WHB #114 : Fines herbes for a fine weekend


At least once, on any given weekend, I can be found out on the balcony, tending to our family of herbs. Admittedly, they often look like they are struggling a bit despite my best efforts, yet I persevere. There’s a great satisfaction involved when you are able to step outside, kitchen shears in hand, to give this or that plant a quick haircut, without having to get thee to the shops to buy a whole bunch of something when all you want is a sprig. I remember when we first moved into our apartment and all we had were donated pots of rosemary and cumquat (vale cumquat!). Now we have at least 15 pots and counting, and I’ve learnt that some herbs just don’t grow well under my care. Sweet Basil is one such tricky customer, as is coriander. A good place to start when you’re looking to grow your own family, is flat leaf parsley, which I’ve found is pleasingly difficult to kill. Add some chives and tarragon, and you’ve got a fine collection of fines herbes in the making.

Fines herbes, literally meaning sweet herbs, is a combination of finely chopped fresh herbs, typically featuring pairings such as parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives, or basil, chervil and thyme. They are often added to uncooked dishes such as salads, or to a dish at the end of the cooking time, such as omelettes and soups. They are also an important ingredient in Sauce Gribiche.

Gribiche is a versatile herby sauce of French origin. It traditionally contains chopped boiled egg, cornichons, capers and fines herbes, and is often seen defined as a vinaigrette. However, most of the time when I see it in restaurants, it’s bound like a mayonnaise, somewhat resembling a tartare sauce, which is why I usually associate it with battered fish and chips. The Zuni Cafe version of this sauce is more like the latter. It is quick and easy to prepare (provided emulsification is not something you find daunting) and equally easy to fall in love with. This tastily textured sauce is my contribution to WHB #114. You can use Gribiche slathered over bread in sandwiches, as a condiment to accompany most types of seafood and chicken dishes, or even in potato salad, which Judy Rodgers says turns ordinary potato salad into great potato salad!

4 minute Egg Gribiche :
(from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers)

1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups mild-tasting olive oil
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot (about 1 medium shallot)
1 tablespoon tightly packed chopped fresh herbs (a combination of parsley, chervil, and chives, plus a little tarragon or dill)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, pressed dry between towels, and slightly chopped
about 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Place the egg in a small pot of barely simmering water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain and leave to cool in a bowl of ice water.

When the egg is sure to be cool, crack it and scrape into a small bowl. Stir in a pinch or two of salt and the mustard. Mash together, then begin whisking in the oil, a trickle or a few drops at first, then gradually increasing the flow to a thin stream. Stop adding oil when the mayonnaise is satiny and has lots of body, like hot fudge sauce. Stir in the shallots, herbs, and capers. Add vinegar and salt to taste.


  1. Kalyn said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

    Oh wow, I can tell you without ever tasting this that I’d love it. Especially with a bit of tarragon. I can just taste it on a piece of grilled fish.

  2. myfrenchkitchen said,

    January 13, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

    A great post! I love herbs too and this gribiche is just perfect for , as you say, just about anything!

  3. Anh said,

    January 17, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    Oh yum! I love herbs. They bring such a different characters to the dish. Great post!

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