I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with the anise-flavored herb, tarragon:
1. Asparagus and Tarragon Tart
Reading Nigel Slater’s tome on vegetables, Tender, I came across his simple but striking recipe for A Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon. Once the tart shell is made and pre-baked, pieces of asparagus are sprinkled in and a creamy custard flavored with a generous amount of tarragon leaves is poured over. As the tart bakes in the oven, Parmesan cheese forms a golden brown crust. This recipe perfectly illustrates the idea that less is more when you’re cooking with the freshest ingredients from the garden.
2. Make Your Own Tarragon Vinegar
Infusing white wine vinegar with tarragon is so easy and it’s no-cook! Wash the tarragon and dry it completely, then stuff a couple sprigs into a bottle of good-quality white wine vinegar and allow it to infuse for at least a week before using. In Forgotten Skills of Cooking, Darina Allen writes that the tarragon should be completely submerged, as any leaves exposed to air will decay. Use tarragon vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, or as a condiment for oysters.
3. Rabbit with Mustard and Tarragon
Donna Henry refers to the Rabbit with Mustard and Tarragon recipe from her book Plenty, as “an old fashioned French classic.” Anise-flavored tarragon and zippy mustard are a splendid combination. Donna Henry recommends going to the trouble to seek out rabbit for the added flavor. The rabbit meat is seared in a sauté pan and then set aside. Onions are sweated in butter, chicken stock is used to deglaze the pan, and the rabbit is put back in to simmer for about 40 minutes. Just before serving, the pan juices are enriched with heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Tarragon leaves are tossed in and the rabbit is served over potatoes or egg noodles.
4. Tarragon Green Bean Salad
The sweet licorice taste of tarragon enhances the flavor of garden-fresh haricot verts (tiny green beans) in Patricia Wells’ recipe for Tarragon Green Bean Salad from her book, At Home in Provençe. It’s a simple salad, elegant, yet quick and easy to toss together. Fresh green beens are blanched in boiling water and submerged in ice water to set their brilliant color and maintain a crisp-tender texture. A dressing of lemon juice, shallots, and cream is poured over the green beans and minced tarragon is scattered over top. This dish holds up well during travel, and is perfect for dining al fresco at a picnic or potluck.
5. Herb-Filled Omelet
Spring brings longer days and all that sunshine really stimulates the hens to ramp up their egg laying. Fresh herbs like tarragon infuse egg dishes with their lingering yet delicate aroma. Martha Stewart instructs us on the essential kitchen skill of cooking an omelet in her Cooking School book. Farm fresh eggs make for a rich and luxurious omelet. Simply heat butter in a non-stick skillet and add whisked eggs. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle over chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, chives, and parsley, then flip the omelet, folding it over on itself, and serve immediately with a spoonful of créme fraîche.
6. Tarragon Butter
To make a compound butter, start with a very high quality butter which has been allowed to soften at room temperature. Use a spatula to stir in chopped fresh tarragon. Mold the butter into a tube shape and wrap it in parchment paper. The butter can be frozen or refrigerated, a knob sliced off when needed. Melt and serve tarragon butter as a dipping sauce for steamed artichokes, or pour over sautéed green beans. Slather a baguette with tarragon butter and layer thinly sliced radishes atop for a pretty hors d’oeuvres. Place a slice of tarragon butter atop grilled steak and allow it to melt into a delicious sauce.
7. Potted Bing Cherries with Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and Tarragon
I found the recipe for Potted Bing Cherries with Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and Tarragon in the “Lifesavers” chapter of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, and it’s a little something sweet and savory to keep in your pantry for serving as part of a cheese or charcuterie platter. Chef Keller shares a genius tip on pitting cherries while keeping the stem attached for a pretty presentation: use a very small (#12) melon baller to scoop out the pit from the base of the cherry. Once the cherries are pitted, add them to a canning jar with a couple sprigs of tarragon. Boil sugar, balsamic vinegar, water, and peppercorns until sugar dissolves, then strain and pour the liquid over the cherries. Close the jar and keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
8. Herb Salad
A tangle of fresh herbs like tarragon, chervil, thyme, parsley, and chive tips makes for a fragrant salad. Thomas Keller places a nest of these herbs and herb flowers atop roast white fish like halibut, sole, or sea bass in The French Laundry Cookbook. Herb salad elevates a dish from everyday to special, and is also delicious over seared scallops or in smoked salmon tea sandwiches with goat cheese.
9. Quick Pickles
To me, a pickle is not a pickle without tarragon, which adds fresh, sweet, herbal notes to a spicy brine flavored with red pepper flakes in this recipe for Quick Pickles from Martha Stewart. Tiny Kirby cucumbers need only sit in the vinegar brine overnight before they are infused with flavor, crisp, and crunchy. Making your own pickles is gratifying and these babies will keep in the fridge for 6 weeks. Tarragon would be lovely added to this recipe for Pickled Radishes from Bon Appétit.
10. Piquant Tarragon Mayonnaise with Fried Fish
David Tanis shares a recipe for Piquant Tarragon Mayonnaise as an accompaniment to fried fish in The Heart of the Artichoke. It’s a classic combination in which herbal, lemony, slightly spicy homemade mayo cuts through the fried fish in a refreshing way that keeps you coming back for more. Egg yolks, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cayenne, fresh tarragon, and chive are whisked together in an emulsion. The thick and creamy mayonnaise keeps for two day in the fridge, but it’s so addictive you’ll eat it all in one setting. For a similar recipe, check out this Fish and Chips with Tarragon Mayonnaise from Bon Appétit.