There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of recipes for chicken with tarragon. They are natural bedfellows, the mild flesh of the chicken benefitting from the distinct, earthy hit of the tarragon. There are subtle aniseed and pine flavours in tarragon as well, and used properly it makes chicken taste amazing. Just don’t get carried away. Use too much, and it will taste like soap.
This recipe is a spin off of an old family recipe for Chicken in Mustard Sauce. I decided to use a lot more vegetables than the original recipe called for one day, and adding some tarragon just seemed like a natural progression. It’s become a family favourite on it’s own, and I often serve it when we entertain. If you are not keen on mustard, use a bit less. Just start with 1 tablespoon and taste as you go. Be brave though, because the cream really tones the mustard flavour down. You can use light (single) cream or half and half in this dish, but honestly, the heavy (double) cream really gives it the best flavour. As long as you don’t eat too much sauce, it can’t hurt once in a while for a treat.
I’ve always considered the wine a pretty integral part of this dish, but if you need to keep it alcohol free then you can substitute chicken stock. The majority of the alcohol will cook off though, so there is no problem with serving this to children. I usually use the wine I plan to serve with the meal in this dish so that the flavours harmonize.
This recipe is delicious served over orzo (as in the photograph above) or rice. It’s also lovely served alongside crushed or roasted new potatoes.
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, finely chopped (or one medium onion)
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut in thin slices
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup good white wine
1¼ cups heavy (double) cream (you may not need it all)
½ cup frozen peas
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves, washed and chopped with scissors OR
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Melt the first two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a frying pan with a lid. Add the shallots and cook, stirring constantly until they just begin to turn golden in colour. Nestle the chicken breasts into the pan and cook for about five minutes on each side, until they are nearly cooked through. Grind some salt and pepper over the chicken as it cooks. Remove the chicken breasts and place in a covered pan to keep warm.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the shallots in the frying pan. Stir in the mushrooms and peppers and sauté over medium heat until they are beginning to soften. Return the chicken breasts to the pan.
Add the wine and cover the pan with the lid. Let everything bubble away for about 3 to 5 minutes. By this time, the chicken breasts should be cooked through, with no pink inside. I always use a removable meat thermometer to be absolutely sure they are done. Chicken should have a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it and place it in the covered pan again. Set aside.
Turn the heat down a bit and add about 1 cup of cream to the vegetables in the pan. Stir together. Add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
Now add the mustard, tasting as you go. Add the lemon juice and the tarragon. If it appears too thick or you simply want more sauce, add the rest of the cream. Taste the sauce to be sure it is flavourful and add salt and pepper if necessary. If you want to add a bit more mustard, lemon or tarragon to taste, do feel free, but be careful with the tarragon!
Return the chicken breasts to the pan and turn to coat in the sauce. Serve each one with the sauce and vegetables spooned over.