Classic French cooking doesn’t get much more classic than chicken in tarragon cream sauce. This bistro menu stalwart has all the unctious elements you instinctively associate with Gallic gastronomy: butter, cream, wine and mild herbs. Likely originating in that blessed triangle just north of Lyon where the famous blue-footed chickens of Bresse neighbor the Cotes de Beaune wine region and abut the renowned mustard-producing region of Dijon, this dish can also be given a Norman twist simply by substituting the white wine for a dry cider.
Loosely based on a recipe I read here, but one that I’ve made countless times, we enjoyed this one with our friends Matt and Joanna this past weekend. There’s something about French classics that almost guarantees happiness among your dinner party guests. It’s as if the way we live today and nervousness about cream and butter rules out eating this kind of food in the home, but that when they do appear together some kind of Pavlovian, slightly hysterical, response is provoked that results in over-indulgence and an ability to somehow accommodate a four-course meal, including cheese, multiple bottles of wine, and after dinner drinks.
Happily, this dish is so easy to prepare and faultlessly scalable to the number you’re catering for that it’s as perfect for a dinner party as it is for a casual weeknight meal when you’re feeling in need of a little self-soothing. You can make it ahead and warm it for service or make it while your guests swarm around you in the kitchen soaking up the hum of the garlic. Serve with roasted, mashed or boiled potatoes, or just with a crusty baguette to wipe your plates of all the creamy, buttery goodness.
- 1 medium chicken, preferably organic, either already butchered or by your own hands into primal cuts: legs, wings, and breasts.
- 1pint light cream
- 1/2lb button mushrooms
- 2 large shallots, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1 small glass, dry white wine
- 2-3 large sprigs tarragon
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt and white pepper to taste.
- In a large deep pot, melt 1/2 butter over medium heat, and brown chicken pieces in batches until golden all over.
- Remove browned chicken pieces and reserve, before adding chopped shallots and garlic.
- Saute until wilted and pungent, remove and reserve.
- Add 1 more tablespoon of butter before sauteing mushrooms for 4-6 minutes.
- When mushrooms are done remove and reserve, then return shallots, garlic and chicken to the pot, and turn heat to high.
- When pot is sizzling noisily, deglaze pot with white wine, and allow to reduce by half.
- Reduce heat to low, stir well, and pour in cream.
- Add tarragon sprigs, cover and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove lid, and remove tarragon sprigs and discard.
- With tongs, pull out chicken and reserve in same place as mushrooms.
- Pour sauce through a fine meshed sieve, and push garlic and shallot pieces against mesh with back of a ladle.
- Return sauce, chicken and mushrooms to pot. Taste and correct seasoning.
- Sprinkle in pink peppercorns and serve.