Chicken Stew with Mushrooms and Tarragon

While the rest of the world is buying charcoal for barbecues, we here in Britain are battening down the hatches, putting on our summer woolens, and donning our widest brimmed sou’westers.  We’re also planning Wicker Man type parades and sacrifices to appease the weather gods as well as eating boatloads of stew.  Below is my favorite recipe of the moment.

The main flavor is that of tarragon.  An herb that to me, seems inherently French.  But apparently it’s not.  I’ve read and heard from several sources that it was brought to Europe by the Mongols, circa 13-something-or-other.  And I hope that’s true because I really love the image of Kublai Khan’s army crossing the Altai with tarragon plants to season their fish and poultry or maybe soothe their upset tummies in between looting and pillaging their way to Central Europe.  History is so much more colorful when imagined this way.

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs

10 rashers of bacon (smoked streaky), cut into pieces

1/2 cup flour

olive oil

2 onions, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup dry white wine (or dry sherry for a richer, sweeter sauce)

2 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream (double cream)

3 tablespoons creamy dijon mustard

1 container crimini mushrooms

a bunch of tarragon, chopped (just the leaves, no stems.  stems are bitter)

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Dust the chicken with the flour, season with salt and pepper, and brown in a heavy saucepan.  Once you have done this, set the chicken aside.  Add a drop more oil to the pan and add the bacon, onions, and garlic.  Cook over medium-low heat until the onions separate and caramelize.  Then add the wine and let the mixture bubble.  Reduce until the liquid is half.  Now add the chicken stock, mustard, and the previously browned chicken thighs.  Simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the stew.  Bring your sauce to a bubble and once again reduce.  Finally, add the cream and tarragon as well as return the chicken pieces back to the dish.  Warm through and serve with nice hearty bread or some new potatoes.

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