Wednesday 5 November 2014



TARRAGON CHICKEN WITH POTATO GRATIN                                          

I think that of all the herbs out there, tarragon has got to be the most exquisite and aromatic of them all. It isn't as versatile as other herbs but that’s just fine because it knows what it’s good at. When paired with particular ingredients, tarragon transforms them into something extraordinary and magical. 

Last night I was going through some tarragon withdrawal. I was missing the scent of tarragon wafting through the house so I decided to prepare a classic French dish that is a perennial favourite in our home: Tarragon Chicken.

The first time I had this dish perfectly executed was in a little mountain town called Arrowtown which is in New Zealand of all places. It is situated near renowned Queenstown which is in the south island of New Zealand. This picturesque little place has plenty of international tourists and expats who decided to make it their home, and who can blame them? This area is visually stunning, it’s home to some of the best vineyards in the world, the best skiing, mountains, crystalline lakes, etc. … heck, it’s the actual Middle Earth (much of the Lord of the Rings was filmed there).

Okay, back to the chicken. One evening a few years back, I went out to a French Restaurant in Arrowtown that was run by the French, even the wait staff was French so my confidence was high when I saw Poulet à l'estragon on the menu, I absolutely had to have it and I am still benefiting from it to this day.  It created such an impression on me that I decided to recreate it once I got home. After much tinkering and experimenting I finally had it down to a science. My tarragon chicken dish is rich, intense and exquisite. I have yet to meet a soul that hasn't fallen in love with it. So if you want to elevate your roast chicken to something exceptional, you will adore this recipe.


Makes 4 servings
  • For the roast chicken:
  • 1 whole organic chicken, about 1.2 -1.5 kg
  • One large onion, sliced
  • A bunch of fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 Tbs. soft butter                                    
For the tarragon gravy:
  • 1/2 of a bottle of white wine
  • Tarragon leaves, at least 20  (can also add 1 tsp. dry tarragon leaves for more intense flavour)
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • Salt and pepper
For the Potato Gratin:
  • 4 potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold because they keep their shape), very thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cup cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Grated cheese, I prefer Gruyere here but you can use something similar as well
  • Salt to taste

How to make the potato gratin
How to make the tarragon gravy

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Rinse chicken then pat dry with paper towel
  3. Rub soft butter all over the body
  4. Season entire chicken well with salt and pepper
  5. Stuff half a lemon into the cavity along with 5-8 or tarragon sprigs, this will infuse the chicken with a mild lemon and tarragon flavour as well as ensure a moist bird
  6. Place the round onion slices flat on the roasting pan then lie the chicken breast-side up over the onion slices. This will not only protect the bird as it’ s cooking but will sop up all the rendered chicken fat and caramelize them for a knock-out gravy.
  7. Place the chicken in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 400 F. Let roast for 1 hour
  8. In the meantime, remove the excess water from the potato slices by wrapping them in paper towels or a clean dish cloth then putting a weight on them for about 15 min. I used a heavy cutting board.
  9. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a light simmer on medium heat along with the crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Let simmer on low for about 15 minutes until the flavour of the garlic and thyme imparts itself sufficiently to the cream. Remove the garlic and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and set aside.
  10. I  like individual gratins so I use ramekins to make this dish. Rub soft butter over the inside of the ramekins and place a layer of potato slices over the bottom of the ramekin. Spoon over some of the infused cream then sprinkle on some of the grated cheese. Repeat this layering process pressing down firmly on each layer, until you get to the top. Cover this last layer with slightly more cream and sprinkle a good amount of the cheese over top followed by a little knob of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  11. Once your chicken has been roasting for a full hour, it should be golden and crispy and the fat should be nicely rendered covering the onions at the bottom of the roasting dish. At this point, pour in the white wine and continue cooking the chicken in the oven for another ½ hour.
  12. This is also a good time to put in your gratin ramekins as they take about half hour to cook.
  13. Once the half hour is up, remove chicken from the pan leaving behind that liquid gold. Wrap the chicken in tin foil and leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
  14. Meanwhile transfer the roasting pan to the stove to create that heavenly tarragon gravy. This is where the magic happens! By now the onions should be caramelized and almost melting into the rich liquid. Turn to stove on medium heat, and using a fork mash the onions down to thicken the liquid. Take the tarragon leaves off the stem, chop them up and add to the gravy, then season with salt and pepper. Let the gravy simmer and reduce by about a 1/3. The gravy should be thickened up now. Give it a taste to check if there is sufficient seasoning and tarragon flavour.  You can chop up more tarragon at this point or add some dry tarragon for a more intense flavour. Finally , stir in the cream and cook for another minute.
  15. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat  or pour directly over the roasted chicken. Make sure to leave some gravy aside because you WILL be going back to it over and over again as you surely devour your bird. Enjoy!

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