Chicken with cream and tarragon… I believe I was a B.A student the last time I made this dish. Pheeeww, that was a long time ago!
How can it be that I let 10-15 years slip by without cooking this divine dish? Jeez.
I was cooking a lot of French and Italian dishes back then, my early years of cooking. I sure roasted and braised a lot of chickens back at that time too. One of the first cookbooks I bought at the university’s book store was dedicated to chicken recipes (no, no chicken desserts). I did not know how to handle any other type of meat or fish and chicken was easy. It also cost less and was pretty hard to screw up, especially the thighs—you can’t go wrong with chicken thighs. (Well, unless you are really, really “talented”, you know, the type that burns water.)
Back then I was living in a rented apartment with two roommates. It was a holiday and they went home to their families but I stayed. Luckily, I had some friends who stayed too so together we planned a potluck dinner party at my place—my apartment had a huge living room. We attached a few tables together, friends brought chairs from their homes, each person/couple (I was boyfriend-less) brought a dish to share and we had a fabulous time with good food and wine. We were all students, singles or married without kids, in our early twenties. We all struggled to work for a living and study after work, but we did find time to party. I remember the feeling I had at the time, at that dinner, I felt so free, and independent, and happy about living on my own, doing whatever I wanted, being responsible for my own choices—the essence of freedom.
These friends are long gone—some are no longer friends, some live far away (I moved!)—our friendships have faded. Some couples split or got divorced. We all moved on with our lives. But the chicken… the chicken will always be on my mind and the memories of those years and those friendships too.
So why have I made this cream and wine-braised chicken now?
I’ve been speaking of inspiration, and searching for it, and my tarragon plant has started growing faster in the past month. It was right there, under my nose, so pretty and fragrant. In my mind, tarragon will always be associated with that holiday dinner shared with friends in my then-rented students’ apartment.
I know that the plant will be dormant in winter (but, hopefully, will come back in summer. I took it back inside the house last winter with other herbs in pots) so I had to use it immediately.
It’s pretty amazing the effect that food and its aromas have; this power they posses to make me travel back in time. The first perfumed scents of the French tarragon—too unique to describe—made me feel… (10-15 years younger? Naaa) It simply reminded me of good times and the feeling of freedom I owned that magical weekend, sitting around a table with friends who appreciate good food, all laughing, smiling… Purely happy.
Chicken braised with cream and tarragon
5 whole chicken legs, separated to legs thighs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb. crimini mushrooms, washed, dried, and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
3-4 sprigs of tarragon
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside.
Melt butter and olive oil in a big pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the mushrooms, onion, and garlic until they are golden brown. Remove to a plate.
Add more butter and oil to the pot, if needed, and fry the chicken, skin side down, until it browns. Using tongs, turn to the other side and cook to brown the second side.
Add the wine and shake the pot to release the brown bits that got stuck to the bottom. Return the mushroom-onion mix to the pot, add cream and the tarragon, and season with more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Braise on the stovetop, with the lid on, over low heat for 45-60 minutes, or place in a 350 F degree oven (for the same amount of time).
Serve with a side dish that will absorb and complement the creamy sauce like potatoes, rice, or noodles, and/or leafy greens, like kale.