To Leave or not to Leave in a Bay Laurel Leaf

My bountiful and beautiful Bay Laurel

I just cannot help myself. My chest puffs out just a little, I stand a little straighter, and a self-satisfied grin cannot be contained when I harvest and cook with food grown in my own yard. No pats on the back from others are necessary. I already feel the pride tingling from my toes to my taste buds.

In Oregon, that bubbly feeling is mostly reserved for late spring and summer harvesting. However, a few hardy herbs, rosemary and Bay Laurel, keep me happily snipping and showing off – just a little – throughout the winter.

Most recipes I run across with Bay Laurel leaves instruct the cook to simmer the whole leaf and then remove the herb before serving. I have never though much of it. Just did as I was told. Until today when I ran across a recipe that asked for “crushed” Bay leaf. Hmmm. Can’t really pull it out of the sauce if it is crushed. And, how does one go about “crushing” a Bay leaf? ¬†And if I do crush it, can I leave it in? This particular vodka sauce recipe does not say anything about removing the Bay leaf.

After some quick research, I have found a few very important facts:

1. Crushing a Bay leaf is done easily with the back of a spoon and the crushing helps release more of the herb’s flavor.

2. Bay leaves do not soften when cooked and can be sharp , chewy and very unpleasant to eat. The leaf has got to go before serving.

3. If you go the crushed route, place the pieces in a tea ball or a tea strainer or a cheese cloth or a coffee filter and tie closed with string. Now you can simmer the bay leaf pieces and still remove them before serving.

Though I am a little puzzled about the vodka sauce recipe that does not address any of the Bay leaf mysteries, I do welcome the opportunity to do a little sleuthing on the internet. It feels so good to grab a little knowledge…almost as good as grabbing a fresh herb from my garden.