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October 12, 2012

Wine Pairing: Tarragon Chicken

Pairing food and wine is not only an art, it is also a science. Kathleen Erickson, the Wine PhD. and owner of Savour Wine and Cheese in Gloucester, shows us that, although the up and coming field of molecular gastronomy can be complex, it is very rewarding.

To explore the rewards of molecular gastronomy, Erickson prepares a simple chicken dish. The chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper and then covered with a creamy béchamel sauce.

Béchamel sauce is a white sauce that originates from France. It is most commonly a blend of milk, flour, and butter, along with some seasoning. It is an incredibly flavorful sauce that enhances any dish to which it is added.

An important step to optimizing all of the flavors found in this dish comes after the chicken is sautéed. Erickson deglazes the pan used to sauté the chicken with a ½ cup of vermouth. More known for it’s spotlight in martinis, vermouth is essentially white wine infused with herbs and spices such as coriander, juniper, and cinnamon, making it a very versatile addition to this dish.

Since both the vermouth and the tarragon found in the béchamel share the same flavor profiles of anise and mint, both blend beautifully on the palate. The most important step, by far for this dish, is to find a wine pairing this that will complement every flavor component.

Kathleen chooses a vernaccia, a white wine from Italy, because it too is known for its anise and mint flavoring. This crisp wine mirrors the tarragon in the béchamel sauce and as Erickson says,“elevates your Wednesday night supper to something really special.”


Tarragon Chicken


2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and halved

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons flour

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup Noilly Prat dry vermouth

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