Some people pine away for basil and tomatoes all winter. Me, I save myself for fresh tarragon. My yearnings are specifically for chicken braised in a creamy tarragon sauce and eaten with egg pasta, a Jerry Traunfeld preparation that tastes extraordinary for how easy it is. The secret is in the fresh, anise-flavored leaves.
Among tarragon’s selling points is that it’s a wonderfully sturdy herb that dies back in fall and comes back three times as strong in spring. In years past I’ve killed it out of total incompetence but we now have some good-sized plants thriving in a sunny raised bed, which is all they ever wanted anyway. There’s finally enough of it this year that our days of rationing may be over for good.
Recipe: Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Cream Sauce
1 large chicken breast or 2 small breasts / 1 shallot, sliced thinly / 2 tbls vermouth / 2 tbls chopped fresh tarragon / ½ cup cream / 1 tsp lemon juice / salt & pepper
Slice breasts in half and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in vegetable oil and when hot, fry chicken until just starting to brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan. Add shallot and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add vermouth, turn heat down, then add 1 tbls tarragon and all of cream. Replace chicken in pan and cover, cooking on low heat, until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes more, then remove breasts. If sauce is runny, cook on high heat for another minute or two to reduce, then stir in remainder of tarragon plus lemon juice. Correct salt and pepper, then serve over egg noodles. Feeds 2 or 3. Adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s fabulous Herbfarm cookbook.