Mastering the Art of Casserole Chicken with Tarragon


Believe it or not, I don’t have a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but after seeing Julie & Julia, I borrowed my friend Waltraud’s so I could read it cover to cover.

French cooking is not really Bill-friendly due to all the dairy ingredients, but there are some good poulet recipes from Julia, such as Poulet Poele a L’Estragon, or Casserole Chicken with Tarragon.

I happened to have some fresh tarragon as well as a happy grassfed chicken so it seemed like a good one to try one Sunday afternoon. Along with some sauteed carrots and leeks, fried potatoes with rosemary, and a mixed green salad (all veggies purchased locally from the Holland Farmers’ Market, of course), it was a tasty meal because the ingredients were fresh, local and unprocessed. Okay, maybe the ciabatta bread from Salt of the Earth had some processed flour. And, it’s not Bill-friendly either, but it’s a bread he can’t resist and he’s willing to pay the gluten allergy price for enjoying it.

The only problem I had with Julia’s recipe is the part that says “be sure not to break the chicken skin.” Yeah, right! I guess I’m just not used to rotating a whole chicken on its skin in a Dutch oven. But, even with broken skin, it still turned out delicious!

Here’s the recipe. Where it calls for butter I substituted olive oil for Bill’s sake. And, I used arrowroot instead of cornstarch to accommodate his allergy to corn.

Poulet Poele a L’Estragon

Estimated roasting time: 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes for a 3-lb. bird.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

A 3-lb ready to cook roasting chicken
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
2 tbs. butter
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Insert the tarragon leaves, or sprinkle in dried tarragon. Truss the chicken. Dry it thoroughly and rub the skin with the rest of the butter.

2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. oil, more if needed

Set the casserole over moderately high heat with the butter and oil. When the butter foam has began to subside, lay in the chicken, breast side down. Brown for 2 to 3 minutes, regulating the heat so the butter is always very hot, but not burning. Turn the chicken on another side, using 2 wooden spoons or a towel. Be sure not to break the chicken skin. Continue browning and turning the chicken until it is a nice golden color almost all over, particularly on the breast and legs. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Add more oil if necessary to keep the bottom of the casserole filmed.

3 tbs. butter, if necessary
Remove the chicken. Pour out the browning fat if it has burned, and add the fresh butter.

1/2 cup sliced onions
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1/4 tsp salt
3 or 4 springs of fresh tarragon or 12 tsp dried tarragon

Cook the carrots and onions slowly in the casserole for 5 minutes without browning. Add the salt and tarragon.

1/4 tsp salt
A bulb baster
Aluminum foil
A tight-fitting cover for the casserole

Salt the chicken. Set it breast up over the vegetables and baste it with the butter in the casserole. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the chicken, cover the casserole, and reheat it on the top of the stove until you hear the chicken sizzling. Then place the casserole on a rack in the middle level of the preheated oven.

Roast for 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes, regulating heat so chicken is always making quiet cooking noises. Baste once or twice with the butter and juices in the casserole. The chicken is done when its drumsticks move in their sockets, and when the last drops drain from its vent run clear yellow.
Remove the chicken to serving platter and discard trussing strings.

Brown tarragon sauce
2 cups brown chicken stock, or 1 cup canned beef bouillon and 1 cup canned chicken broth
1 tbs. cornstarch blended with 2tbs. Madeira or port
2 tb. fresh minced tarragon or parsley
1 tbs. softened butter

Add the stock or bouillon and broth to the casserole and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up coagulated roasting juices. Then skim off all but a tablespoon of fat. Blend in the cornstarch mixture, simmer a minute then raise heat and boil rapidly until sauce is lightly thickened. Taste carefully for seasoning, adding more tarragon if you feel it necessary. Strain into a warmed sauceboat. Stir in the herbs and the enrichment butter

To serve:
Pour a spoonful of sauce over the chicken, and decorate the breast and legs with optional tarragon leaves. Platter may be garnished with sprigs of fresh parsley or if you are serving them – sautéed potatoes and broiled tomatoes.
Bon appetit!


One response to “Mastering the Art of Casserole Chicken with Tarragon

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

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