Tomato Tarragon Chicken

We to joke in grad school that the way to get a bunch of grad students to attend anything was to offer free food. It didn't really matter what it was - pizza, sandwiches, popcorn . . . the leftover half-eaten cookies from last week's seminar - anything would really work. I actually don't remember starving when I was in school, but I still got in the mentality that free food = good. 

Now that I'm in the work world, I've broken myself of that habit, mostly because I've learned that in many cases, free food = "food someone else doesn't want."(Unless, of course, you work with my sister. In that case free food = "a dessert recipe she wanted to try and now wants to share the calories with you." Lucky you.) I've become much more picky about eating something just because it was free. 

I got geekily excited, however, when I was leaving work one evening and I spied this on one of the tables: 

Side note: Doesn't that note just crack you up? The "Thanks" below is what I wrote, and I felt like writing, "dude," too, just because it seemed to fit. I refrained.

They are bags full of fresh oregano, sage and tarragon. Yes, fresh herbs get me excited. In my own defense, these are three herbs that I don't grow myself (well, ever since my oregano bit the dust from weirdly not being able to live without water.) and in large enough quantities that you can actually do something with them. I grabbed a bunch of each and shoved them in my lunch bag. 

Although I had used fresh oregano and sage, I hadn't ever cooked with fresh tarragon. Have you ever tried it? I wasn't even sure what it even tasted like. It turns out that it has a distinctive, almost fennel or anise type flavor. I had my doubts after eating it on its own, (what herb really tastes good when you eat a plain leaf?) but after trying it in a few dishes I'm a believer. 

This tomato tarragon chicken dish was my favorite that I tried. It wasn't so much a recipe as a description that I found online by someone in a food forum. He raved about it so much and it seemed so simple that I thought I'd give it a try. I just loved this little dish, and the tarragon gives it an almost exotic flavor. You can add more or less according to your preference, but I liked it at the level where you take a bite and wonder what it is that tastes so good. I wrote down the amounts of the ingredients that worked for me, but this dish could easily be modified to fit your own tastes if you wanted it creamier or to have more tomatoes. I never tried it with dried tarragon, and I'm not sure how well it would work. If you don't have fresh tarragon you could try substituting in some fresh basil or a small amount of fresh oregano. I love that the dish goes together quickly, which makes it a perfect weeknight meal. It also used fresh tomatoes, which I tend to buy in abundance in the summer. All in all, I think I was justified in getting so excited over those free herbs. I think I just knew a keeper dish like this was in my near future. 

Tomato Tarragon Chicken

1 T olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp minced fresh tarragon
2 T heavy whipping cream
Parmesan cheese

7-8 ounces of penne, cooked according to package directions.

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until simmering. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and then add chicken breast pieces to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through. Remove chicken to a clean plate.

2. Return pan to medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes to cook off excess liquid. Add in vinegar, garlic, salt and tarragon. Cook and stir until desired thickness. Stir in heavy cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan and cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until chicken is warmed through. Toss with hot cooked penne, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Recipe Source: adapted from "scuzzo" on Chowhound

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