A common fines herbes blend includes tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives. Other herbs such as coriander, thyme, marjoram, basil and dill may be used as well. The herbs are minced very fine, so that they will be almost invisible in the final dish. Fines herbes are also typically added at the very end of the cooking process, as they will lose potency as they are heated.
A wide range of French dishes call for fines herbes. Since different cooks have different definitions of “fines herbes,” when using a cookbook it is an excellent idea to read the section on seasonings carefully. Many cooks will give a general recipe for fines herbes to work with, including individual additions in the relevant recipes. Because fines herbes can be used in everything from omelets to roast meats, one can imagine that they vary widely.
Since the herbs are used fresh, they impart a fresh, garden flavor to the finished dish. They also tend to have a small hint of bitterness, which often complements the layers of flavor in the food. As the herbs are diced so finely, they are almost smelled rather than tasted, suffusing a dish with flavor rather than appearing in chunks. The fine cut of the herbs also ensures even distribution, so that diners do not encounter a sudden change in seasoning.