As we mentioned when we posted last week’s menu, Tony came back from Amsterdam a little obsessed with tarragon. In addition to making tarragon mayonnaise to go on a roast beef sandwich and tarragon mustard to go on a ham sandwich, Tony also decided to make Tarragon Chicken with Spring Greens. Here’s how it went.
There was nothing about this dish that was very complicated, but it did take about 90 minutes to make from start to finish. This was partly because I almost forgot to make the rice that goes with it (more on that later) and was working at a lower temperature than the recipe calls for, but mostly because chopping the greens, cooking them, and then browning and cooking the chicken takes a bit of time. This was fine for a Sunday night, but would be harder on, say, a Wednesday.
The first step was to do all the slicing and chopping. I sliced about five ounces of baby arugula and one head of romaine lettuce into ribbons. I only used half the leek (it was pretty enormous), which I cut into very thin crosswise slices. I also chopped up one bunch of watercress (after removing most of the stems) and three tablespoons of tarragon.
I then started on the chicken. I melted the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cooked the chicken skin side up for about 15 minutes. (This was about twice as long as the recipe called for, but “High” on our oven – which is the setting the recipe recommends – is pretty damn high; I was willing the invest the extra time to make sure the chicken didn’t burn.) Once it was browned on the bottom, I transferred the chicken to a platter and poured off all but about one tablespoon of the butter/oil/chicken fat that was left in the pan.
I cooked all the greens – arugula, romaine, watercress, and leek – with the tarragon and caraway seeds for about two minutes, until everything had started to wilt. I added the wine and cooked everything until the liquid was reduced by half. This took closer to 10 minutes that the 5 mentioned in the recipe, but again, I was working on lower heat. I then stirred in the broth and crème fraîche, placed the chicken skin side up on top of the greens (the recipe says to “nestle” the chicken in the greens, but I didn’t have quite enough space to do that), and put everything into a 425 degree oven.
The chicken had only about 10 minutes of cooking time left when Kim asked me a very logical question: “What are you serving the chicken with?” It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten to make the rice. I looked at the instructions on a bag of basmati rice we had in the panty and figured it would take about 25 minutes to cook the rice and another 10 to let it steam in the pot before serving. I started the rice and turned the oven down to about 300 degrees; I figured it could finish cooking at this temperature for 25 minutes and would come out fine. The nice thing was that the chicken was also supposed to brown under the broiler as a final step for 10 minutes, exactly how long the rice was supposed to steam. I managed to get everything cooked correctly and finished at the same time.
Everything was cooked perfectly: the chicken was juicy and tender with nice, crisp skin; the greens were soft without being mushy; and the rice was light and fluffy. The flavors came together very well too, with the greens balancing out the tarragon and the crème fraîche giving the sauce a nice body. I would have liked a bit more tarragon (I will use four tablespoons the next time I make this) and a slightly thicker sauce (I will reduce the sauce much more the next time), but dinner was great. The best part was taking the leftovers for lunch on Thursday, which was a nice change of pace from the sandwiches I had on Tuesday and Wednesday!