Tarragon is the sexy herb – it isn’t a workhorse like parsley, or an icon like basil. It doesn’t cross cultures as easily as cilantro, but there’s something about it. It’s oh-so-French, and therefore, elegant. It’s the little black dress of herbs – you don’t wear it everyday, but when you do – watch out boys!
Tarragon is a member of the famous French herb mix ‘fines herbes’ (accompanied by chervil, parsley, and chives), which dresses up chicken, fish, eggs, and salad dressings. It is also the principal herb flavoring in béarnaise sauce. It has a very distinctive, strong taste – primarily anise, a little bit sweet, a bit astringent. A little goes a long way.
It’s easy to grow, although if you are north of hardiness zone 5, you need to either mulch it over the winter, or grow it in a pot. Mine is in a small pot that I bring into the garage each winter – it goes dormant, and then sprouts anew in the spring. There are two varieties of tarragon – French, and Russian. The French has a purer, stronger taste, and the Russian is a bit bitter. French is preferred, so be careful when purchasing at a nursery. French tarragon must be grown from cuttings, not seed. You can dry tarragon, but it loses much of its pungency. Freezing is favored – you can either freeze the leaves in a plastic bag, or put in an ice cube tray with a bit of water to melt into soups, marinades, etc.
Tarragon lends itself easily to savory or sweet dishes, as in the recipes below.
Blueberry Tarragon Ice Pops
makes ten 3 oz popsicles
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Additional ¾ cup water
1) Create a simple syrup by bringing 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add tarragon sprigs, and let steep for 30-60 minutes. Strain syrup and discard solids.
2) In blender, purée blueberries and ¾ cup water until very smooth. If you don’t have a blender that can achieve a silky texture, it is worth the extra step of pushing the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of the blueberry skins.
3) Combine simple syrup and blueberry mixture, and freeze in ice pop molds according to manufacturer directions. If you don’t have molds, you can use small paper cups or ice cube trays – put in wooden popsicle sticks or toothpicks after about an hour of freezing, or put plastic wrap over your homemade molds to hold the sticks in place.
Tarragon Deviled Eggs
makes 1 dozen servings
6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
3 T mayonnaise
2 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp tarragon or sherry vinegar
1 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped, plus more for sprinkling
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Hard-boil eggs with your preferred method (I put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, turn off and cover for 12 minutes, then I move the eggs to a bowl of ice water) and peel. Carefully cut eggs in half, and remove yolks. In medium bowl, add yolks, and all remaining ingredients – mayo through salt and pepper. Mix with a fork or electric mixer until very smooth.
2) Pipe or spoon yolk mixture into hollows of egg halves. Sprinkle with remaining finely chopped tarragon.
Note: I saw a great tip in a Cook’s Country cookbook – the day before making deviled eggs, lay eggs on their side to center the yolk for an extra pretty presentation. But if you gotta have your deviled eggs now, it’s fine by me to skip this step!
Other delightful ways to use tarragon:
- Combine a few tablespoons of honey and
mustard with 1-2 teaspoons of fresh tarragon for a chicken marinade. Dijon
- Soften a stick of butter, add a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of fresh tarragon. Roll into a log and chill. Slice and let melt over just cooked salmon.
- Tarragon is a classic flavoring for vinegar – let several sprigs steep in a bottle of white or red wine vinegar for a few weeks. Strain out herb and enjoy in salad dressings.
- With a spoon or bench scraper, rub a teaspoon of fresh tarragon into ¼ cup of sugar. Sprinkle over strawberries, and serve with a bit of unsweetened whipped cream.
Anna, another Wisconsin food blogger, started Tallgrass Kitchen in January 2010. From granola bars to homemade fish sticks and amazing chococolate chip cookies, Anna's "prairie-style" blog focuses on simple homemade foods that will appeal to the entire family. Take a trip over and introduce yourself!
This guest post is part of our Summer 2010 Herb Series: Using and Preserving Herbs. Stay tuned every Friday for more hints, tips, and tricks on how to use summer's bounty!
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