Tarragon Dijon Chicken (and near death stock-making experience)

One of the best chicken dishes I've had. Ever. And its easy too.

But first I want to demonstrate my commitment to making good chicken stock. I was quite thrilled on Saturday when the allegedly bilingual girl behind the meat counter at the Hispanic market said that they could sell me 4 pounds of leftover chicken bones, ribs, etc., if I came back the next day. Upon arriving at the store on Sunday morning (after a 20 minute drive) I was dismayed to find that there had been a miscommunication. They had packaged for me 4 pounds of chicken guts and a few spare parts such as necks. Very few bones. Very few bones = not enough collagen for a good stock.

Why did I choose to study French? Living in Florida (and the United States for that matter) I find myself wishing I knew Spanish almost on a weekly basis. How often does my French come in handy? Jamais. Maybe I should move to Quebec.

In any case, the butcher was none too happy when I tried to explain that I had no use for his bag o' guts. He gave me a look of disgust and muttered something underneath his breath. I don't know what he said, but I'm pretty sure I heard the words "loco" and "gringo." I wasn't about to leave empty handed though, so I purchased about 8 pounds of chicken legs (for only $6!) and some cilantro to make salsa. And I was off, into the pouring rain.

About halfway home I was proceeding cautiously through a blinking yellow traffic light, when out of nowhere a PT Cruiser came firing out into the intersection. I hate PT Cruisers. Slamming on the breaks, I found myself hydroplaning toward the nefarious vehicle, fortunately coming to a stop about four feet away from the cretin, blissfully anonymous behind his or her tinted windows. I couldn't help but think at that moment about the fact that, had I actually T-boned the vehicle hard, the accident scene would have been littered with about 30 raw chicken drumsticks.

Nerves shaken, I made my way home as the rain began to pour even harder. For about an hour afterward I cut the meat from these drumsticks with a dull knife. My hands sore, my kitchen looking like an abbatoir, I cursed my own temerity. And what did I get from all of it? Only 3 gallons of perfect chicken stock! Not to mention a whole lot of trimmed dark meat that will go nicely into some future dish.

Anyhow, you should try this Tarragon Dijon Chicken. It's based on a couple recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, with alterations in measurement and ingredients depending on what was at hand. One of those recipes calls for brandy instead of vermouth or white wine. I have to imagine that would be delicious. No matter which you use though, I guarantee you'll like this sauce.

Tarragon Dijon Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts w/rib (skin on)
1 bunch fresh tarragon
1/4 cup water

drippings from chicken
2 Tbsps. chopped tarragon
1/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsps. dijon mustard

1) slide a sprig of tarragon between the skin and meat of each breast. Sprinkle with salt. Pour 1/4 cup water into a roasting pan and arrange chicken on a rack. Place in oven preheated at about 375 degrees.
2) The chicken should take about 20 minutes. After about 15 minutes, remove from the oven, remove from the pan, and pour the drippings into a sautee pan. The chicken should then go back on the rack and into the oven.
3) heat the sautee pan over medium high. whisk the sauce ingredients together then add to the pan with the drippings. Stir until the sauce thickens.
4) remove chicken from oven and pour sauce over the top. The sauce also tastes great with broccoli, cauliflower, or rice.


drbiggles said...

Oooo, yeah. Why'd you strip the meat from the bones? Coulda been sacrificial AND WHY IS YOUR KNIFE DULL ?!?!?? Go back to that butcher and see if'n he'll sharpen yer knife.
I took 5 years worth of French in high school. Thought I was being fancy not learning Spanish. Such a fool. Besides, my high school was teaching African French !!! I know how to ask where the public well is and how to buy legumes. FEh.

Senior Biggles

Kitchen Monkey said...

1) I stripped the meat from the bones because:
a) Less meat/more bones makes a better stock, not as cloudy and with plenty of collagen goodness
b) with all that meat, there would have been less room for the liquid, and thus less stock.
c) now I have lots of dark meat waiting for a heaping dish of fesenjoon.

2) I used a dull knife because
a) My sharp knives are a nice chef's knife and a good sashimi knife. The sashimi knife wouldn't do the trick, and I didn't want to dull my chef's knife through contact with the bones
b) Yeah, I know, I need to get a butcher's knife.
c) I used to bartend, and there were these two guys that would always come in for happy hour, they worked in the meat department at the nearby supermarket, and both of them were missing at least 1 1/2 fingers. Just thought of that for no reason in particular.

3) I thought French was the fancy way to go too. Oh well, at least I didn't study German. (No offense, Germany. Great language, seriously. Good job.) In any case, it should come in handy when I'm in, oh let's see, France this summer. And if I end up at Washington College of Law, they have a summer study abroad in Paris. So maybe French aint so bad after all. We'll see. How do you say "public well" in French?

drbiggles said...

MmMMmM, collagen & meat. Sounds like you need a larger stock pot Monkey. And that's what a good chef's knife if for, makin' dull. Nothing I love better than sitting down with a cool refreshing beverage and putting a nice edge on a few knives.
Those guys are missing half their fingers cause they're Butcher Monkeys. You do that stuff all day long you're bound to lose part of a digit at some point.
Man, getting cut with a dull knife HURTS !!! Many times need stitches. My knives cut like razors and leave nice smooth cuts that tape right up and heal quick. Our local supermarket had a 10fer day, buy one and get another 9. So she bought bandaides, good deal for me.
Check out ebay and do a seller search for savagetrout, one of my knife guys. He's got a really nice old Dexter carbon butcher's knife up at 10 bux, got one day left. Go get that one man, let him know Biggles sent ya.

Senior Biggles