Chicken Tarragon: 2 Recipes

Chickens

Chickens

by Cat,  Oct 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Chicken with herbs and a wine sauce is one of my favorite dinners, and tarragon is one of my favorite herbs for its uniquely French flavor. I include two versions of Chicken Tarragon here. The first is made with chicken breast cutlets and vermouth; the second uses whole cut-up chicken or butterflied game hens in a creamy sauce.

Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon & Vermouth

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Jennifer Armentrout, and features a classic combination of French flavors. Quick and easy.

There is a magic in the combining of tarragon and vermouth, probably because tarragon is a member of the wormwood family, and vermouth, which was originally used medicinally for treatment of worm infestations, is flavored with wormwood in addition to other herbs (and its name comes from the German name for wormwood).

Fine Cooking recommends serving this with scalloped potatoes (2) and green beans with mustard-tarragon vinaigrette (3). Or you could serve with my recipes for Potatoes Dauphinoise (4) and Seared Green Beans, Broccolini or Asparagus (5).

See also related tried and true recipe with similar flavors, but is pan roasted half-breasts, rather than sauteed cutlets: Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts, with Herb & Wine Sauce.

Serves 2 – 3

prepare meat for cutletsIngredients & Equipment:

  • 2 boneless chicken breast halves, brined
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour or other starch
  • Unrefined Sea Salt (only if you don’t brine the chicken)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or lard
  • 1 – 2 shallots (about 2 Tbsp minced)
  • ½ cup dry vermouth (or ¼ cup if making cream sauce)
  • 1½ – 2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon, or ½ tsp chopped dried tarragon.
  • Finish options
    1. 3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 – 8 pieces; OR
    2. ¼ cup chicken stock and ¼ – ½ cup cream
  • Equipment:
  • 10” cast iron skillet
  • plate
  • foil

Method:

  1. Prep: Brine chicken and prepare cutlets (see Preparing Cutlets, above). Or, If you don’t brine the chicken, season it lightly with salt before preparing for cutlets.
  2. Cutlets: Either pound half-breasts until thin, or cut the half-breasts crosswise at an angle into pieces about ¾” thick. Dust with flour & season with pepper.
  3. Mince shallots and chop the tarragon.
  4. Cook: Heat oil/lard in skillet over medium-high neat; add half of the chicken and cook about 1 – 3 minutes per side (time depends on size of cutlets), until lightly browned and just barely cooked through. Transfer to a plate & cover with foil. Repeat with remaining chicken; as they rest they will release flavorful juices.
  5. Return pan to medium heat and add more oil if necessary. Saute shallots, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute.
  6. Add vermouth to deglaze pan, then simmer until reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. NOTE: if making the cream sauce, use the smaller amount of vermouth.
  7. Finish options:
    1. Without cream sauce:
      • Reduce heat to low and add cold butter 2 – 3 pieces at a time, stirring until melted before adding more. Stir in tarragon, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
    2. With cream sauce:
      • Add stock/broth to deglazed pan; bring to a boil, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
      • Add tarragon and cream; simmer for 3 minutes; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  8. Add chicken and accumulated juices; turn to coat and warm the pieces.
  9. Serve immediately.

Testing Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon and Vermouth

I’ve made this recipe many times (without the cream sauce), long before this blog. It is simple, fairly quick and delicious. However, I have come to prefer the creamy sauce version (next) which uses bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Maybe one of these days I’ll test a version of the cutlets recipe using cream in the sauce.

Testing 1/5/20, with cream sauce: Initial prep: cut two brined, boneless, skinless half-breasts (total 15.1 oz) and sliced into 13 small cutlets; dusted with flour. Minced about 2 Tbsp shallot. Chopped ½ tsp fresh, frozen tarragon, and combined with and 1 tsp commercially dried & chopped tarragon (total 1½ tsp). Measured separately ½ cup vermouth and ¼ cup veggie broth (from powder). Set all these aside, to use as needed. Heated coconut oil and sautéed cutlets in 2 batches, about 2-3 min/side (depending on size); removed all to plate to keep warm. Added a bit of olive oil and sautéed shallots. Then deglazed with vermouth followed by the veggie broth. Brought this to a boil, stirring until reduced, 8 min. Added tarragon, stirred to combine, then added ⅓ cup heavy cream mixed with ⅓ cup sour cream to simmer until thickened, 5 min. Added cutlets back to pan with any accumulated juices, turning to coat and warm. Adjusted seasoning with salt and pepper before serving. Served with braised broccoli and green beans, small beet, and slice of whole grain sourdough bread. Result: It was ok – could have been better. I’ve updated recipe accordingly (per the notes, below), and will try this again.

  • First, I should have used chicken stock instead of mixing a veggie broth powder with water (I think I used too much of the powder, and the mix of herbs in the powder didn’t work well with the tarragon).
  • Second, I should only have used ¼ cup vermouth if adding ¼ cup broth/stock.
  • Third, I forgot that when you use dried herbs instead of fresh, you should use less; in this case, I should have used ½ tsp dried instead of 1½ tsp (as substitute for fresh tarragon).

Chicken Pieces with Tarragon, Wine and Cream Sauce

This recipe is adapted from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, by Cheryl Sedaker (6). While the above recipe is made with chicken cutlets, this one is made with a cut-up chicken (or butterflied game hens). I highly recommend brining at least the breast of the chicken.

If using a whole chicken, cut up into pieces (2 breast halves, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings). I prefer to leave the legs in-tact during cooking, then cut apart before adding sauce. If the half-breasts are large, I cut them in half again, crosswise, after cooking. Save the backs, neck and giblets for making chicken stock at another time; I put them in a freezer bag and freeze until I’m ready to make stock.

If using game hens, butterfly but do not cut in half until after cooking.

The original recipe uses butter to brown the chicken, but butter cannot stand up to the heat. Instead, use lard, coconut oil, or ghee (clarified butter).

Serves 4

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 chicken (3-lb), cut up; or 2 game hens, butterflied
  • Unrefined Sea Salt (only if you don’t brine the chicken)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp ghee, lard or coconut oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour or tapioca starch
  • ½ cup vermouth or other dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (or ½ Tbsp dried)
  • 1 cup water or Chicken Stock
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Equipment:
  • heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucier, cast iron fry pan, or French/Dutch oven suitable for stove-top). Note: if use cast iron fry pan, you may not be able to add all the broth/wine initially. Instead, add remaining liquid after your remove the pieces to cook down the sauce.

Method:

  1. Prep: If starting with a whole chicken, I cut it up into meaty pieces: 2 each: thighs, drumsticks, wings, and 2 breasts (each cut in half horizontally) for this recipe; I freeze the back, neck and giblets together for a future batch of chicken stock.
  2. Brine Chicken (either all the meaty pieces or just the breasts) or butterflied game hens. Then remove from brine, rinse and dry. Season with pepper (or salt and pepper if you didn’t brine the chicken. Set on a sheet of paper towel on a plate and chill in fridge overnight, to dry out the skin.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the onion finely; mince the garlic, sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt and crush with the side of a knife blade. Chop the fresh tarragon.
  4. Cook: In saucier, melt/warm fat over medium-low heat. Add chicken pieces,skin-side down, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn pieces, add onion and garlic and cook for 5 – 7 minutes more, until onion is softened but not browned.
  5. Sprinkle flour/starch over chicken and toss for 1 minute. Add wine, tarragon, and water/stock. Cover and simmer until tender and reads 165° – 170°F in breast or thigh (not touching bone). Begin testing after 20 minutes; for me it takes about 35 minutes for legs, 50 minutes for breasts (see testing, below). Remove meat to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  6. Cream Sauce: Bring liquids in pan to a boil, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
  7. Serve: Pour sauce over chicken (or add chicken back to pan and toss to coat with sauce, then put all in a shallow serving bowl). Garnish with whole fresh tarragon leaves, if desired.

Testing Chicken Pieces with Tarragon, Wine & Cream Sauce

3/6/14: Made full recipe with one chicken, cut up (2 legs, 2 wings, 2 brined half-breasts) in my saucier; had to do the first cooking in 2 batches, then combined all after turning. Wasn’t sure about how to toss the chicken and flour, so I just turned pieces twice, then added wine, water and chopped fresh (frozen) tarragon. Brought to boil, turned pieces again, then simmered, covered, tossing once more during 20 minutes. The liquids thickened nicely with the flour. Was not up to temperature after 20 minutes, so cooked additional 15 minutes, 35 minutes total for legs to reach 160°F in breasts, and another 15 minutes for breasts to reach temperature (50 minutes total). Removed to warm oven on covered platter. Boiled liquids to reduce, then added cream as per recipe. It did not need more seasoning. Result: Excellent. The sauce is delicious and the meat perfectly tender and tasty. I served this with roasted yukon gold potato wedges, braised broccoli and cooked beet, and preceded the main course with a salad of greens.

8/13/17: Used meaty pieces of cut up whole chicken as before, but used my cast iron chicken fry-pan instead of my saucier. I was unable to add all the broth and wine initially, so added the remainder after the 20-30 minute simmer. Used 1 Tbsp each whole wheat and unbleached white flour, diluted broth, vermouth, frozen tarragon. Result: Excellent as before but next time I’ll use my saucier or Le Cruset French oven (can’t use stainless steel right ow). Using my cast iron pan made a huge mess because too small for amount of liquid, and boiled over… OR I’ll just do a half recipe if want to use cast iron pan.

References:

  1. finecooking.com/recipes/chicken-tarragon-vermouth.aspx
  2. finecooking.com/recipes/classic-scalloped-potatoes.aspx
  3. finecooking.com/recipes/green-beans-mustard-tarragon-vinaigrette.aspx
  4. catsfork.com/CatsKitchen-Recipes/Gratin.html
  5. catsfork.com/CatsKitchen-Recipes/GreenBeans-Peas.html
  6. 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, by Cheryl Sedaker

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