     
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced leek.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Gently sauté and sweat the leek and onion till they are tender.  (Do not allow the ingredients to brown!)
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add 1 cup of  milk.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Step 4:  Place a second sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring to make a roux.
     Stir till the roux is a pale blonde color.
     Add the roux to the soup in the first sauce pot while stirring with a whisk.
     *The soup will be a very thin consistency at this point.  Only enough roux is added to give the soup just enough body to keep the herbs in suspension.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the volume is about 2 1/4 cups.
     Step 6:  *All of the herbs in this step should be fresh!
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced sorrel.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced basil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced chervil.
     Add 2 pinches of minced tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped dill weed.  (optional)
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Gently simmer the soup for 5 minutes, so the flavor of the herbs meld and the herbs are still green.
     *The finished volume should be 2 cups.  The soup should have a thin consistency that barely coats a spoon.  
     Step 8:  Pour the Potage aux Herbes de Saison into a shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with a petite fresh basil sprig.

     Potage aux Herbes de Saison is a very nice French soup that brings back memories of simpler times!

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