Poulet à l’Estragon. It’s French. It’s chicken. It has tarragon in it. It’s a classic. It’s French Tarragon Chicken! The tall American spy from Pasadena had a recipe for it, but it’s kind of involved. She trussed the chicken, for instance, which means she tied a piece of string around it. What purpose that serves I will never know. I think the idea was to hold the wings in close to the body so they don’t burn or something. Has this been a problem for you? Burning the wings off of chickens? No. Of course it hasn’t.
I’m going to show how to make Tarragon Chicken the easy way.
Quest for Enameled Cast Iron
First a digression. What would a recipe from me be without a digression? Let’s talk about enameled cast iron! It’s the shit. It’s really nice.
Cooking in cast iron is great in its own right, but enameled cast iron? It doesn’t get any better. The heavy cast iron means smooth, even heating, and the enamel coating means a super durable, non-stick surface that you don’t have to worry about seasoning, rust-proofing, and whatnot. Also, iron reacts with acids (vinegar, citrus, tomatoes, etc.) which can cause discoloration and off flavors. Not a huge issue with properly seasoned cast iron, but with enameled cast iron you don’t even have to waste any mental energy on it. Finally, enamel is really nice looking, making your cast iron very sexy. We all like things that are sexy, am I right? Of course I am!.
Enameled cast iron cookware, properly cared for, lasts forever. It’s the kind of cookware that ought to last you your whole life. It’s the kind of cookware you can pass down to future generations.
The trouble with enameled cast iron, however, is that it’s insanely expensive. That matters to non-rich persons like yours truly. A pot with a lid is like $50,000.00. Well okay, maybe not that much. But it’s a lot! The gold standard is Le Creuset, made in France, the birthplace of Poulet à l’Estragon (aka, tarragon chicken). Another great brand is Staub, which is also made in the birthplace of Poulet à l’Estragon (tarragon chicken). Regardless of whether you go Le Creuset or Staub, a small Dutch oven style pot with a lid is like $400. That’s not an exaggeration. It really costs that much. I’m not saying they’re not worth that price, by the way. Since they are guaranteed for life I think they are worth it. It’s just a lot of money for a single pot.
There is cheaper enameled cast iron. Lodge, an American brand, makes them, as to any number of other companies. I have some non-enameled cast iron from Lodge and it’s great. In the global economy of the 21st century, however, pretty much all brands of enameled cast iron, including Lodge, are now manufactured in China (except for Le Creuset and Staub, as noted above). For all I know they all come from the same factory. And it’s a lot cheaper because, well, that’s how global capitalism works.
I don’t really have a big problem with the idea that enameled cast iron is manufactured in China. And I certainly don’t have a problem with a $40 enameled Dutch oven rather than a $400 version. However, I keep reading horrorshow reviews about the enamel cracking and chipping and whatnot. I get the impression that the quality isn’t as good. This has kept me from getting a $40 version. If you’ve gone there and are happy with the product let me know. Maybe I’m just being a picky American bourgeois, but I like things that are made well.
For these reasons I don’t own any enameled cast iron save for one large skillet. One large black, glorious Le Creuset. It’s beautiful and I love it. My mother gave it to me because it weighs like 20 pounds and she can’t lift it. So she told me I could have it. It probably cost like $9,000. I’m kidding. Still, in all seriousness I bet it was a few hundred dollars. If you want to see it, it’s featured in this Mediterranean Orange-Fennel Chicken recipe.
Staub, Therefore Tarragon Chicken
Well now I have a second piece of enameled cast iron: a 4 quart round oven from Staub. It’s super sexy red and it was 74% off retail. That means I paid $99. Hell yeah! And since it’s French I felt the need to make something French for it’s maiden voyage. Thus the tarragon chicken.
About This Chicken Tarragon
You want to know about this chicken tarragon? It’s delicious, so you should make it. Unless, that is, you’re one of those “I hate the flavor or licorice” people. Tarragon has an anise-licorice-fennel kind of flavor and I know that’s a polarizing flavor. Some folks really hate it. If that’s you, then you will probably hate tarragon chicken. That’s fine. Just bear in mind you are so, so wrong, because tarragon chicken is delicious. That’s my position on the matter and I am unlikely to be swayed.
- 3 pound whole chicken
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 large bunch of fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine (or white vermouth)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup half and half
- Preheat your oven to 375F (190C).
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a hot cast iron dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat. Salt and pepper the surface of the chicken and add to the pot. Brown the chicken, turning to brown all sides. The point here is simply to brown the skin. Once it’s well browned on all sides, remove it and set it aside.
- Add the onion and carrot and saute in the fat until tender. When it’s tender, add a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon leaves and allow them to cook for a few minutes to infuse the fat with tarragon flavor.
- Deglaze the pot with the white wine and add the chicken back to the pot. Cover with a lid and place in the oven to roast until done (approximately 30 minutes). It’s done when the temperature reads 165° Fahrenheit (75° Celsius) in the thickest part of the thigh. Try not to overcook it (it’ll dry out the breast meat).
- If your oven has a broiler, it’s nice at this point to remove the lid from the pot and turn on the broiler. Allow the chicken to broil a few minutes to crisp up the skin. Be very careful not to burn it!
- Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to rest (don’t cut it up right away or all of the juices will run out and you’ll have a dry bird).
- Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch with a ¼ cup of cold water and add it to the cooking liquid in the pot. Heat over medium heat on the stove top until it comes to a simmer and thickens.
- Add a handful of fresh tarragon leaves and pour in the half and half and add the nutmeg. Stir until incorporated into a thick, creamy sauce.
- Cut up the chicken into serving sizes. Plate and cover with tarragon cream sauce.