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September 23, 2007

Tarragon (Recipe: cheesy tarragon omeletta) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Tarragon

Ted's aunt Trixie, who lived to be just a few months shy of 100, had in her garden a plant that everyone called "The Old Man."

I assumed it had something to do with its age -- not as old as Trixie, but it had been there for at least 25 years. Turns out that "Old Man" is one of the common nicknames for Southernwood, which is a variety of artemisia. Wormwood, dubbed "Old Woman", is another.

Tarragon is an artemisia, too. Native to Siberia and Western Asia, tarragon was brought to Europe by the Arabs who conquered parts of Spain in the 8th Century AD.

The best tarragon for culinary uses is French tarragon (or, as it's called in Germany, German tarragon). When you buy a plant for your garden, be sure the tag specifies which variety it is, or you'll end up with an impostor like I did -- most probably a Russian tarragon, which has a much taller growing habit and much, much less flavor and aroma. The flavor of my garden tarragon is so disappointing that I'm actually using dried tarragon until I replace my impostor with a real French tarragon next spring.

The leaves taste of anise or licorice, with a sweet undertone. It's quite aromatic -- a bit strong, even -- but after long cooking, the aroma mellows. When you buy fresh tarragon, keep the sprigs in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To dry, hang the stems upside down in a dark place (in the basement or barn), where air can circulate around them.

Fragrant French tarragon pairs best with fish, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes and eggs; it makes amazing infused vinegar and brightens up compound butters and mustards, too. Trés bon!

Cheesy tarragon omeletta

Lately I've been making these egg concoctions that are quasi-omelet, quasi-frittata. It's just eggs, cheese, and random herbs from the garden, perfect for dinner with our "house" salad: greens, tomato, nectarine, cucumber, and black olives, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Serves 4.

Ingredients

10 large eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup shredded cheese (gruyere, cheddar, fontina, or your favorite mix)
3 Tbsp minced fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, thyme, basil, or a mix) OR 4 tsp dried herbs
Large pinch of sea salt
Large pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper, and beat lightly with a whisk to combine. Heat a large frying pan over lowest heat; add the oil, then pour in the egg mixture. Cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Lift the lid, and with a spatula lift the edges of the omeletta and let some of the uncooked egg from the top run underneath. Replace the lid and continue cooking over low heat for another 3 minutes. Again, lift the edges and let the uncooked egg on top run underneath. Cover, and continue cooking until the egg is set, another 5 minutes or more. If you prefer to have the top browned, either flip the omeletta and cook for 1 minute, or place under the broiler until the top is lightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Matzoh brei
Frittata with broccoli and garden herbs
Frittata ring

Comments

I really have to start using tarragon much more in my cooking! I really love their aroma. Like you, I opt for dried form since the fresh version is not always easy to find here.

I grew Russian tarragon in the window box this year, and froze a lot of it - oh well. It doesn't seem very interesting, glad you explained why. Apparently you can only grow French tarragon from cuttings, not from seeds...

Hadn't heard those names for that elderly couple before. Interesting. As is that recipe...do you eat it before, or after, practicing just a little bit of yoga?

I've only used tarragon once (fresh tarragon). I liked it. Your post reminds me that I should use it more often.

Paz

This looks like a great "during the week - after work" supper that would taste good and be good for you. We will be trying this soon!

Trish

I must try this! I didn't know that tarragon was good with eggs, and as you know I'm quite infatuated with tarragon this year. I was lucky to get the right and now I have so much I'm trying an experiment with freezing it. It seems to be working just fine too.

Thanks for mentioning the chicken salad too! I've made it so much this summer that now my family calls it "your chicken salad." My dad just loves it so I've been making it for him.

If I could, I would put tarragon in everything. I just love it, fresh more particularly.

Tarragon is so aromatic - almost like a perfume. That's good advice on the live plants - I didn't realize there were "regional varieties."

I love tarragon!
I live in France but do you think I can get French tarragon for my herb garden? Nope! Everything in the nursery is Russian. I can buy French in the produce section of the supermarket and plant it, but it only lasts the summer...
There's something wrong with this picture....

Anh, next year I'm planning to put French tarragon in the garden, because I can't bear to buy the sad little sprigs in the supermarket.

Paul, you've hit the nail on the head. The Russian tarragon in my garden isn't bad, it just isn't very interesting. Next year I will buy a nice plant and start fresh in the garden.

Marcia, after -- always after!

Paz, fresh tarragon is lovely and delicate, but good quality dried tarragon is far better than the mediocre stuff growing in my garden!

Trish, that's exactly when I make it, for a quick weekday dinner.

Kalyn, chicken salad with lovely French tarragon is one of my all-time favorite summer salads. I do love your recipe!

Bea, I agree!

TW, I didn't realize that French tarragon was so superior until I put the wrong kind, by mistake, into my own garden. Oh well.... next year...

Katie, are you kidding? No French tarragon in your part of France??! It would be so perfect in your beautiful potager.

Interesting post, Lydia. Tarragon is probably one herb that I hardly use and I know this because I ran out of tarragon a while back and never felt the urge to get more. I should re-visit this herb. Thanks for the reminder.

I always wondered if there really was a Russian tarragon as I'd never come across it, now I know! I can still remember the first time I used this herb, in a chicken that was French roasted, it was amazing how it perfumed the meat, I was instantly hooked. The other fond memory is of scampi, simply grilled and basted with tarragon butter.

I have always been somewhat afraid of tarragon(and mace), but I'm going to give it a go. Thanks for the recipe.

Tarragon is the hubby's favorite herb. We have never tried this with eggs though, this sounds superb!

I'm quite new to tarragon. I only have oregon and basil as herbs in my pantry. Am I under-stocked? :O

there´s so little room already in the header, what are you going to do?

I never used tarragon in my cooking. I think I should plant it next time along with my other plants.

Nora, tarragon is so delicate and fragrant (if you get the good French stuff and not what's growing in my garden...). I'm trying to use it more often because it pairs with so many things I like.

Neil, tarragon and lobster or shrimp... oh, what a wonderful combination. And yes, sad to say, there is a Russian tarragon.

Mrs. G., welcome to The Perfect Pantry. No need to fear -- tarragon is not spicy or harsh in any way!

Veron, do try, and do tell me how you like it.

Tigerfish, yes, you are understocked -- add tarragon, and thyme, to your pantry. You'll be glad you did.

Lobster, hah! There's always room for more!

Rose, I love having this in my garden; even the lesser Russian tarragon is fragrant. I plant it right next to my path, so I brush against it when I walk by. Like lavender, it adds a bit of interest visually and a nice aroma, too.

French tarragon is one of my favorite herbs but it can be so persnickety to grow. Next spring, I was thinking about growing Mexican tarragon (which isn't an artemeisa at all, but a marigold, but with a flavor closer to French tarragon than Russian tarragon). Do you have any experience cooking with Mexican tarragon?

I am going to have to give this a try. I do like the flavor of tarragon- it goes well with fish.

Oooh I've always liked tarragon, but if it is an artemisia and related to wormwood...doesn't it stand to reason we could make some kind of absinthe with it? Think of the possibilities, using only french tarragon of course!

Lisa, I've never used Mexican tarragon, but it's reputed to have a stronger licorice-y flavor. I do use Mexican oregano, which is quite different from the Mediterranean oregano. It will be interesting to see if you can grow it in NYC; if you can, I can probably grow it here in RI.

Sandi, tarragon is great with fish, in a cream- or tomato-based sauce especially.

Callipygia, I like the way your mind works!

Katie, No french tarragon in France? How weird is that!

I love tarragon too, a soothing and vibrant herb :)

Kelly-Jane, tarragon is soothing -- such a nice way to describe it.

I've only recently been reading your blog. Not sure which post hooked me...but it might have been the roasted tomatoes. Anyway, I'm from WI, and I'm happy to see Penzey's (one of my favorite local places) on your spice jars! I was just in the store last week sniffing all of the goodness.

Lori, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Penzeys has been one of my long-time favorite online vendors, and I was delighted when they opened a store near Boston (the closest to me).

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