What do you do if you're feeling cold, forlorn and demotivated? You head off in the direction of the kitchen with a copy of your favourite recipe book of the moment (Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries), rummage around in the fridge, and see what's mouldering there.
I happened to have a bag of fresh tarragon (a herb I have never succeeded in growing) , which I'd bought at the Dunkeld veggie shop, Johannesburg, because it looked so fresh and crisp. I also had a cut-up chicken, so I decided to make Nigel's chicken dish with Vermouth (which I didn't have: who does?) and cream (which I did have.
I took my time making this dish, and followed his instructions to a tee. (Except that he forgot to say whether the chicken pieces should be turned over during the browning proces; I turned them over).
It was just delicious: the chicken was tender, and the sauce was gorgeous, even though I added a scant tablespoon of flour to thicken and stabilise it (sorry Nigel), and substituted fresh lemon juice and white wine for the Vermouth and vinegar.
Creamy Lemon Tarragon Chicken
3 tablespoons butter
1 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly milled pepper
8 pieces free-range chicken (4 thighs, 4 breasts)
1 tablespoon flour
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
a handful of fresh tarragon (use parsley if you can't find tarrgon)
1 carton (250 ml) fresh cream
Put the butter and olive oil in a deep frying pan and heat it until it stops bubbling. Don' t allow the butter to brown. Season the chicken top and bottom with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot pan, and fry gently until the chicken skin is a golden brown and crispy. Turn the chicken pieces over and fry for another 3-4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside.
Tip the frying pan over the sink and drain off all but about one tablespoon of the fat. Now put the pan back on the heat, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the bottom. Stir and scrape, then tip in the lemon juice and wine, stirring briskly to loosen the brown bits on the bottom. Allow to bubble for 1 minute, then add the carton of cream. Roughly chop the tarragon and add it to the pan. Now put the chicken pieces back in the pan, together with their juices, skin side up. Cover the pan with a lid or tin foil.
Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow to bubble gently for 25-35 minutes. Shake the dish now and then to prevent the cream from sticking.
When you think it's ready, take a sharp knife and cut to the bone on one of the thighs. If the juices are running clear, and have no trace of pinkness, the chicken's ready.
Serve with mashed potato.
Serves 6 -8
My rating: 8/10
Teenagers' rating: 6/10
Small-daughter rating: 4/10 (she didn't like the chicken skin, which she said was 'slimy'.)