Usually when you think of a bouquet, you think of bundle of flowers, but in this case, the French term, bouquet garni is a bundle of fresh, aromatic herbs. Most often made with thyme, bay leaf, and parsley, but you can add other herbs like lavender or rosemary. It is an easy way to add some French flare to your cooking and infuse wonderful, subtle herbal flavors to take your stock, soup, stew or sauce to a heavenly level.
The exact origins of the bouquet garni are not known. Cooks in England and France starting using them in the 1600s and today it is used often in Provencal cooking.
A bouquet garni is easy to make. Just tie together your choice of herbs with unwaxed kitchen string and let it simmer in your stew or broth. Once it is ready, pull out the bouquet garni and squeeze it out into the mixture. This method may leave some of the leaves in the dish which I personally, I find visually appealing. But those who prefer a less rustic type of dish, and something more refined, you can use some cheesecloth, or even a nice, big tea strainer. For the cheesecloth method, just cut a square of the cheesecloth, and tie it up with the herbs inside. Then give it a good squeeze once you take it out of the stew to get all of the juices out.
The tea strainer method is probably the easiest, but the disadvantage is that you can’t squeeze the juice out after you remove it. The nice thing about using the cheesecloth or strainer is that you can add things like garlic, chili, and peppercorns if you desire. However, if you start adding spices then you now have a sachet d'épices which is basically the same thing, it just has a combination of herbs and spices rather than herbs only.
Some classic dishes where a bouquet garni is often used are: boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, bouillabaisse, and French onion soup.