My friend Nicole lives in the shadow of the Pompidou Art Center, right around the corner from a Paris bistro called Le Hangar. This trendy restaurant is sufficiently hidden away to retain a private feeling, even in the crowded Beaubourg neighborhood. We have been going there for years — no, decades. Of their classic French dishes with a modern spin, my favorite has always been a salad of raw mushrooms with cream and herbs, specifically chervil — the herb that looks like a feathery version of cilantro or parsley but is quite different.
Champignons à la crème et au cerfeuil / Mushroom salad with cream and herbs
Why did chervil never catch on in the States? I don’t remember seeing it there, although it may now be available in gourmet markets. It is ubiquitous in France, easy to grow and reputedly packed with vitamins and healthful properties. Chervil is all over the place in French cuisine — in soups, omelets, with fish, with vegetables and, as above, with certain salads. Its flavor is delicate, with hints of anise and tarragon. Apparently it came south from Russia, which is maybe why it is such a perfect partner for mushrooms and cream. If you cannot find chervil, dill is perhaps the best substitute. Happy cooking!