Chicken and Tarragon Bake

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Spring has well and truly arrived. There is the heady scent of jasmine and apple blossom in the air, the Willow trees are dipping their green tresses in the water, and baby figs are budding on the trees.  I love this time of year it is so full of anticipation and promise of good things to come.

When I am not working or writing my blog, I like to take my camera and stroll along the banks of the lovely river Marne and fill up my senses surrounded blue sky, turquoise water and lush greenery – and, brush up on my photography skills (which are in much need of ‘brushing up’!) 

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Shady Willows on the banks of the Marne

 

Now is definitely the time to move away from heavy comfort food and strong spicy flavours, to the lighter more subtle flavours of spring vegetables and  fragrant herbs.

This is a real ‘Franglais’ effort – staying with the concept of a bake, I fused together two recipes, one a French classic ‘chicken with a white wine and tarragon sauce’ (which I will post later in the summer) and a chicken pasta bake with a twist, using 100% French pasta – yes, it does exist! ‘Avoines’ from the Alpine region, which resembles tiny ears of corn. Plus the addition of tarragon, fresh fennel, pine nuts, which are very popular in Mediterranean cooking, and, of course, a little splash of white wine in the sauce……

As an alternative you could use asparagus (which is now in season) or even artichoke hearts (those who live in France – you can buy these frozen at ‘Picard’………)

This dish is much lighter than regular pasta bakes and has a lovely delicate, fresh flavour, perfect for eating outdoors on a balmy spring evening……….speaking of spring it has most definitely arrived ‘chez nous’ and I am enjoying once again strolling along the banks of the lovely river Marne………………

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Spring on the banks of the river Marne

 

Ingredients Serves 4

2 large free range chicken breasts, skinned and cut into fine strips (as for a stir fry)

1 packet of baby carrots

1 small/medium fennel bulb

200g of pasta ‘avoine’ (alternatively ‘ozro’ Italian pasta or any ‘miniature’ pasta)

3 tablespoons (6 cuilleres de soupe) fresh breadcrumbs (miette de pain)

30g salted butter

A good handful of pine nuts

A splash of Tarragon vinegar

Freshly round sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the sauce

50g butter

2 tablespoons of corn flour (4 cuilleres de soupe de farine de mais)

¾ pint/500ml of warm whole milk – do not use reduced fat milk or the sauce will be watery and not creamy

¼ pint of white wine

1 dessertspoon of lemon juice

1 good teaspoon of mustard (French wholegrain if you like, but I prefer the ‘bite’ of English mustard)

2 dessertspoons of finely chopped fresh/or 2 teaspoons of dried tarragon (estragon)

½ teaspoon of freshly ground sea salt

 

Method

Cook the pasta in boiling, lightly salted water until just ‘al dente’

At the same time:-

Lightly toast the pine nuts in their own oil until a light golden colour and set aside

Melt the butter in the pan with any excess oil from the pine nuts and gently soften the carrots (leave the small ones whole and cut the larger ones sin two lengthways) and the fennel (cut into 8 sections)

Add the chicken strips and stir fry gently until ‘sealed’ but not browned (faire saisir doucement)

Season with sea salt

For the sauce:-

Melt the butter in a saucepan, reduce the heat and stir in the corn flour to form a thick smooth paste

Gradually stir in the milk and gently whisk continually until the sauce begins to thicken

Gradually add the wine and the lemon juice

Stir in the mustard and the tarragon

Add Sea salt and a little black pepper to taste

If the sauce is too thick – loosen it with a little crème fraiche

Putting it all together:-

Drain the pasta then mix with the chicken and vegetables and put into a buttered baking dish

Stir in the sauce and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top (if you want you can add a little grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs, but not too much as the essence of this dish is the delicate marriage of flavours, and like any good marriage, none should overpower the others)

Cover with aluminium foil and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for 20 minutes

Remove the foil and continue to bake for a further 20 minutes, until the breadcrumb crust is golden, but not brown

 

This dish does not need anything more to make it complete – I usually serve a fresh green salad alongside and as it ‘Beaujolais’ season I served a very light fresh Beaujolais nouveau, but my ‘salade de Concombre’ in my last post is a perfect starter!

 

I must say, this dish was a bigger hit with ‘Monsieur le Frog’ than I expected!

 

Bon apetit and ‘Santé’ tout le monde

Chicken Tarragon 2

 

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2 thoughts on “Chicken and Tarragon Bake

    • lindaravello says:

      I am so glad that you liked it – I’ve had to develop my own style being a Brit living in France with a French partner – hence the ‘franglais’ cooking theme, If you like this, then check out the ‘chicken with caramelised fennel’ which is really good also, but a bit more ‘feisty’

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