Its name comes from a strange superstition reported by Pliny: anyone who carries a branch of tarragon need never fear snake nor dragon. Thus, dragon, or "tarchon" in medieval Latin, became "tarragon." Though there is a Spanish city named Tarragon, this is purely coincidental. The first evidence of tarragon being used in European cooking dates to the 15th century.
This edible plant is a kind of artemisia with delicate lanceolated leaves which grow on alternating sides of a round, firm, tall smooth stem.
Rich in calcium, iron, potassium and Vitamins A and C.
It should have a firm stem, nice straight leaves without blackening or yellowing, and no wilting. The younger tarragon, the stronger its flavour.
The aromatic strength of its essential oil, estragol, means that it keeps better than other herbs; keep in a plastic bag in the lower part of the refrigerator, or place the stems in a glass of water.
Frozen: Place chopped herbs into an ice-cube tray and cover with water.
With its peppery, slightly anise-like flavour, tarragon is indispensable in bearnaise sauce. It is perfect for cream, butter, eggs, certain vegetable soups, sauces and tomato. It marries well with veal and other white meats, lobster and fatty fish.
Its flowers can be added to a bouquet garni to flavour a stock. Its pronounced flavour requires that it be used in moderation.
Do you like chicken with tarragon? How about a terrine? In a loaf pan alternate layers of cooked chicken with layers of small vegetables (leeks, carrots, celery); pour on a reduced, seasoned stock, flavoured with tarragon and with enough gelatin to set it. Let it set in the refrigerator and serve in slices with tarragon mayonnaise.
Perk up your scrambled eggs by mixing a tablespoonful each of tarragon and crème fraîche into them before cooking.
One spoonful of tarragon to three spoonfuls of crème fraîche makes a light sauce, which will enhance a cucumber, beet or mushroom salad.
To give refinement to your dishes, mix some tarragon into softened butter; or add tarragon to some mustard to brush onto a roast.
Don't forget to add a branch of tarragon to a bottle of white wine vinegar to give it a wonderful aroma!
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