A friend recently presented me with a veritable cornucopia of assorted fresh herbs she’d gotten in her CSA box, as she was leaving on vacation the next day and she wouldn’t be able to use them. “What do you do with tarragon, anyway?” she asked.
Tarragon is a really pungent herb that, when used judiciously, enhances poultry, citrus, eggs, and especially cream sauces. Oh, yesssss… especially cream sauces…
I actually discovered tarragon some years ago, when Mike and I used to co-host big St. Patrick’s Day parties at a friend’s home. Back then we lived in a teensy condo and it became a bit too crowded, what with two home businesses going at the same time (don’t ask), to entertain much. Among the advantages of the arrangement, though, was that I didn’t have to put together a kosher St. Patrick’s Day party. I know. Weird. Anyway, I found a recipe for chicken in a tarragon cream sauce in The Best of Irish Cooking, edited by Rosemary Moon. Not exactly low-fat or particularly heart-healthy, but ohmygod delicious!
The conversation with my friend about tarragon motivated me to try to come up with a version that uses no dairy. That accomplished two things: First, I could now prepare this decadent delight in my kosher kitchen, and second, it eliminates pretty much all of the saturated fat and replaces it with soy. I’ve paired it here with some simple steamed Yukon Gold potatoes that I created on the fly, prepared in the microwave.
All in all, you’ll be surprised how quickly this meal comes together – fast enough to fix for your family on a weeknight – but elegant enough for company. You can also multiply this very easily for a large party. I once prepared it for 50+ people and served it buffet-style on warming trays! I’m going to give you the recipe as it appears in Ms. Moon’s collection, with my changes in red next to the original ingredients.
We were really happy with the outcome. As Mike said, when he went into the kitchen searching for seconds, “If you don’t tell anyone that there isn’t any cream in here, they’d never know.”
2 Tbs. unsalted butter (Smart Balance Light Spread)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 cup white wine (I was out of white wine – horrors! – and used Calvados)
3/4 cup heavy cream (1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream + 1/2 cup plain soy milk)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Heat a 10″ skillet on high heat and brown the “pretty” sides of the chicken breasts in the butter. Turn them over, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a heat-safe plate and keep warm while preparing the sauce.
Raise the heat back up to medium-high, add the wine to the skillet (off the stove, please, for safety), then add the fresh tarragon leaves, deglazing the pan and scraping up all the good brown bits. Allow to boil for about a minute, then reduce the heat again to medium. Add the “cream”, salt and pepper to your taste (you won’t need much), and simmer gently (reducing the heat again, if necessary) for another 2 minutes. (Thin with a bit more soy milk if it becomes too thick) Return the chicken to the pan (along with any juices accumulated while it was waiting), for just another couple of minutes.
Serve the chicken with a generous dollop – or two – of the sauce, along with some Simple Microwave Steamed Potatoes and a green salad.
Simple Microwave Steamed Potatoes
3 medium gold potatoes
1 1/2 Tbs. butter (Smart Balance Light Spread)
Salt & pepper
Wash and then roughly cube the potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place on a large dinner plate and dot with the Smart Balance Light Spread. Cover the plate with plastic wrap, leaving a gap to vent the steam, and microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender.
If you, too, have always wondered “what do you do with tarragon, anyway?”, I recommend you start with this dish – either in its original form, or my kosher, lower-fat version. You’ll want to add this versatile herb to your culinary arsenal!
Disclaimer: I was not compensated or induced in any way to use or recommend Tofutti or Smart Balance brands. I wish I had been – I use them all the time in my kitchen, and you should keep them on hand, too. By the way, regular Smart Balance Spread contains dairy. I use the Light version, because it is kosher, pareve, and vegan. Although the package states that it’s not intended for cooking/baking, I use it in both with excellent results. Word.