I work close to Kalustyan’s, the spice and food emporium that pretty much every chef in the world knows and buys from (they ship everything worldwide). It’s an unassuming place, next to a takeout Indian restaurant called Curry in a Hurry. Inside, there are more spices, sauces, frozen foods, and ingredients than you could ever imagine. The incredibly narrow aisles are surrounded on both sides with shelves up to the ceiling, packed with bags of different sizes that are filled with exotic sounding spices like Anardana (sour pomegranate seeds used as a souring agent), Radhuni (an incredibly pungent spice from Bengal), Jaffna (a hot curry powder from Sri Lanka), and on and on.
Whenever I am there, it’s hard not to buy things, especially if I’ve never heard of them before, despite not being able to smell or taste them (the bags are sealed shut). I often bring them home and look them up online to try and find a use for them. More than once, they end up forgotten in the back of the spice pantry and eventually thrown out. This time I bought three things I already knew about and had wanted to buy for a while: star anise, ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend), and za’atar (a Middle-Eastern spice blend that varies from country to country – I bought the Lebanese kind).
I’ve already used the ras el hanout to make a rub for pork chops that I pan fried in some oil and finished in the oven. And the za’tar has gone over yogurt with olive oil (known as labneh) and fresh tomatoes with olive oil and salt. The star anise is waiting its turn.
The point I am trying to make is that I am a flavor explorer, as is Steve. Whenever we are in an ethnic market or grocery store, we’ll end up buying things that we’ve never tasted before, always searching for new gustatory experiences.
So it might come as a surprise when I tell you that until a few months ago I couldn’t really tell you what tarragon tasted like. I knew about it, I’d seen it many times in the store, but I never cooked with it or remembered eating anything with tarragon in it. And then the tarragon epiphany happened. I don’t remember which recipe started this but there was one recipe I tried that called for tarragon and as soon as I bought it and smelled and tasted the sweet anise-like aroma and flavor I knew I would use a lot more of it, something I have happily done since then.
Today’s recipe appeared in the New York Times and I liked its simplicity and flavor profile. I tried to modify it to maintain the crisp skin of the thighs but my attempts were unsuccessful. The only thing that could work is placing the pan under a hot broiler for a few minutes at the end, in order to recrisp the chicken skin.
Chicken with Shallots, Tomatoes, and Tarragon – Slightly adapted from the New York Times
Makes 2 servings
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 tablespoon flour
½ tablespoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
7-8 whole medium shallots, peeled, ends trimmed
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 sprigs tarragon
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Rinse chicken thighs and pat them very dry with paper towels. Trip any excess fat or skin. Sprinkle over both sides of thighs the flour, salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the thighs, skin-side down first, in batches if necessary, until the skin is well browned and crisp, about 7-8 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
Add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the shallots from the pot. Lower the heat to medium low. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stirring with a heatproof spatula, then add the mustard and tarragon. Stir until mustard is almost fully combined. Add the chicken thighs skin side up and nestle the shallots between them.
Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir lightly to combine. Serve immediately. If you want to recrisp the chicken skin, place under a hot broiler for a couple of minutes.