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You may ask yourself, “Why add bay leaf”? It’s one of those herbs that you can easily write off when you don’t have it in the pantry. But don’t discount the ability of this complex leaf to bring out the best in other flavors. Consider the bay leaf the life coach of other herbs and spices. It allows other flavors to be their most vibrant.
At first, bay leaves can have a menthol, eucalyptus essence, similar to oregano. If added to a dish like a stew, over time that minty essence gives way to a more tea-like taste and aroma that enhances your soups, stews and sauces. This chef’s secret weapon isn’t going to be the star player, say like garlic or chile peppers, but it will make your other ingredients sing. You’re best to use the dry version as the fresh version will taste the same but be more costly.
Bay leaves, bay laurel or just laurel, come from the bay laurel plant and go back to that famous crown that victorious Grecian athletes wore as a symbol of glory.
If eaten whole, bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) have a sharp, bitter taste. As with many spices, the fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste. When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano. Bay leaves are used in many types of cuisines, but often, the dried leaf is simmered in a sauce or a braising liquid then removed before serving. Bay leaves can also be stuffed into the cavity of a chicken before roasting it, and they can be added to the liquid for cooking rice.
Recipe - Cuban Chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 - 3 cups cooked chicken (prepared rotisserie chicken is great)
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup stuffed green olives, sliced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 High Quality Organics Express Organic Bay Leaves
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion in hot oil until tender, about 5 minutes; add garlic and continue to cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
Stir tomatoes, chicken, red bell pepper, raisins, olives, red wine vinegar, oregano, cumin, and bay leaves into the onion mixture; cook until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.