Chicken Tarragon, by L

…this is one of my favorite meals. It has also poisoned me once, but that was my fault and it’s testimony to how much I love this dish that I went back to it without fear. If you’re curious, I believe it’s a French-derived dish.

Just before I went to and while I was at college/university, my mother was writing up ‘her’ recipes in her impeccably neat and small print on index cards for me. Unfortunately, she died before she could get very far into her project, but this is one of the ones I found after her death, waiting for me. As it turns out, we didn’t often eat this, so unlike most of her recipes which I judge my success at based on how true they taste, I had no real reference for this one. I can maybe remember eating it once when it was made by her. I first made it in my second year of college, in my first non-university-provided shared house in Bath.

You will need:

  • Large saucepan, in the sense of broad (broad enough to fit 6-8 pieces of chicken).
  • Two large shallow dishes; one to spice the raw chicken in, and one to place the cooked chicken in aside.
  • One regular serving bowl to displace the onions and in which to mix them, the tarragon, and the mushrooms.
  • Tongs, or I often just use a fork. Trusty wooden spoon (TWS).

Serves 4, takes about half an hour of prep (just the chicken) once you’re familiar with it, about half an hour to forty-five minutes more to cook. I usually do the side dishes while the chicken’s cooking.

Ingredients (according to my mother, with [my notes]):

  • One 2 1/2-3lb ready-to-cook broiler/fryer chicken, cut up, or equiv in pre-cut pieces. [For convenience I often go the pre-cut route, and have used just chicken breasts.]
  • One medium yellow onion, thinly sliced. [More on my relationship with onions later, but I often chop it up into chunks instead.]
  • One 3oz can sliced mushrooms, drained (1/2 cup), or fresh equiv. [I like fresh better.]
  • 1/4 cup butter or magarine. [More on margarine later, so trust me, use butter.]
  • 1tsp dried tarragon, crushed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • For the chicken spice: 2tsp seasoned salt [when I run out I use garlic salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne], 1/4tsp pepper [omit if you’re making up your own seasoned salt], dash of paprika.

Great accompaniments: mashed potatoes [I like them with the skins on, and with no salt since the gravy’s going to be salty enough] and steamed broccoli [likewise about the salt].


  1. Make up your chicken spice in a shallow bowl that you can roll the chicken in, or just have it in a prep bowl and smear the chicken with dabs with your hands. Spice up the chicken.
  2. Low heat. Brown the chicken slowly in the broad saucepan in the butter. Take care, as with some pans I’ve found it can stick. Be patient with it! Remove the chicken when it’s browned and mostly cooked – it doesn’t have to be perfectly cooked at this stage as the broiling will happen later, but it’s a good idea to get it mostly done now – just make sure you don’t dry it out.
  3. Low-med heat. In same saucepan, cook your onion until tender. When they’re done, take them out and put them aside in another bowl, and put your chicken back in. Turn heat down to low.
  4. Mix onions with tarragon and mushrooms, spoon evenly over chicken. Add water evenly – don’t drown it, but you may need more or less – depending on how much you put in and how long you cook this, this will determine your gravy amount (and let’s face it, that’s the best part).
  5. Cover the saucepan and simmer it all until the chicken’s tender: about 30-40mins.


I have some very pretty and shiny stainless steel pots. I keep forgetting they’re not non-stick, and thusly many of my meals can get burnt. As an aside, I have been warned to stay away from aluminum pots by my father, who said something about reactivity and poisoning which I didn’t understand – ironically though, the best pots I’ve ever used were my mother’s mother’s Guardian Ware, which is waterless aluminum. Go figure.

Also, my recent misadventure was with a bad chicken. Make sure you check the date on your chicken, defrost and cook it properly, kiddies. Bringing up the entire contents of your stomach six times over in a night – just from gravy made with the chicken – isn’t worth you skipping steps. Me myself, I always try to use chicken I’ve bought that day. The incident I refer to, I had defrosted a broiler chicken in the fridge and left it in there for too long before cooking it. There were several points where I thought something just wasn’t right but I carried on. Tsk. Always listen to the little voices!


2 Responses to “Chicken Tarragon, by L”

  1. […] Large saucepan, in the sense of broad (like you used for the chicken tarragon) […]

  2. […] recipe was my paternal grandmother’s, given to me through my mother on one of her recipe cards. This grandmother, Marylene, is the sister of the Great-Aunt Nonie from whom came the Country […]

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