Cooking with the Tarragon Plant

Cooking with the Tarragon Plant
Tarragon Vinegar Chicken

The tarragon plant originated in central Asia and was brought to Europe in the middle ages during the crusades. There are many varieties, but the two most commonly sold are:

  • French tarragon - Strongly flavored with a smell similar to licorice.
  • Russian tarragon - Less aromatic and more bitter than French tarragon.

The tarragon plant grows well in hot, dry climates and you can try growing it in a pot, perhaps on a sunny balcony. Russian tarragon can be grown from seeds, but French tarragon is propagated by dividing the plant itself.

Fines Herbes

tarragon

Tarragon is one of the group of herbs known in France as Fines Herbes. The other herbs in this catagory are chives, chervil, and parsley. When a recipe calls for fines herbes you should use fresh herbs, not dried, and cut them up finely with pair of scissors, rather than chopping them.

Other Uses

Tarragon is also sometimes included in mixtures of Herbs de Provence and might be included in a boquet garni (a bundle of herbs, tied together, added to a recipe during cooking and then removed at serving time).

Tarragon Vinegar

Here is a recipe for chicken cooked in tarragon vinegar. You can make your own tarragon vinegar recipe by placing several branches of fresh tarragon in a liter of white wine vinegar and letting it infuse for several months. The tarragon vinegar I buy here in France has branches of tarragon floating in it.

Poulet au vinaigre à l'estragon

vinegar chciken

Makes 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 - 8 pieces of chicken, skinned
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup tarragon vinegar
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms, carrots and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan.
  2. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil and heat until the butter melts. Salt and pepper the chicken on all sides and than add the pieces to the pan, browning on all sides for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetables, vinegar and tarragon. Cover and simmer on low-medium heat for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and vegetables to a serving dish.
  4. Continue cooking the vinegar on high heat until reduced to about a third (about 8 minutes). Stir in cream and pour sauce over chicken and vegetables.

Fresh versus Dried Tarragon

When the tarragon plant is dried, it loses much of its flavor, but fresh tarragon is a very strong herb. It should be used with caution in order not to overwhelm your recipe.

Fresh tarragon is an essential ingredient in this Bernaise Sauce Recipe, a wonderfully rich accompaniment to grilled steak. Tarragon marries well with most grilled meats, eggs and fish. In France, you will find it as an ingredient in tartar sauce and remoulade.

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