Poulet à l’ Estragon (Tarragon Chicken)

May  6, 2014

Sunday Dinners comes to us from our own chef/photojournalist/farmer/father figure Tom Hirschfeld, featuring his stunning photography and Indiana farmhouse family meals.

Today: An ode to spring's most versatile herb -- and a classic French chicken recipe fit for a Sunday dinner.

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Spring always seems rushed. It's as if we spend months climbing a mountain called winter, and when we finally reach the peak, we're so grateful that we run as fast as we can down the other side -- past spring and directly into summer. It's even true for the vegetables we're attracted to -- the fleeting cool weather crops that are harvested and eaten before spring has truly begun.  

Asparagus, fresh peas, and favas are a magic trick that Mother Nature pulls out of her hat. And, like any good parlor sleight of hand, they inspire awe and applause from our kitchens. These vegetables follow the law of diminishing returns: They vanish before we have time to tire of them -- which is probably why we clamor for them so.

More: Can't get enough of spring? Here are 10 more recipes to help you make the most of it. 

These vegetables draw your attention away from the nuts and bolts of cooking so much that it’s easy to overlook some of the other real treasures of the spring garden: the first fresh herbs.

Take tarragon, the bellwether of my kitchen garden, tucked away in the corner of a raised bed just outside my door. Every day, starting in early April, I descend the back porch steps to that corner in hopes of spotting the first green tips of spring.

I then pinch off the first shoots with glee and crush the tender leaves between my thumb and forefinger, staining them with chlorophyll. The smell is a magical anise elixir, packed with the promise of the other herbs that will follow close behind: lovage, savory, chervil, and chives.

Maybe it's tarragon's longevity, but as the seasons progress, it is the quiet friend that is always there with a helping hand. It lifts Green Goddess dressing, carries Béarnaise, mellows white wine vinegar, and is the secret ingredient to French fines herbes. I like tarragon with my tomatoes just as much as I do basil. It's delicious with fish, and it elevates tender butter leaf lettuce when tossed with a simple, mustardy red wine vinaigrette. Without tarragon's balanced hand, many a seafood bisque would be nothing more than a briny shot of sherry.

In Poulet à l’ Estragon -- a classic French dish that at first glance looks heavy -- the herb actually makes way for lighter times (and taste). It is without question one of my favorite tarragon pairings, and it makes for a classic Sunday dinner fit for any dining room.


Poulet à l’ Estragon (Tarragon Chicken) 

Serves 4 to 6

1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 shallots, trimmed, peeled, and julienned
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons tarragon, minced, plus 4 sprigs
1/2 cup dry white wine

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Tom Hirschfeld

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alex Culley
    Alex Culley
  • HL
  • plainhomecook
  • Liz B. @ UMAMI LIFE
    Liz B. @ UMAMI LIFE
  • ParkerNolita
Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


Alex C. June 18, 2018
What rice works best with this dish?
HL June 24, 2015
Is it possible to make this without cream? Or is there a suitable substitute? I'd like to make this but we are dairy free.
plainhomecook May 19, 2014
This was Sunday dinner at our house yesterday, and the leftovers went to parent-teacher conference day for my kid's teacher's lunch. When she opened the container and got a whiff I felt we'd finally given her something to make up for being incarcerated in a classroom with our little hellion for three years straight.
Liz B. May 6, 2014
I want to try this with eggplant! Just reading your herb description made me so hungry!

http://thatumamilife.wordpress.com - a clean eating bento blog. Japanese or Asian-inspired!
ParkerNolita May 6, 2014
I have been making chicken and tarragon very close to this recipe for a while now, except instead of heavy cream I stir in creme fraiche at the end. I also make a quick version for weekday dinner by pan-frying boneless breast and thigh meat in butter and whole tarragon leaves, deglaze with white wine and chicken stock then stir in cream.