I never used it in any of my cooking too, until recently. Last week I went back to the supermarket, and impulsively bought a pack of fresh tarragon—not that I know what to do with it, but only a matter to satisfy my curiosity.
|Fresh French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus L. var. sativa) leaves.|
I was told that the best way in learning ingredient is to taste it. So when I got home, I took a bite of one long-narrow-lance-shaped soft green tarragon leaf and experienced a distinctive sweet, strong and complex aromatic flavor. I then spent almost an hour searching on my Larousse Gastronomy e-book, before I realized tarragon is not 'tarragon' in French. I know, I know, it was so silly of me. I totally lost in translation. Well, I did not finish any of my French courses, so forget it. For now. I better just asked the omniscient Mr. Google instead.
It turned out that tarragon is one of the four fines herbs of French cooking; an aromatic plant of the Compositae family, native to central Asia. Tarragon was once known for its curative powers against bites from venomous animals, and its therapeutic properties have always been recognized. Meanwhile, its bright green leaf has been used in cooking since the sixteenth century. Many source says that it resembles the taste of anise and licorice.
Tarragon is particularly suitable for seafood, egg, and a perfect match for chicken dishes. It can flavor consommes, cream-soup, terrine, fraichés, salads, butter, mustard, vinegar, purée, sauces (e.g. béarnaise, tartar, etc.) and even make a liquor. It can be used whole or chopped, and keeps well by various method—boiled, frozen, or even dried.
Even though the species has many varieties that grown in a wide area of the Northern Hemisphere from easternmost Europe across Asia to America and Mexico, French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen. I have no picture of the whole plant, but here is how a French tarragon like growing on ground.
Substitutes: Some says that an equal amounts of parsley and cinnamon powder together, tagetes or Mexican mint marigold, marjoram, half amount of anise or chervil, or a dash of fennel seed can substitutes tarragon.
GrowinKitchen's recipes using tarragon: