Dark Days Week 12: No-Salt Tarragon-Braised Turnips or Chicken

With all of the recent talk from the government about reducing sodium intake, I started to think about what I make without adding salt. This is one dish – either version — that has no added salt and doesn’t need it. Of course natural ingredients, in this case cream, have sodium content, so this isn’t sodium free.

Tangy, licorice-like tarragon makes great vinegar. Rather than decant the vinegar, I store the leaves and stems in it and fish them out to add to other dishes (as I did with the mushroom and cheese salad that I made for Dark Days Weeks 9 and 10). Here, I made two dishes – one vegetarian and the other with chicken – using the same method and ingredients. I made the chicken a few days before the turnips or I would have combined them, adding something colorful like carrots and possibly potatoes. This is creamy but flavorful, and our excellent local cream is so thick that a little goes a long way. You could add a little broth but the liquid exuded from the chicken or veggies is enough. This shouldn’t be soupy. While this dish needs no salt, a little black pepper is nice.

The method is terrific since it creates a flavorful sauce by infusing the onions with the tarragon. After browning the chicken or vegetables in a little homemade butter and setting them aside, you slowly cook the onions in the same pan. When translucent, turn up the heat, add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits, and cook until the vinegar has evaporated. Turn down the heat, return the vegetables or chicken to the pan and add a little cream and some sprigs of preserved tarragon. Cover and braise on low heat until cooked through, 20-30 minutes.  The cooking time for the vegetables could vary significantly depending on how young they are and how completely they are cooked in the first stage. I served the chicken with cubed steamed potatoes but noodles would be good too.

Note that we eat smallish portions of meat, so the number of people this will serve varies significantly. This served 6-8 in our house and was made from local chicken, expensive but worth it.

Braised Chicken and Onions with Tarragon

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 tbsp butter or half butter and half olive oil

2 medium onions, halved vertically and sliced pole-to-pole in moon-shaped slivers

Optional: 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

2-3 tbsp tarragon vinegar

2-3 sprigs vinegar-preserved tarragon (do not use dried but fresh is okay)

¼ heavy cream

Black pepper

Dry the chicken breasts and brown them on both sides over medium heat in the butter or butter-oil mixture, 6-8 minutes. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the onions to the pan, adding a little more butter or oil if necessary, and cook slowly, covered, until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Uncover, add the garlic and stir until it becomes aromatic. Turn the heat to high and add the vinegar, stirring to scrape up the brown bits, until the vinegar is absorbed. (Don’t put your nose right over the pan when you add the vinegar since the fumes can be pretty intense.). Turn the heat down and add the cream. Return the chicken to the pan, coating it with the creamy onion mixture. Add a couple of sprigs of preserved tarragon and a quick grind of fresh pepper. Cover the pan and braise over low heat until tender, 20 minutes or so depending on the thickness of the chicken.

Braised Turnips and Other Roots with Onions with Tarragon

12 small white turnips (such as hakurei)

Optional: carrots cut in chunks (I used 2)

Optional: potatoes cut in chunks (I used 2)

1 tbsp butter or half butter and half olive oil

2 medium onions, in rough chunks

Optional: 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

2-3 tbsp tarragon vinegar

2-3 sprigs vinegar-preserved tarragon (do not use dried but fresh is okay)

¼ heavy cream

Black pepper

Brown the vegetables in the butter or butter-oil mixture, 10-12 minutes until crisp tender. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the onions to the pan, adding a little more butter or oil if necessary, and cook slowly, covered, until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Uncover, add the garlic and stir until it becomes aromatic. Turn the heat to high and add the vinegar, stirring to scrape up the brown bits, until the vinegar is absorbed. (Don’t put your nose right over the pan when you add the vinegar since the fumes can be pretty intense.). Turn the heat down and add the cream. Return the vegetables to the pan, coating them with the creamy onion mixture. Add a couple of sprigs of preserved tarragon and a quick grind of fresh pepper. Cover the pan and braise over low heat until tender, 10 minutes or more.


Categories: Carrots, Chicken, Dark Days Challenge, Herbs, Low or no salt, Turnips and rutabagasTags: ,

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