Tarragon is one of the most important herbs in French cooking. It is so highly regarded in France that it has been dubbed the king of herbs. The type of tarragon that the French use is called French tarragon to differentiate it from Russian tarragon, which doesn’t have much flavor and is not usually used for cooking. Mexican tarragon has a similar flavor to the French herb but is not related to it or the Russian variety. Tarragon’s flavor profile is a distinctive blend of licorice flavor with the minty, herbaceous notes of basil. Here are some of the best tarragon uses.
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In Béarnaise sauce
Tarragon is arguably the easiest flavor to identify in classic Béarnaise sauce, which is one of the best-known French sauces. Béarnaise sauce is extremely rich with a base of egg yolks and clarified butter. The distinctive licorice notes of tarragon cut through the richness and enhance it at the same time, while pairing well with the savory nuttiness of shallots. Use Béarnaise sauce on steak, omelets, and eggs Benedict.
In tarragon vinegar
You can make tarragon vinegar by steeping some sprigs of tarragon in vinegar for a few months. White wine vinegar is ideal. Use it to add the tarragon flavor to vinaigrettes or to make tarragon mayonnaise.
In fines herbes
Tarragon is one of the most flavorful elements of the famous French herb blend known as the fines herbes. Tarragon complements the other ingredients in the blend, which include chervil and parsley. The fines herbes are used in salads, omelets and other dishes that cook for very short periods.
Tarragon is popular in French salads. It is an essential ingredient in Salad Lyonnaise, which pairs it with pickled herrings, sheep’s trotters and chicken livers. For a less aggressively French application, you can sprinkle chopped tarragon over a green salad or use it to make a salad dressing. Tarragon is a key ingredient in the famous green goddess dressing. Green goddess dressing gets its name from its color, which the classic version of the dressing gets from tarragon as well as from chives and chervil.
In bouquet garni
A bouquet garni is another classic herb blend from France. While the ingredients of a bouquet garni vary, tarragon is often included. The herbs may be tied together in a bundle or wrapped in a cheesecloth before being added to the dish. Tying the herbs together or using the cheesecloth makes it easy to remove the herbs from the dish after their flavor has been infused into it.
In poultry dishes
Tarragon is a popular seasoning for French poultry dishes. It is especially popular in chicken dishes like poulet a la estragon, which translates to tarragon chicken and poulet au vinaigre or chicken with vinegar. The herb shows up in some duck recipes as well. In most of these dishes, the tarragon is added at the end of the cooking time, since the fresh herb does not stand up well to long cooking times.
Tarragon is one of the few herbs you can use in both sweet and savory applications. Tarragon lends itself to sweet cocktails and mocktails in much the same way that mint does. An easy way to use it in drinks is to first infuse its flavor into simple syrup. It pairs well with citrus notes like those from limes and grapefruits.