Poulet a l’estragon – French tarragon chicken

Poulet a l'estragon

This is the dish I associate most with being in France. I first ate poulet a l’estragon cooked by my father-in-law when we stayed with them in France some years ago. Thinking about it, it must have been more than 15 years ago, but let’s not dwell on that as it makes me feel rather old. When I ate it, I truly thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It is based on an Elizabeth David recipe and, even though those were the days when I really didn’t spend much time cooking or thinking about food, I had to copy down the recipe at once and I have made it myself many times in the intervening years.

It’s such a beautiful dish with only a handful of ingredients, but those ingredients are rather on the rich and decadent side. Perhaps not a dish you should be contemplating if you’re watching the old calories. It’s essentially a simple pot roast chicken but the addition of tarragon, butter and cream elevate it to something quite extraordinarily delicious.

We’ve been on holiday in the Dordogne for just over a week now, far away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. It’s a proper chance to kick back, unwind and spend some quality time with the family. We’re in a stunning location out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vineyards and sunflowers as far as the eye can see.


Most of our days are spent in the swimming pool, playing Uno, pétanque, consequences or table football, devising treasure hunts and walking in the nearby woods. Oh, and of course cooking and eating. Yes, there’s been quite a bit of cooking and eating. Oh and lots of mini bottles of ice cold beer too.

eating al fresco

One of our first meals here had to be poulet a l’estragon. I made it for the first time without following the notes I made all those years ago on my now tatty and grease-spattered scrap of paper, and was rather pleased with myself for remembering what to do. But then it is pretty easy. And it tasted all the better for being eaten outside as the sun was starting to set after an arduous day soaking up the French sunshine.

poulet a l'estragon

Poulet a l’estragon

50g butter, softened
large bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 medium chicken
1 tsp plain flour
150ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Take two-thirds of the butter and using a fork gently mash in around half of the chopped tarragon, and give it a good seasoning with salt and pepper. Stuff most of this inside the chicken and rub the rest onto the skin on the breasts and legs.

Place the chicken on its side in a large ovenproof casserole and cover with the lid. Roast in the oven for about an hour and a half, turning onto the other side half way through and basting with the herby, buttery juices. The aroma at this stage will be quite incredible and I defy your stomach not to start growling. When the chicken is tender and the juices run clear, remove from the oven, and keep warm on the carving board while you make the sauce.

Work the flour into the remaining butter and, over a low heat, stir this into the juices in the casserole, along with the rest of the chopped tarragon. Then stir in the cream and bring to a very gentle simmer.

Carve the chicken and pour over the tarragon sauce. I like to serve with steamed rice and a vegetable such as green beans. French beans, naturellement. Bon appetit!


As the star of this dish is undoubtedly the tarragon, I’m entering it into August’s Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by the wonderful Karen at Lavender & Lovage, who I’ve just discovered is only ‘just down the road’ here in France!

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

Tarragon is one of my favourite herbs, especially when paired with chicken. Its unique flavour lifts simple dishes to new heights.

I first got excited about tarragon many years ago when my father-in-law cooked us Elizabeth David’s sumptuous poulet et l’estragon one summer holiday in France. It was incredible and my husband and I have recreated it many times since and it always takes us back to those long hot days in the Dordogne.

But that is really one to save for special occasions (my husband last cooked it for me on my birthday), while this pasta dish is much more of a quick, every day family favourite. Nonetheless it tastes fantastic and all because of that lovely fresh tarragon.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

400g dried penne pasta
250g purple sprouting broccoli, cut into manageable chunks
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
70ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted water following the packet timings. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook until both pasta and broccoli are tender. Drain.

While the pasta (and broccoli) are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes until there is no sign of any pink inside.

Pour the stock into the pan, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tarragon and cream cheese. Season to taste. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and serve.

I’m entering this dish into July’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, set up by Lavender & Lovage and hosted this month by me! If you have a herby recipe you’d like to enter, you can find out all the details here.