So, it’s July, and this is the first of my Paris in July posts. Naturally it’s a recipe.
This is one of those classic recipes that you can posh up a bit by serving the chicken and sauce separately, with some fresh pasta and a salad. Naturally you would then call it L’estragon poulet rather than Tarragon Chicken. Or you can serve it in bowls as a soupy thing with lots of fresh crusty bread to dunk.
I have been cooking this recipe for years. This version of a classic French recipe comes from Scottish chef, Nick Nairns’ Wild Harvest. I re-discovered this book (which used to be one of my favourites) the other day when I was searching for inspiration and a potato scone recipe. I needed to replenish my brownie point bank account with my Scottish hubby & given that I refuse to prepare haggis (and yes I have hunted one of those wee beggars down in the past) or black pudding (eeeeeuw) potato scones are the most palatable of the (culinary) options available to score major points quickly. As an aside, I am of the opinion that whisky was invented to allow the swallowing of the haggis…with all due respects to my Scottish readers of course, och aye.
Even though this is a (relatively) classic French recipe, it demonstrates how French cuisine found its way into Scotland via that little piece of history known as Vieille Alliance, or the Auld Alliance.
For a period of a few hundred years from the 13th century (or thereabouts) the French and the Scots were in alliance against the English. Aside from the usual military scuffles that tended to break out regularly in those years, this also meant that French influence found its way into architecture, language and food. Scottish nobles sent their kids to France to be educated and to marry into French nobility. Mary Queen of Scots is a notable case in point.
Sadly the French influence on cuisine is not visible in delicacies such as the fried Mars bar…
Anyways, here is the recipe. The best thing about really good French recipes is that you really don’t need heavy butters and creams to get this to taste great. A little time spent reducing stocks and some fresh herbs results in a meal as good for the waistline as it is on the tongue. When I want a soupier result, I throw everything into the slow cooker. It gives a different, but just as satisfying result.
Chicken- preferably free-range. I use a combination of thighs and drumsticks. I prefer the skin off as it keeps the fat down, but keeping the skin on gives you a moister and more luxurious result.
2 tablespoons oil for frying (I use rice bran, but sunflower is fine)
50g unsalted butter
1 large Spanish (ie purple) onion, peeled and sliced into gorgeous little half moons
1 garlic clove crushed (I usually throw another couple of unpeeled cloves into the pot for a tad more flavour)
15g tarragon leaves (you will need the stalks, so don’t throw them away)
165g button mushrooms, cut in half
300ml white wine
600ml chicken stock (I always make my own and have it in the freezer. Any good commercial stock is fine, but please not powdered stocks for this recipe.)
few drops of lemon juice
What you do with it:
Heat a large pan until hot & add the oil. Fry the chicken until golden. (Note, I use the slow cooker and remove the skin, so only sear my chook). Keep aside. If you are using a slow cooker, pop the chicken in.
Heat a large saucepan or stove top friendly casserole pan. Add the butter, then garlic, onions & tarragon stalks (the ones I told you to hang onto). Cook for about 5-10 minutes until they start to colour. Add the wine & reduce the liquid by about 3/4 .
If you are finishing on the stovetop, add the chook, mushies and the stock. If it needs it, add just enough water to make sure the chicken is covered in liquid. Add a few drops of lemon juice. Bring to the boil and immediately lower the heat. Simmer gently with a lid on for an hour- skimming & stirring occasionally.
If you are finishing this in the slow cooker, do the same, but with the slow cooker & let it do its thing while you enjoy Sunday afternoon. I let it wallow for a few hours.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Increase the heat & reduce the cooking liquid by half. Remove the tarragon stalks (and any stray garlic cloves which you threw in), pop the chicken back in & add the tarragon leaves- that you have had the foresight to chop up.
Naturally if you are doing this as a soupy in the bowl with lots of juices thing, don’t stress too much over the reducing.
Plonk it in the middle of the table with mash or pasta or whatever it is you are using, and let people help themselves. Too easy.