A Taste for Tarragon: Tarragon Chicken with Fennel

| June/July 1997

Serves 4 to 6

In this variation of the classic Chicken Tarragon, fennel and tarragon echo one another’s anise flavor, as fennel’s sweetness contrasts with tarragon’s piquancy. Vinegar-preserved tarragon works well here. Removing the skin from the chicken reduces the calories considerably. Though the chicken isn’t as pretty without it, the flavor of the juices is even better. For an attractive presentation, cover the chicken with the fennel and garnish the platter with tarragon and leafy fennel stalks. I like to serve this dish with noodles or thick slices of toasted bread to absorb the pan juices.

  • 3½ to 4-pound frying chicken, cut up
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, about 1½ pounds, trimmed, washed, and sliced lengthwise about ¼-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Tarragon sprigs and fennel stalks, ­optional garnish
  1. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brown the legs and thighs for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the wings and breasts and continue browning the chicken well all over for about 10 minutes. Place the chicken on a platter and pour off all but about a tablespoon of fat from the pan.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and sauté the fennel and garlic for about 5 minutes. Place the chicken pieces back in the pan with the tarragon, broth, and wine, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat until the liquid just simmers.
  3. Braise the chicken for about 25 ­minutes, turning it and the fennel occa­sionally. Remove the chicken and ­fennel to a platter and keep warm in a low oven. Raise the heat under the braising pan and reduce the pan juices to about a cup. Adjust the seasoning. Serve the chicken and fennel garnished with the tarragon sprigs and fennel stalks if desired. Pass the pan juices.

Carolyn Dille is replanting much of her herb ­garden for the sheer dirt-under-the-fingernails pleasure of it. Culinary and medicinal herbs have been her special interest for many years. Her ­latest books are The Onion Book, with Susan Belsinger (Interweave Press, 1996), and Seasons of the Vineyard, with Robert and Margrit ­Mondavi (Simon and Schuster, 1996).

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