Vail Simply Seasonal: ‘King of herbs’ enhances cooking, cocktails
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Fresh tarragon is distinctive with its sweet, slightly licorice flavor. The French deem tarragon the ‘king of herbs’ as it is a signature addition to many of the sauces that form the foundation of their cuisine, including Bearnaise, rigavote, remoulade and tartare.
Combine tarragon with parsley, chives and chervil and you have the classic herb mix known as fines herbes. This aromatic blend enhances the delicate flavors of egg, chicken and fish. For the sophisticated palate, tarragon gently asserts itself in salad dressings and soups, sauces and aiolis. Experiment using a light hand, and you’ll find tarragon will give a depth of flavor to your favorite dishes.
Folklore abounds around the Dracunculus, its species name. Latin for dragon, the tarragon root was believed to cure bites from venomous creatures and mad dogs. The ancient Greeks used tarragon as a remedy for toothaches.
Unlike most other fresh herbs, tarragon becomes more mellow when dried. One way to preserve its fresh taste is by making flavored vinegar. “Tarragon vinegar is easy to make and a great condiment to have on hand,” said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. “Combine it with extra-virgin olive oil for a vinaigrette or deglaze a saute pan to start a sauce.”
Larkspur’s bar manager, Josh Stevenson, suggests another tasty use. “Make a simple syrup with fresh tarragon, water and sugar,” he said. “It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and you can experiment with other seasonal ingredients for creative cocktails.”
Tarragon mustard chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon butter
4 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
Combine Dijon, honey, and tarragon in a bowl. If necessary, pound chicken breasts so all are equal thickness, about 1/2 inch. Saute chicken in butter for about 4 minutes per side. Top each chicken breast with a dollop of Dijon mixture. Cover and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes. Serves 4.
Tarragon chicken salad
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-2 Tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate one hour to meld flavors. Adjust seasoning. Serve atop greens for a main dish salad or as a sandwich on your favorite bread. Serves 3 – 4.
3 1/2 cups high quality white wine vinegar
3 full stems fresh tarragon
Sterilize a clear glass bottle. Place the tarragon into the bottle. Bring vinegar to a boil and, using a funnel, pour into the bottle. Allow to cool completely. Cork tightly and let sit for two weeks.
Use the flavored vinegar in salad dressings, sauces or when marinating meats and fish.
Tarragon vinegar makes a thoughtful gift for friends who love to cook. Select a pretty bottle with a tight fitting lid, follow the technique here and attach a card with a recipe.
Strawberry Swiss swizzle
3 strawberries, quartered
1 ounce tarragon simple syrup
1 1/4 ounce Pyrat XO rum
3/4 ounce Cap Rock Gin
1 ounce lemon juice
Kubler Swiss (optional)
Make tarragon syrup by adding equal parts boiling water and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and quickly add three to five six inch sprigs of tarragon while the mixture is still hot. Let it steep for twenty minutes and then remove tarragon. Chill in the refrigerator.
Muddle strawberries in the bottom of a shaker. Add rum, gin, lemon juice and tarragon syrup to the shaker: Add ice and shake well. Strain into a collins glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water.
For a special touch, use an atomizer to quickly spritz with Kubler Swiss blanche style absinthe. This gives the drink a beautiful aroma, but doesn’t overpower the other flavors. Garnish with half a strawberry and a sprig of tarragon. Makes 1.
Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast-inspired, market-driven menu.