Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Champagne Tarragon Chicken

I recently made a vow to have constant creativity in my life and luckily, cooking is one of the best ways for me to express my creativity on a regular basis because I love doing it so much! One of my favorite challenges is to figure out what to make with what I have on hand or leftover. Of course, I usually have a very full pantry, but I am often presented with something that I need to use up as I hate wasting good ingredients. Then I have to figure out the best way to use it. I believe this is the way that my best new dishes are created.

I recently celebrated receiving the official contract for the second edition of my Face Reading book and that called for Champagne. I'm not much of a drinker and a few of my friends brought over a lot of Champagne and I ended up with about 1/2 bottle of left over. I don't think Champagne keeps well so the next day, I decided to cook with it.

That's usually the time when I go to a wonderful website like Epicurious and search under a specific ingredient. I noticed that many of the recipes that used Champagne were just replacing the white wine. I have long been cooking different chicken stews with white wine so I had my game plan. I almost always have chicken thighs in the freezer because they braise so well and by the way, I like them with the bone in as I think they taste better and make a better broth. However, I also make this dish with a whole cut up chicken as some people prefer white meat. I've added dumplings to make a more exotic version of Chicken and Dumplings and I've also served it over mashed potatoes. I guess you can tell that I really like Tarragon Chicken!

Tarragon is an unusual flavor often likened to licorice or fennel and it pairs beautifully with chicken. I add some at the beginning of cooking and some at the end to enhance the Tarragon flavor. What was exciting about using Champagne was that it gave the dish a much more nuanced flavor that was hard to pinpoint, but was simply delicious. I will definitely be using Champagne again! My Aunt Elma introduced me to Tarragon Chicken when I was a child and her recipe was another one of my father's favorites. How I wish he could try this wonderful updated version:

Champagne Tarragon Chicken

1 whole chicken cut up or 6 bone-in chicken thighs (you can use boneless)
1 large onion chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
2 cups Champagne
4 or 5 cups diluted chicken broth (preferably homemade or canned chicken broth mixed with equal amounts of water)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
Cornstarch and water for thickening if necessary

In large heavy pot (I like enameled iron) heat oil and add onions. Stir until softened and translucent. Add chicken pieces and brown on each side. Add in all liquids and 1 teaspoon of the tarragon and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.

Remove chicken. You can remove the chicken from the bone and cut the chicken into bite size pieces if desired. If you like a smooth sauce, you can use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. Add chicken back in and taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and pepper. If sauce needs thickening, add a little cornstarch mixed with water - 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with enough cold water to make a slurry. Sprinkle on additional teaspoon of tarragon. Bring back to boil and wait until slightly thickened. Serve over white rice.

Five Element Analysis

Although one pot dishes are often thought to be balanced, this dish clearly needs the addition of some vegetables. Chicken belongs to the Wood element and Champagne is clearly the Fire element. Cooked onion is Earth and the sauce is fairly soupy so it adds to the Water element. Rice adds the Metal element - especially if it is white rice so that is covered and the Tarragon adds to that. Wood is the missing element. here So, you can serve it over noodles which are Wood, but greens are recommended either as a salad or sauteed as a side dish and adding some nuts or seeds would bring in a little more Water. Besides that, the plate needs more color. Stewing is an Earth method of cooking, but adding a little more of the Earth element would be good, which can be added as a sweet desert or by the addition of a root vegetable like carrots. Then you will have a balanced five element meal.

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