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Chicken With Tarragon Salsa Verde

by . Featured in NIGELLISSIMA
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Introduction

Tarragon, the gorgeously named “dragoncello”, is actually little used in Italy, despite the country’s immoderate passion for all things anise. You find tarragon used only here and there, mainly in Tuscany; indeed, it is sometimes referred to as erba di Siena, the herb of Siena.

Its chief appearance in those parts is in the salsa al dragoncello, where the herb is pounded with breadcrumbs and garlic and then emulsified with olive oil to produce a fragrant sauce customarily served with plain boiled meats. To be honest, I’m not sure I had that in mind when I first made this: all I wanted was to create a version of that fabulously spiky Italian green sauce, tweaked to suit chicken, which for me (and I hope this display of frankly French influence is forgiven in Italy) means tarragon.

Tarragon, the gorgeously named “dragoncello”, is actually little used in Italy, despite the country’s immoderate passion for all things anise. You find tarragon used only here and there, mainly in Tuscany; indeed, it is sometimes referred to as erba di Siena, the herb of Siena.

Its chief appearance in those parts is in the salsa al dragoncello, where the herb is pounded with breadcrumbs and garlic and then emulsified with olive oil to produce a fragrant sauce customarily served with plain boiled meats. To be honest, I’m not sure I had that in mind when I first made this: all I wanted was to create a version of that fabulously spiky Italian green sauce, tweaked to suit chicken, which for me (and I hope this display of frankly French influence is forgiven in Italy) means tarragon.

Chicken With Tarragon Salsa Verde
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 6-8

Metric Cups

For the Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 chicken breast fillets with skin on
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon (2 sprigs for chicken plus more leaves for sauce)
  • pepper (preferably white coarsely ground), to taste

For the Sauce

  • leaves from 1 small bunch fresh parsley (approx. 20g / 1 cup)
  • leaves from fresh tarragon (approx. 5g / 1/4 cup)
  • 1 spring onion including green part (roughly chopped)
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or 1/2 teaspoon pouring salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

For the Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 chicken breast cutlets with skin on
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon (2 sprigs for chicken plus more leaves for sauce)
  • pepper (preferably white coarsely ground), to taste

For the Sauce

  • leaves from 1 small bunch fresh parsley (approx. 20g / 1 cup)
  • leaves from fresh tarragon (approx. 5g / 1/4 cup)
  • 1 scallion including green part (roughly chopped)
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon pouring salt
  • ⅓ cup olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a shallow ovenproof dish or roasting tin in which the chicken breast fillets will fit snugly and then arrange them in there skin-side up. Tuck 2 sprigs of tarragon in between the chicken pieces, add a good grinding of pepper and dribble another tablespoon of oil over them, then pop them in the oven for 20–30 minutes, or until the skins are golden and the flesh tender.
  3. Take out of the oven, and let the cooked chicken stand for 5–10 minutes in the tin while you prepare the sauce.
  4. Put the parsley and tarragon leaves, along with the spring onion, lemon zest, salt flakes and 3 tablespoons olive oil into a suitable receptacle and, using a stick blender, whizz to a paste, adding the lemon juice and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil slowly as you blend. Leave for a mo, while you slice the chicken.
  5. Cut the chicken into thickish – 1cm / 1/2 inch or so – slices (if you need it to go further, then slice more thinly) and arrange on a platter.
  6. Pour any juices that have collected in the tin into the tarragon salsa and whizz again with your stick blender, tasting for seasoning before dribbling the sauce over the tender sliced chicken.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a shallow ovenproof dish or roasting tin in which the chicken breast cutlets will fit snugly and then arrange them in there skin-side up. Tuck 2 sprigs of tarragon in between the chicken pieces, add a good grinding of pepper and dribble another tablespoon of oil over them, then pop them in the oven for 20–30 minutes, or until the skins are golden and the flesh tender.
  3. Take out of the oven, and let the cooked chicken stand for 5–10 minutes in the tin while you prepare the sauce.
  4. Put the parsley and tarragon leaves, along with the scallion, lemon zest, salt flakes and 3 tablespoons olive oil into a suitable receptacle and, using a stick blender, whizz to a paste, adding the lemon juice and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil slowly as you blend. Leave for a mo, while you slice the chicken.
  5. Cut the chicken into thickish – 1cm / 1/2 inch or so – slices (if you need it to go further, then slice more thinly) and arrange on a platter.
  6. Pour any juices that have collected in the tin into the tarragon salsa and whizz again with your stick blender, tasting for seasoning before dribbling the sauce over the tender sliced chicken.

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