Chicken, fresh tarragon, cream and white wine are no strangers to a French kitchen – and they all come together wonderfully in this classic French-bistro fare. This creamy French Chicken Tarragon, known as “Poulet à l’Estragon”, is a simple one-pan recipe that’s both comforting and fresh tasting. Chicken thighs are first browned and braised in white wine for tenderness. Cream is then added for extra richness. But it’s really fresh tarragon, a staple herb in French cooking with assertive aniseed-like notes, that gives the distinctive flavor to this unique dish.
In the end, you get the perfect combination of old-school comfort, with tender chicken in a rich creamy sauce, and Summer freshness with the assertive aromatics of tarragon. This is a French family staple that will soon become yours too, I promise!
- Make sure you get French Tarragon, and not Russian or Mexican (which is sometimes called “impostor” Tarragon). French Tarragon is said to be the “real” tarragon with very aromatic leaves that have a flavor akin to aniseed and licorice. If you are unsure what type of Tarragon you have, do a taste test. The leaves should have a clear aniseed flavor with a tongue-numbing effect. Now, in my opinion, Russian or Mexican tarragons still have a nice taste, but are slightly more bitter. They also tend to lose their flavor when cooked, so they won’t deliver the signature flavor of this dish.
- I recommend you salt your chicken beforehand (2 to 3 hours before), to allow the salt to penetrate the meat. If you’re interested in knowing more about how salt is used to build and enhance flavor in food (especially for meats), I recommend the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.
- Leaving the skin on the chicken is essential to this recipe. The chicken will be first cooked, skin-side down, in the pan. The fat from the skin will melt and render into the pan, and be used later to caramelize the onion and garlic, and as a base for the sauce. It will contribute greatly to building flavors in this dish. You can choose to remove the skin later on – in your plate, once the dish is served.
- Instead of chicken thighs, you can substitute skin-on chicken legs.
- For the white wine, I recommend you choose one that is dry and crisp, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.
I hope you’ll love this Creamy French Chicken Tarragon (Poulet à l’Estragon) recipe as much as I do! Serve it over rice and/or with green beans or asparagus.
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6 chicken thighs, skin-on
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (28g) butter (unsalted)
1 medium onion (or 2 shallots), peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock
½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped (+ extra for garnish)
½ cup (120g) heavy cream
More salt, pepper to taste
Make sure you read the cooking notes before you start.
Step 1 – Two hours prior to cooking, rinse the chicken thighs under cold water and pat-dry thoroughly with paper towel. Season each piece with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside, at room temperature.
Pre-heat your oven to 375F (190C) with a rack in the middle.
Step 2 – Heat up a large oven-safe frying pan (or skillet) over medium heat with the butter. When the butter is sizzling, place the chicken thighs in, skin-side down. Cook for about 10 minutes, without touching, until the chicken skin is golden brown and the chicken is ¾ done; just firm. Flip the chicken thighs and cook for 10 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Keep the pan hot and do not rinse it (keep the chicken drippings in).
Step 3 - Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly caramelized. Nestle the chicken thighs back into the pan, on top of the onion. Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon. Pour the chicken stock and white wine into the pan. Bring to a simmer and transfer the pan into the oven for 30 minutes (covered).
Step 4 – Take the pan out of the oven, back onto the stove top at medium heat. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil again. Stir the cream into the pan. Bring to a simmer and keep stirring until the sauce thickens (this could take 7-8 minutes). Place the chicken thighs back into the pan and cook for 5 more minutes.
For serving, sprinkle chicken pieces with fresh tarragon leaves.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appetit!