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Posts tagged ‘French markets’

No. 249-250: An Ode to Estragon and Chicken Tarragon


estragon_french_tarragon.jpg 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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”.
  5. 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


No.216-218: Bordeaux: Boardwalks, Markets, and Spécialités


We are just back from our warm and relaxing trip to Bordeaux. I fell in love with la perle d’Aquitaine, as Bordeaux is known, and hope that sometime in my life I get to spend at least 365 days there. At the moment, it is the newest bee in my bonnet.


Bordeaux is France’s ninth largest city (with the sixth largest metropolitan area) and is the first French city Superman could see himself living in for the long-term. Three particular aspects of the city sealed the deal for us: the laid back, sporty, friendly and slow-speaking Bordelais(es), the fresh, multipurpose boardwalk, and the balmy, sunny weather.


We were lucky to stay in a riverside apartment with a terrace in the charming Chartrons district near the historic UNESCO World Heritage part of the city and found that its inviting squares, funky neighborhoods, and lively markets made it the ideal city to meander through both on foot and bike. The city, famous for wine, is like a fine wine itself, offering the perfect balance of ageless grandeur and architecture, fresh, modern tones and more than a hint of fruitiness and fun.


I posted earlier about what I’m calling Bordeaux’s Saint Marc’s Square, but is in fact called the miroir d’eau (water mirror). In my opinion, this central feature of the boardwalk lining the Garonne River is one of the most striking urban sites in France reflecting both the joyful heart of the city and the impressive Palais-de-la-Bourse. The boardwalk is a spot for young adults, extended families, casual wanderers and serious athletes all pulsing in sync. Rollerbladers duck and zoom, runners pant and croon, old couples hold hands and beam, youngsters scoot and skip, furry friends wrestle and romp, and vélos roll by, their cheery chimes announcing their approach.

The city boasts numerous outdoor cafés, lots of spots for picnicking, live music jams, colorfully clad open-air tangoing, first-class museums, gorgeous architecture, fresh seafood (yummy oysters) and haute cuisine, and of course, caves for tasting the region’s wine. There is also an excellent farmers market on Sundays (Marché des Quais) selling all the usual suspects along with some of the unusual and distinctively Bordelaise spécialités. Comme ça:


Farcou (herb pancakes) 3/5€ or 7/10€

Farcou (herb pancakes) 3/5€ or 7/10€


Kongloff…giant brioche cake with powder sugar

Kongloff…giant brioche cake with powder sugar

la petite croustades…filo, apples sauce and almond paste...

la petite croustades…filo, apples sauce and almond paste…



caneles de Bordeaux

caneles de Bordeaux

As you may have noticed, I am totally smitten with Bordeaux and this region of France. The sparkling pearl of Aquitaine has a little something for everyone and is quite effectively enticing this Parisphile south…





Bordelais(es): people from Bordeaux

caves: wine cellars, storage space

Comme ça: Like this:

la perle d’Aquitaine: the pearl of Aquitaine (the Aquitaine pearl)

spécialités: specialties




No. 18: Fruits de mer


I love the French word for seafood: fruits de mer. Fruit from the sea. It’s the perfect way to describe the many colorful and sometimes bizarre fish and shellfish found in France.

Some of my favorite crustacean friends are: crabs, lobster, langoustines, mussels, oysters, octopus, scallops, shrimp and urchins. I use “friends” in the loosest sense, as I am actually a bit afraid of most of them. But thankfully I have just discovered a new word in French: décortiqué, peeled or shelled. So now when I go to a restaurant at least I know that if I don’t see that magic word on the menu, the waiter will be bringing me a plate with the heads and legs still attached to the little guys I ordered, their beady little eyes staring me down.Fish at market

At any of the large outdoor market in France, you are sure to find at least two or three stands selling the fresh catch of the day. The hard part is figuring out what the heck the French word is for the few types of seafood I actually recognize, and then screwing up the courage to order it from le poissonnier. Once you get over that hump, you’re still not quite finished. Now you have to figure out how you want it prepared, which for me, is actually a real luxury. I have so many memories of standing on a chair next to my daddy in front of the kitchen sink gutting and scaling fresh Colorado trout, I am quite happy to have someone else take over.FIsh

Luckily the handy French phrase: Pourriez-vous me le préparer s’il vous plâit, seems to do the trick…until he asks me just how I want it prepared. Bones out? Gills removed? Heads to make soup? Shells and skins for the stock? I think, although I can’t be sure, I’ve even been given advice on what to use the eyeballs for.

Oh, la vache! Someday I hope my French is good enough to answer these questions, but for now, a generous smile and a frequent merci bien is working well enough.

oursin/ sea urchin

oursin/ sea urchin


 décortiqué: peeled or shelled

le poissonnier:  fishmonger

merci bien: thanks a lot

Oh, la vache! Holy cow!

Pourriez-vous me le préparer s’il vous plait: Could you please prepare it for me (which usually implies gutting, scaling and deboning)