Monday, November 11, 2013

A Taste of Tarragon: Heaven in an Herb Paste

The aroma of tarragon is not limited to the verdant lexicon typically associated with herbs. Tarragon isn't pungent, resinous, or redolent of citrus or floral notes. Tarragon is woodsy and anise-like, with an undercurrent of vanilla; not what you would expect of the herb if you relied on sight alone.

Tarragon is wonderful in chicken, vegetable, and fruit dishes. The herb imparts a refreshing quality due to the presence of estragole, a molecule that adds a quality of freshness that works well in sweet and savory applications. Flavor caveat; tarragon sings when combined with eggs, cheese and mushrooms. Finish the omelet with a touch of mustard and Imam Bayildi has competition in the category of  "food so good you could swoon."

Tarragon is best used fresh versus dried, (this is true for most herbs, but it is especially true of tarragon which develops a dusty, minty quality when parched). Glass Petal Smoke's recipe for Tarragon Herb Paste can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or frozen and used as needed. The addition of orange peel adds a subtle finish similar to the complementary twist of lemon peel in a martini. Organic tangerine or mandarin can also be used in place of Valencia orange in this recipe as each has an underripe green quality that complements tarragon.

Tarragon Herb Paste
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 1/2 cup

  • 12 medium-sized sprigs fresh tarragon (removed from stem)
  • 4 medium-sized shallots
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (non-roasted, with nut skin attached)
  • 2 teaspoons zest from an organic orange (Valencia is best)
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (fruity type)
  • Rinse tarragon under cool water and pat dry. Gently press your thumb and forefinger against the tarragon stem, pinching it as your fingers slide down to detach the tarragon leaves. Remove unsightly leaves.
  • Peel shallot bulbs and slice horizontally in quarter inch slices.
  • Measure slivered raw almonds.
  • Rinse and dry an organic orange. Zest the peel using a Microplane Zester. Use a measuring spoon to dole out two teaspoons of zest.
  • Measure the extra virgin olive oil.
  • Layer non-liquid ingredients in a food processor (a 3-4 cup food processor will do).
  • Add the olive oil.
  • Make a paste in the food processor, alternating between the grind and chop settings until a paste is formed and the tarragon is well incorporated.
Tarragon Herb Paste can be added to Greek-style yogurt and used as a dip or sandwich dressing.

Tarkhun is a tarragon soda popular in Russia. Food Perestroika has a recipe for tarragon syrup which can be used to make homemade tarragon soda. Tarragon syrup is the perfect addition to the adventurous mixologist's shelf.