Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tarragon - making vinegar and chicken

The herb garden has gone wild from the sun and the rain and the lack of overpowering heat that causes them to go to seed.  As a result it has been a year of bumper crops.  Harvesting has taken more time than usual, so I have not had as much time to post.

When I looked at the tarragon (one of the herbs yet to be relocated in the flood ravaged garden) it got me to thinking of all the ways one can use this amazing herb.

Now I believe all herbs can be dried with success at preserving their flavor, but I will acknowledge that not all herbs have the same character dried as they do when fresh.  Tarragon is one of those herbs.  Therefore I recommend preserving it in an herbal vinegar to keep the fresh flavor of the herb as well as drying it for cooking.

I did an herb of the week on Tarragon back in 2012, so check that out for growing tips and more recipes.

Tarragon Vinegar

Tarragon vinegar is a light flavored vinegar, so I recommend getting  the best quality wine vinegar you can afford. It doesn’t take much tarragon—just a sprig or two to flavor a whole bottle of white wine vinegar.  Wash and air dry the tarragon, then once the leaves are dry place them in the bottle of wine vinegar.  Bruise the leaves by mashing them or crumbling them as you force them into the bottle.
tarragon in wine vinegar

Taste the vinegar after two weeks. If the flavor is strong enough, remove the tarragon. If not, let the herb vinegar continue to steep for another week. Strain using a paper coffee filter.

Tarragon Chicken

With the fresh herbs you have left, make this amazing tarragon chicken!  Served with noodles tossed with Fines Herbes and you have a perfect meal.

2 teaspoons olive oil or garlic oil
2 fat scallions or 4 skinny ones, thinly sliced (green onions will work too!)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh
2 chicken breast fillets, skinless and boneless
1/3 cup tarragon wine vinegar (we used chive vinegar because the tarragon wasn’t ready yet!)
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh white pepper, to grind over
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus a pinch more for sprinkling


Cutting the scallions (the lady bugs are a family joke and appear in photos randomly)
Heat the oil in a frying pan or Dutch oven that has a lid and in which the chicken breasts will fit pretty snugly. Add the scallions, stir, then sprinkle in the dried tarragon, stir again and cook them in the garlic oil for a minute, stirring some more as they cook. 

Chas chose to use his Calphalon pan rather than the dutch oven and cook the chicken in batches.
Put the chicken fillets into the pan, curved side down, and cook for 5 minutes, watching the scallions don't burn. If they look like they're beginning to, scrape them from the pan and let them sit on the chicken pieces.

Turn over the breasts, and add the wine vinegar.  Let the vinegar bubble up, then add the salt. 

adding the salt
Put the lid on, turn the heat down low and leave it to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Check the chicken is cooked through by making a small cut into the thickest part and ensuring the juices run clear - if not, simmer for a few minutes longer and check again. 

Rather than over cooking the chicken we decided to start the sauce while the last batch of breasts were cooking.  We added the fresh tarragon and pepper, then removed the breasts.

 Remove the chicken breasts to warmed plates. Bring the remaining liquid to a boil, add the cream and stir well, then sprinkle in the fresh tarragon, stir again and give a good grind of white pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts, and give a final scattering of tarragon to serve.

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