What do they taste like?
How do you use them?
Why do you remove them?
Can you answer any of these questions? Do you even cook with bay leaves or when a recipe calls for them do you just omit them? I mean, hey, recipes always say to remove them before serving your dish, right?
Today, I’d like to help take away some of the mystery of cooking with bay leaves. Are you ready?
Bay leaves remind me of parsley. They are one of those herbs that you just can’t quite put your finger on the taste or what bay leaves add to a particular recipe. Their woodsy flavor adds what I would call a savory flavor. For example, it’s like when you eat some stew that was made without bay leaves you’re thinking, “this is good but it’s missing something”. Bay just adds that additional note that rounds out the overall flavor of a dish.
Bay leaves are very leathery and impart their flavor through either slow cooking or through steaming. Yup! You can add them to your water when steaming vegetables, fish and shrimp. They also really round out the flavor of spaghetti sauce. Add bay leaves to chicken stock, stews, gumbo, casseroles and other “saucy” dishes that cook for a long time. You will also find bay lives in bouquet garni and some pickling recipes call for the addition of bay leaves. Like parsley, the addition of bay leaves engage the umami taste buds…the one that pick up “savory” or “meaty” flavors.
There really isn’t an herb substitution for bay leaves however, you can purchase bay leaves whole or powdered….just remember if using whole to remove them before serving your food.
So next time you are making soup or stew for your family, add a couple of bay leaves and take your recipe from good to amazing!