Fresh or Dry?

When it comes to using herbs in cooking, a lot of people ask me, “Well what should I use, fresh or dry?”  Well let me start by saying both serve their purpose and it totally depends on what is you are cooking.  You could be making fish tacos with mango salsa and it calls for cilantro or you could be making a giant pot of spaghetti sauce with oregano and basil…  Did I lose you?  DRY HERBS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE! (A little Dennis Green for you hehe)…. They are fresh herbs that are dried out for longevity and concentrated flavor.  Dry herbs need to be reconstituted just like any dried food product to achieve maximum flavor, and that my friend is the hint of using dry herbs…

A trick for using both fresh and dry is this, put dry herbs in at the beginning of your recipe and finish your recipes with fresh herbs.. Now this will completely  depend on what it is you are making.  For instance if I were making those fish tacos with mango salsa it does not mean I put dry cilantro in a bowl at the beginning and hope some flavor comes through in my salsa.  I would most definitely finish the salsa with some fresh chopped cilantro.  Remember reconstitute the herbs, and there won’t be much liquid outside of the oil to reconstitute much of anything in that salsa.  I would however use dry oregano and basil in my spaghetti sauce and I would put those herbs in just as soon as some sort of liquid went in the pot.  This way those herbs will sort of steep and infuse giving you a full flavored spaghetti sauce.  Even when making soup, it would completely depend on the mood.  If I only had dry herbs, I would put them in at the beginning stages of cooking my soup, but I certainly have finished soups with fresh herbs as well.  Dry herbs work very well with foods that are cooked for long periods of time because they hold up better, like soups, stocks, cassoulets, etc..  But when making fresh salsas, quick sauces, protein encrusting, etc. I always turn to fresh herbs for flavor.  Using fresh herbs just sort of gives that “fresh” homemade appeal and heck it just sounds better.  These items are prepared quickly and  eaten almost right after preparing them.  Dry or fresh, with a few tips and tricks I suppose it is all in the eye of the beholder !

Chef Billy Parisi

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