Tarragon Orange Chicken
This variation on the classic Tarragon Chicken is one I cook frequently in the summer. Chicken legs and wings are my preferred joints as the bones create a stickier sauce than you get with chicken breasts, but you could joint a whole chicken – just keep the breasts on the bone to prevent the meat drying out.
1 chicken leg (or other joint, see above)
Rind and zest of 1 orange
¼ pint chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
White wine (as required)
1 – 2 tbsps double cream
Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C.
Choose a dish into which all the joints will fit snugly. Ideally it should have a lid, but if not you can use foil. The size of dish and how well the lid fits will both affect how quickly the liquid reduces, so just keep this in mind as you follow the timings below.
Season the chicken joints and place in the dish.
Remove the zest of the orange in fine julienne strips and scatter over the chicken. Squeeze the juice and pour over, followed by the chopped tarragon and chicken stock.
Cover with the lid or foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and check the liquid level – if it is drying out add some white wine. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the juices. Stir in double cream for the last 5 minutes of the cooking.
If you make only one herb vinegar it should be this, although I also like to make one with mixed herbs. You will need it to make the Béarnaise Sauce and marinated mushrooms below, but it is also really good in salad dressings.
Pick the tarragon early in its season, and early in the day, i.e. before noon.
Choose a really good white wine vinegar. Chop sufficient tarragon to fill about one-third of the bottle, but put it into a heat proof jug. Heat about a third of the vinegar until it just begins to simmer. Pour this over the chopped tarragon, so that the vinegar only just covers it all. Leave until cool and then add the rest of the vinegar.
Transfer everything into a sterilised jar (a large necked jar will be easier than the vinegar bottle, but keep this for the final storage). Shake the jar everyday for two weeks so that the vinegar becomes well flavoured.
Now strain the vinegar into the original bottle, which should be sterilised first with boiling water. Add fresh sprigs of tarragon and keep in a dark cupboard until needed.
The yolks of 3 large or 4 medium eggs
4 oz cold butter
2 fl oz white wine
2 tbsps tarragon vinegar
A few leaves of fresh tarragon
Finely chop the shallots and put in a pan with the white wine, tarragon vinegar and a grind of black pepper. Boil hard until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain the liquid from the shallots into the top of a double boiler or a bowl placed above, but not touching, simmering water.
Add half the butter, cut into small pieces, to the liquid and as soon as that has melted, add the other half, again in small pieces, stirring all the time. Now add, gradually, the beaten egg yolks and stir very carefully until the sauce thickens. Taste and add salt if required (which it will be if the butter was unsalted), a few drops of lemon juice and a few of cold water. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the chopped tarragon. Serve, tepid, as an accompaniment to steak.
Marinated Mushrooms with Tarragon
This makes ordinary button mushrooms into something interesting to serve as a side salad or a nibble with drinks.
150g/6 oz button mushrooms, wiped
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
Tarragon vinegar leaves, chopped
Finely slice the shallots. Wipe the mushrooms clean but don’t bother to peel them. Cut the larger mushrooms in half, but otherwise leave them whole.
Heat a good slug of olive oil in a frying pan then add the sliced shallots and cook gently for a couple of minutes to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking for just a minute, adding more oil if any of the mushrooms remain dry. Season with salt and pepper then add a couple of tablespoonfuls of tarragon vinegar. Turn up the heat and let the vinegar bubble away for a minute. Now turn out the heat and leave to cool at room temperature for a couple of hours before adding the chopped herbs. The salt will draw moisture from the mushrooms during this time and they will soften in the olive oil and vinegar dressing. They can be refrigerated overnight.