30 May 2016

Red flowers, and that recipe for Tarragon Chicken

Either in November or in March, I brought back from North Carolina some amaryllis bulbs that my mother had dug up in the gardens at her retirement complex (with permission, of course — the bulbs had multiplied and were too crowded). When I got back to Saint-Aignan, I put the bulbs, packed in a zip-top plastic bag, on a shelf in the little sun porch on the front of our house — and promptly forgot them.

I only found them about a month ago when I was doing some spring cleaning on the sun porch, getting all the plants out of the space and cleaning the shelves and floor. They had sprouted in the plastic bag. I was glad, because my mother had asked me about the bulbs and I'd had to tell her I had lost them. Now they were found.

And look what they've done in May. The water in the saucers in the first image is rain water, of course. We got another 30 mm of hard rain yesterday in the space of four or five hours. That's over an inch. More is expected today — in fact, a lot more, if this MétéoCiel forecast for Saint-Aignan proves to be accurate. Look at the rainfall column (Pluie sur 3h), numbers in blue. The amount of rain over the next day or two adds up to another three inches for us. We normally get only two inches a month. I've been thinking about a blog post title of "Pluie phooey"...

On another subject, I want to come back to Bernard Laurance's recipe for Poulet à l'estragon, which I wrote about a few days ago. Here's my translation. My additions to his version are in square brackets and italics.

Poulet à l’estragon

Every cook claims to have the best Tarragon Chicken recipe! However, many of you ask me to write about the great classic dishes of French cuisine. Here I give you the recipe I love: it has a rich sauce, creamy and perfectly flavored. There’s nothing complicated about it. The main thing is that you have to do is cook the sauce long enough so that it can reduce and thicken a little. It’s delicious served with plain steamed rice. The recipe serves 4.

1 chicken cut up into serving pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil [or other vegetable oil]
1 shallot, chopped
150 ml dry white wine [6 fl. oz.]
500 ml chicken stock bouillon [17 fl. oz.]
1 bunch tarragon [or 2 to 3 Tbsp. dried tarragon]
400 ml heavy cream
salt and pepper

Brown the chicken pieces in the olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the pan or pot, leaving the fat — it has good flavor. Cook the chopped shallot in and let it cook for two or three minutes. Add the wine and chicken bouillon.

Put the chicken pieces back in. If you want, you can remove the skin of the chicken, entirely or partially, if you think it’s too fatty. Let the chicken cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. When it’s cooked as you like it, take it out of the liquid and set it aside.

Turn up the heat and let the cooking liquid boil down by half. This can take a few minutes. In the meantime, coarsely chop up the tarragon. Add it to the reduced cooking liquid. Then pour in the cream.

(Note: if you don’t want to use cream, you’ll need to add a tablespoon of flour to the shallots as they cook, before adding the bouillon and wine. Otherwise, the sauce will be too thin.)

Again let the sauce reduce. It should thicken to the point where it coats the back of a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the sauce is right, put the chicken back in and let it heat through, for about 10 minutes. Serve it with plain rice, pasta, or steamed potatoes. Enjoy!


  1. This recipe seems (and I insist on seems!) easy enough to do. I'll give it a try later. I'm already drooling!

    Those flowers are gorgeous.

    1. I didn't put in as much cream as the recipe called for -- about half -- and I thickened the sauce with a beurre manié. I looked at recipes on the internet for lapin à l'estragon and saw quite a few. I could also try to make a Brunswick Stew again...

    2. All this looks promising, certainly more than train transportation next week. On le jouera par l'oreille!

  2. MA will be happy to learn that the bulbs have been found. I hope she's doing well. This recipe is definitely going into my 'Ken - Recipes' folder. Thanks!

    1. MA said yesterday that she's doing fine except for some breathing problems caused by a low pressure system over the area. Hope you are doing well.

  3. I enjoy reading your blog Ken. My partner and I are heading to France to retire in October. The simple pleasures of life in France shine through your photos and commentary and convince me we are making the right decision. Tony Hull

    1. Thanks, Tony. I can't stress enough how important it is to be able to conduct your affairs in French. Take lessons if you need them — maybe I'm preaching to the choir. So many people just assume that they'll be able to get by using English.

  4. I am so envious of your rainfall. May saw well above average rainfall here, with 57mm for the month.

  5. I love Amaryllis ... I used to think of them as Christmas flowers as they would be everywhere in NYC at Christmas time.
    The little rest they had did them no harm :)

  6. These are beautiful flowers. Here they are sold during the fall for "forced indoor " blooms but I will buy them this fall and see if I can store them in a conditioned environment for next spring/summer.

  7. So glad you found the amaryllis . I usually have one to enjoy in January. They must live outdoors at MA's. thanks for the tarragon recipe. I'm going to make it this week and cut back on the cream like you did.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?