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Chicken Tomato Tarragon 075

My former husband and I enjoy one of the more amicable relationships I know of when it comes friendly exes. But, really, I’m convinced that he only keeps in touch because he can’t keep track of the recipes I used to make when we were married. I deliberately left behind many copies of his favorites. And, since then, he’s jotted them down again (and again) after misplacing them, and I’ve ended up emailing the same recipes several times over. Futile endeavor. He’s one of those who never checks email.

That explains why my phone rings with desperate requests for the choucroute recipe or instructions for making bacon vinaigrette for my German potato salad, and the exact number of garlic cloves in the cream of garlic-and-carrot soup – and so it goes. But there’s one recipe that I used to offer when I started teaching French cooking, decades ago, that he never requests. That’s because he’s committed chicken smothered with a creamy tomato sauce scented with tarragon to memory. You see, it’s one of his absolute favorite dishes, and just about anyone who sits at his table will be served this chicken at least 10 times.

Truthfully, he’s not the only one. This easy chicken, good enough for company or when you’re simply in the mood for a homey meal, seems to be a favorite whenever I remember to share. Tomato and basil is a pretty standard combo, but tomato with tarragon is twisty enough to net you a pleasant surprise.

So, I dug through my pile of printed recipes to find this particular one, which I hadn’t made in at least 10 years. I did end up calling my ex to ask what he served with the chicken and the creamy sauce studded with bits of tomatoes. His choice was mashed potatoes. I wanted something a little different, so I ended up pairing it with strips of polenta browned in butter and sprinkled with plenty of kosher salt and black pepper. Think polenta fries with creamy centers.

As for the chicken, this is one of the few recipes that I put together with breasts. I’m a thigh girl and, someday, I’m going to use skinless thighs in this recipe and it’s going to be just as good. Feel free to be the first to try.

I tweaked the original a little, but only to sub out the dried tarragon for fresh. You can use dried and it turns out perfectly fine, but fresh herbs seem to have brighter flavors.

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If you’re not familiar with tarragon, then you’ve been missing out on a French favorite that offers up a faint hint of licorice. For me, while I love this herb, a little goes a long way. I like dishes to be slightly perfumed with tarragon, not banged over the head.

Take a look and see how easy this dish is to prepare. And if you’re a tarragon fan, what do you make using this herb?

Chicken Breasts With Tarragon-Tomato Cream Sauce

2 large chicken breasts, pounded flat

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So, here’s a nice plump chicken breast, which, when cooked as is, often comes out dry and rubbery. You need to pound it to flatten, so that you don’t have to cook it for very long, and the process also tenderizes the meat, ensuring moist chicken.

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For me, the easiest way to accomplish flattening a chicken breast is to place it on a cutting board, then drape a piece of plastic wrap over the operating table. I don’t have a meat pounder, but I have a nice heavy pan that does the trick just fine.

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When you pound the chicken, sort of work your way to the outer edges so that you’re not just banging flat. Work it a little.

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Big difference, yes? The flattened chicken breast will take only a few minutes to cook through.

Kosher salt & black pepper

1 table each butter and olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

8 medium crimini mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup dry white wine (I’ve also made this with Cognac and dry sherry, with great success)

1 cup chicken broth

1 14-ounce of petite diced tomatoes with juice

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup cream

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil until browned and almost smoking. Use medium-high heat.

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Remember, the butter flavors the meat and the olive oil keeps the butter from burning at a low temperature, creating the perfect team when browning meats.

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When you see the foamy butter start to get dark brown, then you know you can add the chicken.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, then place the breasts in the hot pan, making sure not to crowd the meat so that it browns, not steams.

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Cook for about 2 minutes per side until the meat is a golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover and set aside.

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Lower the heat to medium and add the shallot and mushrooms. Stir them around for a couple of minutes, careful not to burn the shallots.

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Crimini mushrooms are related to common white button mushrooms and the larger portobello.

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Before quartering the mushrooms, neatly slice off the dry tip of the stem.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine to deglaze the pan. If you’re using Cognac or other flammable liquor, take the pan from the heat before adding the liquor so that you don’t accidently ignite the pan.

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Stir the mixture to loosen any bits on the bottom of the pan. Watch the pan carefully and reduce until the liquid almost completely evaporates.

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Add the chicken broth and reduce by about half.

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Add the tomatoes and tarragon and let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

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You can use whole canned tomatoes or regular diced and chop them, but these petite diced make it easier because there’s no chopping needed. I’m all about saving time without sacrificing flavor.

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Pull the long slender tarragon leaves from the stem, discard the stem and finely chop the leaves.

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Pour in the cream and bring to a boil, stirring for a minute or so. This is a good time to taste the sauce for seasoning. Add salt and pepper and a bit more tarragon if you like.

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I seldom use cream in sauces these days but, really, two ounces divided between four servings probably won’t compromise your health.

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Return the chicken, and any juices that accumulated, to the pan.

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Baste the chicken with the sauce, replace the lid on the pan and let simmer for about 2 or 3 minutes to make sure the chicken is completely cooked through. Serve immediately.

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Serves 4.

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Chicken Breasts With Tarragon-Tomato Cream Sauce

2 large chicken breasts, pounded flat

Kosher salt & black pepper

1 table each butter and olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

8 medium crimini mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup dry white wine (I’ve also made this with Cognac and dry sherry, with great success)

1 cup chicken broth

1 14-ounce of petite diced tomatoes with juice

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup cream

 

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil until browned and almost smoking. Use medium-high heat.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, then place the breasts in the hot pan, making sure not to crowd the meat so that it browns, not steams.

Cook for about 2 minutes per side until the meat is a golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add the shallot and mushrooms. Stir them around for a couple of minutes, careful not to burn the shallots.

Raise the heat to medium-high, and add the wine to deglaze the pan. If you’re using Cognac or other flammable liquor, take the pan from the heat before adding the liquor so that you don’t accidently ignite the pan.

Stir the mixture to loosen any bits on the bottom of the pan. Watch the pan carefully and reduce until the liquid almost completely evaporates.

Add the chicken broth and reduce by about half.

Add the tomatoes and tarragon and let simmer, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring for a minute or so. This is a good time to taste the sauce for seasoning. Add salt and pepper and a bit more tarragon if you like.

Return the chicken and any juices that accumulated to the pan. Baste the chicken with the sauce, replace the lid on the pan and let simmer for about 2 or 3 minutes to make sure the chicken is completely cooked through. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.