My latest “coffee-table” reading is Thomas Keller’s, “Ad-hoc at Home,” a collection of recipes that the acclaimed chef prepares when not cooking at one of his nine restaurants and bakeries. No intricate garnishes, immersion blenders or sous-vide needed. These are uncomplicated and family-style preparations, meant to feed a crowd.
Enjoying our evening glass of wine, my husband spied the enormous book peeking out under a stack of newspapers. Leafing through pages, he settled on the recipe for Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Tarragon. “You could make that for supper, with the fresh chicken I just cut up from Rainbow Farm” (now relocated to Orland!!).
“You can pick the asparagus and scrub the potatoes and carrots, while I harvest the tarragon and make the chicken,” I replied. And just like that, what to cook for supper was solved.
Working together, it took us just over 40 minutes to put an elegant and satisfying meal of roasted potato and carrot fries, steamed asparagus and Tarragon Chicken on the table.
The recipe for this dish is straightforward and the actual cooking time goes quite quickly. Be sure to read and understand the sequence of all the steps. Assemble your ingredients and tools before starting.
In his recipe for Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Tarragon, Keller recommends coating the chicken with a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of sweet paprika and yellow curry, and to dry-marinate the meat for two hours or more in the refrigerator.
Pressed for time (because I didn’t read all the steps before starting), I increased the quantity of spices, and skipped the marinating step. Keller also uses a shallot to prepare the butter sauce, which was not in my pantry, so I used a green onion instead.
The flavor balance between the spices and the tarragon in the sauce was sublime.
I can taste this preparation with rabbit, and other tender, lean cuts of meat like pork loin or veal. Garlic mashed potatoes and minted fresh peas or beans also would be delicious complements.
The presentation of Tarragon Chicken on a platter is perfect and easy to transport to feed a crowd. We enjoyed the remains of our feast the next day as part of a tasty sandwich.
I’m delighted to discover our new go-to meal. Just like “Ad-hoc at Home” reveals, this is iconic American food, meant to be enjoyed with family and friends.
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].
Adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller
Makes four servings
1 tsp.-1-Tbsp. sweet paprika (to taste)
1 tsp.-1 Tbsp. curry powder (to taste)
1 lb. boneless chicken breast or chicken tenders
3 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives or green onion
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon plus more for garnish
Assemble ingredients and tools.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweet paprika and curry powder. Season both sides of the chicken pieces. Cover the spiced chicken and refrigerate the pieces for 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
To flatten the chicken, lay a piece between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and pound with a mallet. Repeat with all pieces of chicken.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet.
Chop the green onion and tarragon. Set aside.
Season the chicken pieces with sea salt. Heat some canola oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken to the pan, and cook, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the chicken is nicely browned on one side. Turn the chicken and brown on the other. Transfer the pieces to the rack and keep warm in the oven. Add more canola oil to the pan as needed to cook the remaining pieces.
To prepare the sauce, pour out the canola oil and wipe the pan out clean. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add the green onion and briefly cook. Add the white wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine has reduced by one-half. Add the chicken stock and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Stir in the chopped tarragon, the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and any juices that have accumulated on the baking sheet.
Arrange the chicken on a platter, cover with sauce and garnish with tarragon leaves.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 404 calories, 39 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams fat, 231 mg. sodium, 1.4 grams fiber.