For some reason, I never really discovered tarragon before. My Mom had a bunch of different herbs growing the in kitchen garden: sage and chives and mint and thyme and rosemary, but never tarragon. And yet, after doing some reading, it turns out to be a quintessential herb, an old and trusted favourite in many a European and particularly French recipe. I thought I should give it a go. After all, there’s French blood in me, isn’t there?
*Note: I had a problem with my oven while cooking the meal, the darn thing decided to go on strike, and so ended up having to have the thing on Grill with a loose sheaf of foil over the meat to protect it from burning. So I can’t really say for sure just how long you aught to cook this dish, though my gut feeling is for 20 mins at 400˚F and another 20 – 30 at 350˚F. Just check it persistantly to make sure you’re not over cooking drying out the flesh.
Chicken with Tarragon and Walnut Crust
with Baby Beet and Herb Salad
for the Chicken:
2 large chicken breasts on the bone, with skin
½ cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
¼ cup thyme leaves
5 cloves garlic
½ cup shelled walnut halves
Fleur de sel
Peel of half a lemon, ½ cut into strips and ½ zested
butter (about 1 Tbsp)
for the salad:
3 or 4 baby beets, peeled and finely grated
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped
⅓ cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped Chives
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Walnut oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
– If you have the time, prepare the chicken a few hours beforehand so the flavours develop well.
run the tarragon, thyme, garlic, shallot and walnuts in a processor until fine. Add a pinch of Fleur de sel and mix.
– rinse the chicken and pat dry with some paper towel. With the skin side up, loosen the skin from the flesh: if you break a small hole in the membrane between the two you should be able to lift the skin to form a pocket.
– take small amounts of the herb and nut mix at a time and push it under the skin, using about half the mixture. Put a small dollop of butter and a strip of lemon peel under the skin as well and refrigerate, covered, for as long as you can.
– when ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge, rub with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.
– slice the potatoes thinly and arrange on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with lemon zest.
– Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the potatoes. Pack the rest of the herb and nut mix on top. Bake, see note above*
– For the salad, mix all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a while, while the chicken cooks.