Spend enough time in a professional kitchen and you pick up plenty of MacGyver-like skills and tricks that can come in handy in all sorts of situations — techniques you only learn when you're on an undermanned, overworked line and every second counts. With that in mind, welcome to Chef Hacks, wherein each entry will be devoted to one such useful, unexpected technique that you can put to use immediately. Today: Eduard Frauneder on a super-fast method for excellent dehydrated herbs.
Frauneder — who, along with Wolfgang Ban runs the Michelin-starred Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar, Austrian tavern Edi & the Wolf, and cocktail bar The Third Man — knows he wasn't the first chef to use a microwave to dry out herbs, but that doesn't make the technique less impressive. "It's easier on the herb," he says, comparing the technique to drying herbs in an oven. "You preserve the color, flavor, and aroma better."
You can use the technique to preserve the herbs for later use ("If you look at dehydrated basil you do yourself," Frauneder says, "and the dried basil you buy in the store, you'll see a huge difference"), or you can just do what Frauneder does and use the dried, concentrated herbs immediately as garnish or the base of a salad. Or just experiment — the technique only takes a minute at most.
1. You can use almost any herb — chives, basil, chervil, or heartier herbs like rosemary and thyme — but make sure the leaves are uniform in size. Another tip: This method won't work well if the leaves are very big or very small.
2. Dry the herbs very well and place them between two paper towels.
3. Microwave them on full power for twenty seconds.
4. Check the herbs. The herbs won't change color, but the paper towel should get slightly damp from evaporating water. Microwave again for twenty seconds if you need to. Depending on your microwave's strength, you'll need to heat the herbs two or three times to dry them completely.
5. When they're done, you can store them for use later, or use them immediately. Frauneder makes dried-herb salads and uses dried mint as a garnish on his desserts.