Chicken with Tarragon Tomato Sauce


This sauce is a surprise. At first glance, most people see a marinara sauce and expect to taste basil, but they taste tarragon instead. It adds a subtle licorice flavor that may seem out of place but goes surprisingly well with tomatoes. Make this dish while fresh tomatoes are still in season; later you can substitute the canned variety.

However fancy it may sound, this is just a simple chicken dish with an easy pan sauce. I used a light Pino Grigio to deglaze the pan but you could substitute bone broth or chicken stock. If you don't have tarragon, substitute any herb you like. Basil, thyme, oregano, sage, or parsley would all work well. I added aleppo pepper for a mild, fruity heat. If you don't have it, substitute any other dried or fresh chili pepper. If you don't have rendered duck or chicken fat, substitute butter.

Season the chicken with salt in advance if you can, 24 to 48 hours. I find that one large chicken breast serves two people, once you add a salad or side dish and an appetizer or cheese course.

2 teaspoons rendered chicken or duck fat
1 large or 2 small chicken breasts at room temperature
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
Sea salt
1/4 cup white wine
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
2 springs fresh tarragon
1 tbsp cream

Warm the fat in a small skillet over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the chicken until browned on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Reduce the heat  to medium-low and add the shallots to the pan. Sauté until they soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook until they start to break down, about 5 more minutes. 

Stir in the wine, vinegar, and half the tarragon. Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Return the chicken to the skillet, cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the breast. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover to keep warm, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking the sauce until most of the liquid is reduced. Stir in the cream.

Cut the chicken into thick slices and arrange on a serving plate. Spoon the sauce over the top and garnish with the remaining tarragon. Serve immediately.