tarragon is my favourite herb (I think…) in Cream Sauce! (WHB 1st anniv: tarragon)

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recipe: tarragon cream sauce made with skim milk instead of cream

WHB 1st anniversary: my very favourite herb

(click on image for more photos of tarragon cream sauce)
tarragon cream sauce It’s very difficult to choose favourites. As I mentioned in a comment to Kalyn (Kalyn’s Kitchen) already, I seem to have many favourites. I’m a bit like that character in “Finian’s Rainbow”. To paraphrase his song: if I’m not near the herb that I love, I love the herb I’m near!

But I do think tarragon may well be “my very favourite herb”*.

French tarragon, that is. Wonderful licoricy, tongue numbing tarragon. And what a tragedy that we don’t really have enough sun in our garden to grow it. Don’t get me wrong. I love how shady our garden is! Toronto summers are so disgustingly hot. But it would be nice to have a little patch of sun.

Happily, one of our friends does have a little patch of sun in her otherwise shady garden. And as I already mentioned, she has an embarrassment of tarragon growing in that little patch. Last Friday, she generously gave me a large bunch. (pictured in the previous post)

We were so excited to have so much fresh tarragon! What to make; what to make.

Chicken. Yes, chicken… and stock from the chicken carcass. And pasta with beets and tarragon. And even though dried tarragon isn’t nearly as wonderful as fresh tarragon, we’re drying some to put into stocks during the winter.

Allow me to rave about chicken with tarragon cream sauce. First, T butterflied and covered a chicken in our version of “Old Bay” spice rub. He then slow cooked it on the barbecue with smoking hickory chips.

chicken with tarragon cream sauce We had legs of lovely crispy smoky barbecued chicken, oven roasted potatoes, steamed broccoli and plenty of tarragon cream sauce. (click on image for larger view)

Not the usual tarragon cream sauce. Guilt free tarragon cream sauce. This was the most supremely delicious tarragon cream sauce made with olive oil and skim milk!! Yes, you read that correctly.

Recently, I was instructed to cut back drastically on my butterfat intake (I can’t tell you how difficult this is for me!! I ADORE butter!) Here is what T did so we could have our cream sauce and eat it too:

Tarragon Cream Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 small portobello dried mushrooms, chopped finely
  • flour
  • skim milk
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • splash of 10% cream
  • fresh tarragon
  • pepper, to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet.
  2. Sauté onions til soft and just beginning to turn golden.
  3. Stir in dried mushrooms and sauté for about a minute.
  4. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon to get rid of lumps.
  5. Add milk (we use skim milk powder and water) and chicken stock powder (or salt) and cook til sauce is the right thickness. (This can be done a few hours before serving.) Cover.
  6. Just before serving, add a splash of 10% cream, plenty of fresh tarragon. Stir to heat through. Grind in some pepper and serve.

This had to be one of the best cream sauces I’ve ever had. It was already stellar before adding the tarragon. But when the tarragon went in, a lovely sweetness (not in a cloying way) pervaded – the almost caramelized onion and the licoricy taste of the tarragon was swoonworthy. It’s hard to believe but we didn’t miss the extra butterfat at all.

Yes, thinking back on that fabulous cream sauce, tarragon is indeed my favourite herb. I absolutely must figure out a way to get it established in our garden!

* Celebrate the first anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) by posting

your best recipe featuring your favorite herb. *My Very Favorite Herb* recipes can be posted any time between Monday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Oct. 1 [2006].

To learn more about WHB and complete details on how to participate, please go to:

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchen Weekend Herb Blogging: French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa)

With a sunny garden, French tarragon is very easy to grow. It must be propagated from a root division – French tarragon seed is sterile. (Please don’t be fooled into buying tarragon seeds. The resulting tarragon will be Russian tarragon, which has a very disappointing flavour.) Ironically, tarragon is a native of Siberia and has been used as a flavouring since the middle ages.

Fresh tarragon is best. It can be dried but while the flavour has a nice earthy taste, it is far less thrilling. Dried tarragon seems to lose all of its licorice qualities.

Two books on herbs in our shelves have slightly conflicting views on how to grow tarragon. Patrick Lima wrote the following in The Harrowsmith Illustrated Guide to Herbs:

Tarragon responds to sun, warmth, and ordinary garden soil that does not stay wet for too long periods. This herb has lived in our garden for many winters but others say its hardiness is not ironclad.

But Turid Forsyth and Merilyn Simonds Mohr wrote in The Harrowsmith Salad Garden:

[T]arragon grows in any light from full sun to deep shade, but it needs a generous supply of water and good, deeply dug soil enriched with a little lime and not too much nitrogen; soil that is too rich reduces the hardiness of the plant and the concentration of essential oils in the leaves. Once established, tarragon is virtually care-free, is almost never bothered by pests and rarely demands special attention.

Read more about tarragon:

This entry was posted in anniversaries, crossblogging, food & drink, main course, posts with recipes, WHB on by .

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11 responses to “tarragon is my favourite herb (I think…) in Cream Sauce! (WHB 1st anniv: tarragon)

  1. kalyn

    You have almost convinced me. When worked in a French restaurant I used to love bernaise sauce (butterfat galore). I haven’t had fresh tarragon very much. Maybe I need to plant some next year.

    I will update the vote tallies when I get home from work.

  2. ejm Post author

    I’m glad you saw the post, Kalyn! (I just now emailed to tell you I had posted – hope it doesn’t get lost in the ether like the email from last week.)

    I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to realize that cream sauce doesn’t necessarily have to be made with butter in order to taste good. I urge you to try it. But, please, next year when your tarragon is thriving and you have so much you don’t know what to do with it all, I beg you not to tell me. :lalala:

  3. kalyn

    I like the sauce idea. Also, thanks for the tip about not getting tarragon seeds. I will look for the plants for sure for next year. (Speaking of which, I have hours and hours of garden clean-up I should be doing this year!)

  4. ejm Post author

    I’m thinking of looking for some plants this year and planting them right now. Sometimes, perennials love to be planted in the fall. (Speaking of cleanup, I was just realizing that I’ll have start thinking seriously about bringing the tender perennials indoors. Yikes!! How can it be the end of September already? Didn’t I JUST bring the herbs outside to bask in summer’s warmth?)

  5. BJ

    The tarragon cream sauce recipe is wonderful and I am so pleased to find a healthier version. I adore tarragon and planted two very small sprigs of French in my herb garden this year. I must say it’s growing very slowly but it seems quite happy with our hot Alabama weather, even though I was warned it wouldn’t be. I’m hoping next year to have enough to actually cook with ::smile:: but I’ll be happy to wait patiently for it to establish just as I did with the asparagus.

  6. ejm Post author

    So glad you like the look of the creamsauce, BJ. Let me know how it turns out! (Might your tarragon really start flourishing now that the weather is turning a little cooler in Alabama?)

  7. Pookah

    Even though I made basil butter for whb, I can’t eat much of it. Heart disease (husband). I use it to feed clients (ha!). I spend lots of time trying to make food healthier and appreciate your efforts. I MUST try this tarragon recipe. I do grow it and in mild winters (like last) if properly mulched, overwinters. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    ps: great eating (and drinking) city you live in! been there many times

  8. ejm Post author

    I hope you like it as much as we do, Pookah! I think you’ll be amazed at how one really CAN’T tell that it isn’t made with heavy cream and butter. Do let me know.

    p.s. yes, there are some really great places here. What I really can’t get over is our easy access to all kinds of spices and ingredients.


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