Grilling (Tarra)gon Wild

It’s early summer, outdoor temps are heating up and the grills are rolling out. Pair this with late spring and early summer vegetables and I’ve got one herb on my mind. French tarragon!

French tarragon soaking up the sun on Smoot’s Flavor Farm.

French tarragon is a perennial herb with a delectable licorice-citrusy flavor, that leaves a slight tingle of sweetness on your tongue. Related to sunflowers, this herb is especially good with fish and eggs, but it also pairs really well with chicken and and spring vegetables, like asparagus, beets and carrots. It will elevate your salad dressings, escalate your sauces and leave you wondering how you’ve ever lived without it.

Just don’t confuse French tarragon for the impostor, Russian tarragon. The latter is nearly flavorless, scentless and is often quite bitter. You can easily tell the difference with a whiff, but in the garden Russian tarragon grows like a weed, with a bushy growth habit that can reach 4-5 feet high. By contrast, French tarragon spreads slowly, is lower growing and produces sterile flowers, which means it can only be propagated by cuttings.

But I digress… So how can you incorporate this herb into your grilling menu? How about a versatile tarragon marinade? We’ve got a great base recipe with three flavor variations you can choose from depending on what you’re grilling.

You might try the bold mustard variety on chicken, the spicy-lime on fish or the refreshing lemon on vegetables. But it’s a choose-your-own-(flavor)-adventure!

Start with this base tarragon marinade:

  • 1/3 cup fresh French tarragon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Then choose your own flavor adventure:

For a bold mustard and tarragon marinade, add:

  • 1/4 cup mustard (dijon or horseradish are my favorites)

For a spicy-lime marinade, add:

  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste (have you tried Irish Spikes?)

For a refreshing lemon marinade (great on vegetables), add:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Whisk together all the base ingredients as well as the additional ingredients for your flavor of choice. Reserve a tablespoon or two of the marinade. Then using a ziploc bag or a baking dish, coat your chicken, fish, vegetables or whatever you’re grilling, with the marinade. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to meld, tossing occasionally.

Prepare your grill (medium heat) and grill as you normally would. Use the reserved marinade to baste your meats while they’re cooking or drizzle over your finished dish.

French tarragon is a great pairing for grilled chicken, fish and vegetables.

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