We have long been ambivalent about bay leaves.
When we mentioned offhand that we "sort of don't believe in" bay leaves as part of the note down within a recipe late last year, we were surprised by how many comments we received coming to the bay leaf's defense. Many of you wanted to know how the herb had done us wrong.
Here's how we fell out of love with bay leaves, and how we did a test this week to determine if we're just flat-out wrong.
When we try out a new recipe, we are, for the most part, dutiful recipe followers. If a recipe calls for an obscure ingredient, we will hunt it down, even if that means multiple grocery store stops and lots of phone calls. And, because many recipes over the years have called for bay leaves, we've always purchased them, always fresh, never dried.
Here's how it always seems to go with bay leaves: We buy a pack and use one or two bay leaves in a recipe. We're never sure what contribution the leaf is making. We can barely smell it on its own, much less detect it in a soup, stew or broth. Nonetheless, we toss it in, per the recipe. The rest of the pack sits unused in the fridge until the leaves become brittle. We trash the old dead leaves. Next time there's a recipe that calls for bay leaves? Wash, rinse, repeat.
But the notes we got from you guys -- how you love bay leafs and consider them essential -- got us thinking. Are we wrong about bay leaves? Have we been "meh" on them for naught?
We decided to find out the best way we knew how. We made chicken stock.