Thursday, March 9, 2023

Creamy French Chicken Tarragon (Poulet a l'Estragon)


I chose to make this Creamy French Chicken Tarragon because it is something of a classic French dish, and as I will be visiting my family in France soon cooking some of their dishes is part of my preparation for the journey. This dish includes chicken thighs cooked in a flavourful creamy tarragon sauce and it's a cinch to make. Cream, butter and white wine are no strangers to a French kitchen. Perhaps though I should be really honing up on some Aussie dishes that I know my son will want me to cook for them and perhaps for any of their visitors as well. That is generally how it works isn't it? 

However, one of the biggest challenges I find when trying to replicate traditional cuisine from an overseas country is getting my hands on the authentic ingredients and in particular the herbs they use. Tarragon presented the biggest challenge for me this time. Obviously in France, French tarragon is grown and used everywhere. We grow tarragon in our garden here at home, and it grows very well and that's what I used in this recipe. I was rather disappointed that the usually assertive aniseed flavours of the tarragon weren't as strong as I had hoped for in this dish. After some research I've come to the conclusion that we are growing Mexican tarragon, which makes sense given our climate. French tarragon would die off in Winter apparently and not thrive like ours does. The other variety is Russian tarragon, and it wouldn't thrive here either. Russian tarragon is really considered to be an impostor by French chefs. However, all is not lost, as I can still use the Mexican variety, just slightly differently. It loses some of its flavour during a long cooking process, so it's better to add it closer to the end of the cooking time. I've given stacks of it to friends to use in their cooking and they've always been happy, I was just a little underwhelmed with the tarragon flavour, which is also a little like licorice, which is the essence of this dish. However strangely, the following day, I thought that leftovers had improved in flavour, which is often the way. Either way it is still a delicious dish, but if you can get your hands on French tarragon, that is the preferred option. Avoid the Russian imposter stuff if you can.

Dried tarragon is available at our supermarkets, and the brand I saw originated in Holland, so I'm sure that is authentically the French variety and could be used instead of the fresh herb. I'll give that a try next time I make this and there will be a next time. Now that I've got my tarragon woes off my chest, let's move on.

I've used a few recipes for inspiration for this dish, but my main thanks should go to Audrey, writer of Pardon your French, whose blog I follow.

6 servings


For this recipe you will need an enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven, or large skillet with a lid which can transfer from the stove-top to the oven.


6 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 French shallots, or 1 medium onion, finely diced.

2 garlic cloves grated or minced.

2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, plus whole leaves for garnish.

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest


Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and season generously with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.

Turn on your oven to heat up to 190 deg. C or 375 deg. C with the rack in the middle.

Heat up your oven-proof Dutch oven or skillet, with the butter. We want sizzling butter in the pan, and then place the chicken thighs in, skin-side down. The chicken needs to cook for about 10 minutes and resist the urge to prod it or turn it. Allow it to cook until the chicken skin is golden brown, and the chicken is 3/4 done. It will be just firm and will smell divine.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil.

The chicken drippings are so important to the overall flavour of the dish, so keep the pan hot and add the shallots and garlic until slightly caramelized.

Embed the chicken thighs back into the pan, on top of the shallots or onion if you are using. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.

Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon.

Add the stock and wine and bring to a simmer.

Put the lid on and place the pot on the middle shelf of the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered, or until the thighs are tender.

Cook's notes and substitutions:

As you can see from the photos, I only used 4 chicken thighs for this recipe as that is what I had, and I was only cooking for the two of us. There was plenty of delicious creamy tarragon sauce to partner with leftovers.

I couldn't find any French shallots here when I needed them, so I used spring onions from our garden. I was concerned a normal onion might be too strong for this dish. However, I wouldn't recommend that you use spring onions as a substitute, I think more of the allium flavours are needed to balance with the cream.  If you can't find French shallots, use a normal onion, there will still be lots of flavour. 

I don't recommend freezing this dish.

I prefer using creme fraiche over cream, but either will do.

The chicken and remainder of the sauce reheated beautifully the following day and had even more flavour.

Leaving the skin on the chicken is essential. The skin can be removed from the chicken if you wish and if you are watching the fat content in the dish, but some of the flavour will be lost.

Skin on chicken legs can be substituted for thighs for this dish.

Choose a white wine that is dry and crisp, such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Blanc. I used a lovely Barossa Valley Semillon, because it was open. It was also very drinkable with the meal.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with fresh tarragon leaves, and serve. I like to serve it with rice, tagliatelle or creamy mashed potatoes. Some fresh green vegetables is always a healthy side as well. A crusty baguette is essential for mopping up the delicious sauce. 

This is comfort food in a bowl, and the tarragon brings a wonderfully aromatic freshness to the dish. 

Bon appetit,



  1. I adore skin on and bone in chicken thighs! I too prefer creme fraiche :-)

  2. i love to cook with chicken thighs but hubby hates the skin and bones so i have to get the boneless one. You lose so much flavour ... but still they're delicious. this sounds fab pauline. In the old days of eating cream etc we would have devoured this dish!

    1. Yes it is quite a rich dish Sherry, but I reckon once a week is ok. Then there's leftovers as well. I'm so pleased I cooked this one though. Could you remove the skin and bones after you cook it?

  3. I love using tarragon when it is thriving in my garden, and this looks like the perfect recipe. I have a French tarragon growing and my French chef friend used to ask me to harvest for his restaurant when he could not get any elsewhere :)

    1. I envy you your French tarragon Tandy. I doubt you have the humidity we have here, still if I could get some of the French variety I would love to grow it. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  4. As soon as I got a look at this, I knew it was for me. Cream, tarragon, white wine, and chicken? Sign me up!

    1. Jeff, I love that combination too. France here I come. Thanks for dropping by.


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