No. 249-250: An Ode to Estragon and Chicken Tarragon
Before your mind starts to wander to the widely debated female hormone that’s fluctuation can send us femmes d’un certain âge spiraling through rapid mood swings, drop the final “e” and add an “o” and you will realize my ode is to the terrific, tried and true French herb, tarragon, not the natural chemical so essential to the female of the species.
There are so many sensory delights at the French markets, and quite a few that I am completely nutty for, and estragon is certainly one of them. Prior to moving to France, I had rarely cooked with tarragon, and I had certainly never cooked or eaten fresh from the market or garden tarragon. Now I can’t seem to get through a day without it.
I throw it in so many different dishes, that the last time I served a couscous salad with chopped up green flecks, a guest asked what it was, and then another replied, “hmmm…tastes like Nancy, must be tarragon.”
Maybe too much of a good thing can be too much, but I am not quite ready to say that about my beloved estragon. I’m always looking for uses for my favorite window box friend.
To refresh you memory, tarragon is the herb known for its anise-like flavor and scent. Its longish, green leaves are slender and tender and heavenly scented. This delicate yet tasty herb is wonderful with eggs, salads, cheese, and fish and makes the elegant and mouth-watering Tarragon Chicken Fricassée my new favorite dish.
Lucky for all of us, my friend Marie-Françoise just taught me how to make this old-fashioned French recipe. Give it a go, you won’t be sorry.
Tarragon Chicken Fricassée (Serves 4)
From the kitchen of Marie-Françoise
6 large free-range chicken thighs (or legs)
4 shallots (or fresh spring onions), finely chopped
3.5 oz. almond powder
1.5 oz. butter, divided
1 Tbsp. l’huile d’arachide (peanut oil)
½-1 cup dry white wine
½ cube chicken bullion
5 oz. crème fraîche
2 bunches fresh tarragon, washed, spun, and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a medium saucepan, heat half of the butter and oil. Add the chicken thighs and brown both sides until golden. Remove from the pan and rest on a plate. Discard the fat and wipe the pan clean.
- In the same pan, heat the remaining butter and oil over medium heat and add the finely chopped shallots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often to avoid coloring. When soft and translucent, set aside.
- Return the chicken to the pan, add the wine, bullion cube, and shallots. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook covered over low heat for 45 minutes. (You may have to add some water if the sauce looks too thick.)
- After 45 minutes, set the chicken aside on a warm plate. Sieve the sauce for a “cleaner” result, or for a true French bistro experience, do not sieve. If sieved, rewarm the sauce and add the almond powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the crème fraîche at the last-minute and incorporate into to the sauce stirring constantly. Do not over cook. You don’t want the crème to “turn”.
- Add the chicken and the finely chopped tarragon. Serve immediately with white rice.
estragon: tarragon—and a few tips—smell your herbs before buying, they should have a clean, fresh scent, and keep it fresh for up to five days by wrapping it in a just damp paper towel and sealing it in a plastic.
femmes d’un certain âge: women of a certain/unknown age