Tarragon chicken

It’s weird to think that not so long ago I was, at best, apathetic about tarragon. It’s possible I even disliked its anise and vanilla tones. Things are different now; I’m even tempted to have the herb with my muesli (seriously – stirred through plum or damson compote).

The fact, then, that tarragon was the subject of the most recent of my Borough Market herb columns, wasn’t exactly onerous. Though I mentioned a host of flavour combinations in that piece, when it came to proposing a recipe it was difficult to step away from the very best of all the matches: tarragon and chicken.

At catering college we were taught that when combining these two things (plus cream), the chicken should be cooked through without colouring it. I get the tradition of a classic blanquette de poulet a l’estragon. But just as I understand that a classic French omelette should be pale and without crust, I can’t fully agree that this is the best way.

So the recipe I suggested to Borough readers doesn’t just say you can brown the chicken skin, it demands that you must.

This is an easy but mighty effective recipe. Provided you buy good quality chicken thighs.

Oven roasted chicken thighs with tarragon crème fraiche sauce

Serves 4

  • 8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 3 garlic cloves, skin on but flattened with a heavy knife
  • 6 small shallots, peeled and halved
  • 12-14 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 200ml crème fraîche
  • Juice from ¼ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Place a thick-bottomed frying pan on a high heat, add a tablespoon of sunflower oil, and when that’s hot, salt the chicken thighs then place them skin side down in the pan. Cook for somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp, adding the garlic and shallots for the last minute or so.

Transfer the chicken, garlic and shallots to an ovenproof dish. Ensure the chicken is skin side up and put the 5 woodiest tarragon sprigs (still with leaves) underneath. Bend and snap the herbs to help release their oils. Try to fit everything in snuggly so the chicken is spread across one layer only.

Deglaze the frying pan by pouring the wine in and allowing that to boil and reduce for 30 seconds. Tip the reduced liquor into the oven dish without getting the tops of the chicken wet. Place this in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.

Strip the leaves from the remaining tarragon stems and chop roughly. Then, just before serving, remove the dish from the oven and pour the wine and juices into a gravy pan or small saucepan, leaving the chicken in the warm dish. Bring the saucepan to the boil for 5 minutes until reduced by a half. Add the crème fraiche, stir to homogenise. Turn the heat off and throw in the tarragon leaves. Allow the tarragon to infuse for 3 minutes. Season to taste with the lemon juice, a little salt and pepper, and more herbs if you think it needs it. Then pour over the chicken thighs and place the dish back in the oven for 5 minutes more.

Serve directly from the cooking dish, with peas, green or runner beans, rice or mashed potato on the side.