Cooking with Thyme


Cooking with Thyme

Thyme is a versatile herb that you can use in just about any recipe. At thanksgiving you’ll find it in turkey stuffing. In the winter you’ll enjoy it in savory soups and clam chowders. It pairs well with fish and is often used in rubs for lamb and beef.

Because the leaf is so tiny, it’s difficult to mince thyme when it’s fresh. Most of the time a chef will just strip the leaves off of the stem. To get fresh thyme leaves off the stem, simply hold the stem with one hand and strip with the other.

If you do want to release a little more flavor, mincing the thyme is a good idea, particularly if you’re using the thyme for a lamb rub. To mince fresh thyme, after you’ve stripped it from the stem arrange it in a pile. Chop through the pile vertically and then horizontally, mixing it up once and chopping through it again. You might not get every leaf, but you will release a lot of the aromatics and oils you need.

I like to keep the leaves whole in fish dishes. It makes for a better presentation and the flavor doesn’t overpower the fish.

For marinades though, I use either dried thyme or minced, never whole leaves, because the whole point of marinades is to have a maximum intensity of flavor delivered to the meat or fish soaking in the marinade. You can always use a food dehydrator to dry your thyme.

Note: you can use a vacuum marinator! They work like a vacuum sealer, but are meant to better marinade your food! Alternatively, use a meat injector.

When using fresh thyme in a soup or a long cooking sauce, you don’t have to remove the stems. You can toss it in whole, and the heat will take the leaves off. Before serving the soup, simply remove the naked stems. This will only work if the sauce isn’t too thick and you haven’t cut the stems too short-otherwise you’ll never find the stems! It’s also a bad idea to use this method in stews, for the same reason.

You can also used thyme in a dried form. It loses some of the slight minty character it has when fresh, but it holds much of its flavor when dried. Basically, if I want to add it as something savory I’m comfortable using dried version, but if I’m looking for a greener flavor more lush than the dried, I go for fresh. Dried thyme is more intense. It loses the subtlety of fresh, but it packs a great flavor.

Dried thyme works well in stuffings, stews, in fish dishes and with chicken. I stick to fresh for lamb dishes because the light mint flavor of fresh works well with it. If you’re subbing dried thyme for fresh, remember to use a lot less. In volume you should be using two to four times as much fresh thyme in a recipe as dried.

If you’re using dry but you still want some of the light minty flavor or you want to enhance it for something like a lamb or beef rub, just add spearmint or mint in dried or fresh form. You don’t need much-a little less than ¼ of the amount of the required amount of thyme in the recipe. (Remember that you’ll always want to use a lot less of dried herbs and to cut your meat with the best boning and fillet knife).

While I enjoy using thyme in a number of different recipes, one of my favorite everyday recipes is thyme mushroom gnocchi. Mushrooms do very well with thyme and this is a simple dish I can fix even when I have vegetarian guests!

Thyme Mushroom Gnocchi

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. As it’s cooking, put ½ a tablespoon of the olive oil and the chopped onion into a pan on medium heat. Once the pan is heated cook for about two minutes. Then throw in the minced thyme, mix it up and cook for one minute. Salt to taste. Use a skillet and sauté the mushrooms and add the rest of the olive oil. Cook for two more minutes. Pepper to taste.

Drain the gnocchi and mix it in with the mushroom, thyme and onion mixture. Serves 3.

Find more recipes like this in our best Italian cookbooks!

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