Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken That Lives Up To Its Name

What makes this dish epic? A juicy roast chicken plus an addictive creamy sauce -- all made together in one pan.
What makes this dish epic? A juicy roast chicken plus an addictive creamy sauce — all made together in one pan.

Few dishes satisfy like a great roast chicken.

And this particular one is truly sensational.

It may not have the most shatteringly crisp skin, but I’ll forgive that because what it does possess is even better — a fabulous creamy sauce flavored with white wine and loads of tarragon that cooks up conveniently in the same roasting pan.

In short, “Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken” is indeed epic.

This straightforward recipe is from “The Farm Table” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It was written by Julius Roberts, a farmer and former chef of the acclaimed Noble Rot restaurant in London.

After growing disillusioned and burnt out from the stresses of cooking professionally, Roberts decided to leave the big city to return to the land. A first-time farmer, he writes evocatively about his journey to create a small, self-sufficient farm where he learned animal husbandry, foraging, and what it really means to live, breathe, and eat by the seasons.

The recipes may be from a chef. But Roberts leans more into his farmer side by showcasing ones that aren’t fussy or overly complicated. They are arranged by the season, too, with “Lamb Stew with Pearl Barley & Wild Garlic” in spring; “Sour Cherry Madeira Ice Cream” in summer; “Pork Belly Braised in Cider with Onions & Prunes” in winter; and “Pan-Fried Trout with Buttery Mash & A Velvety Spinach Sauce in Autumn.”

“Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken” may fall squarely in the autumn chapter, but it’s so divine that you may just want to make it any month of the year.

Spatchcock a chicken, then rub with olive oil and season with salt. Arrange it in a roasting pan with garlic cloves from a whole head underneath. The recipe didn’t specify whether to peel the cloves, but I went ahead and did that, since it makes for easier enjoyment after they are cooked. I added that option in the directions.

Roast the chicken in a hot oven for about half an hour until it starts to take on color. Then, decrease the heat, pour in white wine, along with heavy cream stirred up with a heaping half cup of tarragon leaves and a little Dijon mustard. If you want to make this a more mustard-forward sauce with a bigger piquant bite, you could simply add a lot more Dijon.

Continue roasting for another half hour, then let rest, before carving and serving with plenty of the sauce and squishy soft, buttery tasting garlic cloves.

That sauce, that sauce.
That sauce, that sauce.

For the white wine in this dish, I used a sample of the 2022 Talley Estate Chardonnay ($38). Made from estate-grown, cool climate grapes from the San Luis Obispo coast winery, this wine has the heady fragrance of Bartlett pears and tastes of mouthwatering apple, honeysuckle and torched meringue. There was enough leftover to enjoy glasses with the chicken, with the medium body and orchard-like notes of the wine making for a pleasing union.

The 2022 Talley Estate Chardonnay.
The 2022 Talley Estate Chardonnay.

With this dish, you’ll also want to serve some crusty bread, mashed potatoes or rice alongside to sop up all that wonderful, buttery tasting sauce kissed with subtle anise.

The chicken is juicy and tender beyond belief. Married with the sauce, it evokes the taste of the French countryside. Or perhaps that of a Dorset farm with a great story behind it.

Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken

(Serves 5)

1 organic chicken

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 whole head garlic

1 cup quality heavy cream

1/2 cup (20 grams) fresh tarragon, stalks removed, roughly chopped

1 large heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard or more if you want it very mustardy

1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 450°F/240°C and start by spatchcocking the chicken. To do this, turn it over and cut along one side of the spine from the tail to the neck. Then turn it over, open out the two sides and press down hard to flatten it. Your butcher will gladly do this for you. Lay the chicken in a large, high-sided roasting pan, season generously with salt on both sides and leave for an hour at room temperature so it loses the chill of the fridge.

When ready, generously drizzle the skin with olive oil and work it into all the nooks and crannies. Smash the head of garlic, hide the cloves (peeled or not) underneath the chicken, then roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the skin begins to turn golden grown. Meanwhile, mix the cream, tarragon and mustard in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. After 20 to 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 325°F/160°C, take out the chicken and pour a generous glass of white wine into the pan. Then pour the tarragon cream all over the chicken and place back in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until it’s ready. To judge when it’s cooked, I check the deepest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer, looking for 150 to 160°F/65 to 70°C. If you don’t have one, prod this point with a skewer and ensure the juices run clear. At this point, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered loosely with a bit of foil. Carve straight into the pan and serve as you like, with lots of the sauce, garlic, and a zingy green salad.

Adapted from “The Farm Table” by Julius Roberts

More Recipes for Tarragon Lovers: Roasted Artichokes with Fennel and Tarragon

And: Asparagus and Spring Allium Strata

And: Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles

And: Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette

And: New Potatoes with Soft Green Herbs

And: Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Arugula, and Herbs

And: Prawn-Kumquat Skewers

And: Gordon’s Potato Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard

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  • Carroll McNeill

    Tarragon is my favorite herb, and that sauce sounds amazing. Next time I feel I can afford the cream calories, I’m going to try it with chicken parts, and maybe also some sort of white fish. Heck, forget the protein; let’s just have sauce and bread for dinner!

  • Hi Carroll: I like the way you think! Because, yes, the sauce with just bread alone would be a major treat. 😉

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