This week at la Domestique is dedicated to the herb, tarragon. Something about the highly aromatic scent of tarragon embodies the essence of spring: fresh, like that of a pine forrest after a good soaking rain, but more delicate and feminine. Tarragon is softer than basil, lacking that tendency towards astringency. The long, thin stems and spindly green leaves taste of licorice with a lingering sweetness. It’s a balance of strength and softness. Sprinkle tarragon leaves over a salad or stir them into a sauce and the anise notes permeate while at the same time amplifying other flavors. Tarragon is a good team player, enhancing the fresh, lively character of other herbs such as chervil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Use tarragon to brighten up rich creamy sauces and and as a compliment to mustard. Fresh tarragon leaves add a sparkle -a little something special- to gently cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, asparagus, or radishes and make a fitting companion to boiled potatoes. An essential ingredient in classic French cuisine, tarragon paired with butter is delicious over beef, chicken, and seafood (especially lobster).
Finding tarragon at your local grocer can be a challenge, I suspect because it’s not as popular as dill or rosemary and maybe doesn’t hold up as well on the shelf. The best way to stay supplied with this useful herb is to grow it yourself or to seek it out at the local farmer’s market. I like to keep longer stems of tarragon fresh in a glass of water in the fridge, but they can also be wrapped in a damp paper towel and kept refrigerated in a plastic bag. Cooking tarragon diminishes its intense aroma, but not its flavor, so adding a few fresh leaves just before serving is a good idea. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with tarragon during spring. Utilizing a variety of fresh herbs in the kitchen stimulates the senses and the appetite, making meals more interesting. As the weather warms, more and more local vegetables are popping up at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Seize the day by enjoying the bounty of fresh produce with interesting spring herbs like tarragon.