Saturday Cooking: Chicken in Tarragon Sauce

The inspiration for this recipe came to me on a mass-mailing postcard that a local real-estate agent sent out years ago.  I actually read what most people consider junk mail, and I determined that for me it wasn’t junk.

This particular agent sent out her contact information to thousands of people on a postcard that included a recipe.  She certainly had my attention, but I wasn’t interested in selling my home–or buying a new one.

I did, however, prepare the recipe.  It was called Chicken Tarragon, and it was a charming little number.  It reminded me of Julia Child’s Suprêmes de Volaille aux Champignons.  Not everyone likes mushrooms, so I wanted to use what was on the postcard as a point of departure.  I saw an opportunity to have a dish that would be simple, elegant, inexpensive–and finicky-guest friendly.

I like a creamy sauce, and I can’t bear not to include a splash of wine when I prepare sauces.  As with all butter/cream-based sauces, you must stir the reduction constantly as you add fat, or it will separate.  The tarragon adds not only flavor, but the aroma is distinctive.

Suprêmes de Volaille à l’Estragon


two whole, skinless chicken breasts dusted with flour and desired seasonings
one stick of butter, softened
one-half ounce of heavy cream
one shallot or scallion, finely chopped
one ounce of Cognac
one teaspoon of dried tarragon (or one tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon)
six ounces of white wine
one-quarter cup of white wine


Heat a cast iron pan over a medium flame; add some butter.

Place chicken breasts in the pan, and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for roughly five minutes.

Turn the breasts over, and insert a thermometer in one of them; cover and cook until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Pour the Cognac over the breasts and set alight.  When the flames die, remove the breasts to a plate, and set in a warm oven.

Return the pan to the burner and boil off any juices.  Increase heat to high to brown any remnants.   Return heat to medium.

Add a pat of butter, and sauté the chopped shallot or scallion to soften.

Add the stock, wine, and tarragon; deglaze the pan.  Reduce the fluid by roughly three quarters.

Gradually stir in pats of butter until the sauce approaches the desired thickness.  Keep stirring the mixture at all times, or it will separate.

Add the heavy cream and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened.

Remove the breasts from the warm oven, place them on separate plates, pour the sauce over them, and garnish with sprigs of parsley.

Suggested side dish: steamed string beans or asparagus.

This recipe serves two, but I have doubled and even tripled it.  Bon appetit.

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