The very first time I tasted French tarragon chicken, I was a student in the South of France. A family I knew there invited me for Sunday lunch, and after delicious appetizers and a light first course, Madame brought in a large plate of 'poulet à l'estragon' .... mmmm! The perfume wafting up from the dish was extraordinary, and after the meal she kindly shared her recipe with me.
The next morning I was out to market and bought my first ever pot of tarragon, which grew happily on my small terrace and provided me with leaves for this recipe and many others during my whole student year there. To this day, I have kept the habit of having fresh herbs to hand all through the year.
Tarragon chicken is served with a creamy sauce. Some people like to add mushrooms to the sauce, I am happy to let the flavour of the tarragon dominate.
Inevitably for such a traditional dish, each family has their own way of preparing the chicken. Many people use chicken pieces, or even diced chicken breasts. I like to stick to Madame's recipe, using the whole chicken, which gives a much deeper flavour.
To make a Poulet à l'Estragon for four to six people you will need :
one good sized chicken, preferably with the liver
a large bunch of tarragon
100grams or 3 oz of ground almonds
2 shallot onions
1 glass of white wine
half cube of chicken stock
i cup of thick fresh cream
40grams or 1 oz butter
salt and pepper
Rince the tarragon and dry carefully. Peel and chop the shallot onions. Mix the chicken liver with about 20 tarragon leaves, salt and pepper, and use to stuff the inside of the chicken.
If you are lucky enough to own a big le Creuset casserole oven dish, then this is the moment to use it!
Heat half of the butter in a deep ovenproof pan and gently cook the shallot onions, stirring until they are transparent. Remove from the pan. Use the rest of the butter in the pan to gently brown the chicken on all sides.
Pour in the white wine, and a small cup of water. Add the shallots, the chicken stock cube, a couple of branches of tarragon and salt and pepper. Cover the pot and leave to cook over a gentle heat for a good hour, depending on the size of the chicken.
Once cooked, remove the chicken from the pot, leave to rest for a few minutes before cutting up. Be sure to keep the chicken warm while you make the sauce.
Collect any juices that have come from the chicken as you cut it up. Add to the cooking pan, along with the ground almonds, and the fresh cream. Cook briskly for about 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the remainder of the tarragon, cut finely.
Pour your beautiful sauce over the chicken and serve at the table. This dish is often accompanied by rice, in this house the preference goes to tiny sauté potatoes and a good green salad.
Hope you enjoy!
Thank you for reading me.
all photos thanks to google images