Sunday, June 24, 2007

Poulet A L'Estragon (Encore)

One of the plants actually enjoying the cool weather in our garden is the estragon (tarragon) that came up from last year's crop. So when we saw that chickens were on sale at the supermarket, we went out and bought a couple. Last week I used one to make tarragon chicken.

A ready-to-cook chicken from Père Dodu, "raised with natural light." I'm not sure what that means...

I adapted the recipe from The Hudson River Valley Cookbook by Waldy Malouf. The book was given to me by a fellow upstate New Yorker friend while we lived San Francisco - she was living in Seattle at the time. I didn't make this recipe until I moved to France.

This is not the first time I've made the dish, but I have significantly altered it from the cookbook version. Malouf's recipe is a bit complicated with many steps. I know that the result is a very nice restaurant-style dish - I did it his way the first time. Since then, I've morphed the recipe into a French country home version, much easier to make at home, and it tastes just as good.

The ingredients are assembled.

First, I cut up a whole chicken, reserve the breasts, legs, and wings, then make stock with the carcass, herbs, and some aromatics. I don't do this every time - sometimes I use stock that's already been made and frozen, other times a bullion cube will do. It all depends on what's going on at the time I'm making the dish. The last time I made this I marinated the chicken parts overnight in wine and tarragon. I didn't do that this time.

Next, I season the chicken and brown the pieces in some oil. I remove the chicken and sauté chopped garlic and shallot in the same pan, being sure to keep the good brown bits in. I then add some butter and flour to make a roux (still in the same pan). When the roux has cooked (but not turned dark) I add white wine, chopped fresh tarragon, and a splash of tarragon vinegar, some of the stock, salt and pepper, and reduce it by half.

Fresh tarragon from the garden, stems removed, ready to be chopped.

Then the chicken pieces and any juices go back in along with the rest of the stock. This goes into the oven uncovered for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, I add some butter to the sauce to richen it up. You can remove the chicken and strain then reduce the sauce in another pan before adding the butter to make it more elegant, but my rustic style is just as good if you don't mind the bits of tarragon floating in it.

The main course is served !

My version turns out to be a one-pan recipe (using a sauteuse, pictured above), and the amount of each ingredient that you use is entirely up to you and your taste. This time I used a lot of stock and wine to make a good amount of sauce, but you can just as easily make less. You can reduce the sauce by half to thicken it more and to give it a more intense flavor, or do as I did and only reduce it by about a third. Also, the whole thing can be covered and held in a warm oven for up to half an hour if necessary.

The appetizer of black radish (which is only black on the outside) and cheese.

Our lunch started out with a salad of thinly sliced radis noir (black radish) and mimolette cheese with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh cerfeuil (chervil) from the garden. We served the main course with French fries and a green salad.

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