Chicken with orange, cream, and tarragon has a creamy sauce that’s been brightened with orange and the mildly licorce taste of fresh tarragon. Chicken breasts just got a major glow-up.
One of my first cooking jobs, when I returned from France, was working for the formidable Penny Ide-Smith. I say formidable, she really was, and by that, I mean driven, ambitious, fiercely hard-working, and an exceptionally good chef. I think, without even realizing it, Penny gave me the experience I needed to thrive in a tough male-dominated industry.
So, this is a thank-you to Penny for giving me an opportunity to learn and cook. I will always be grateful to you for believing in me. This recipe will always remind me of working with Penny. It’s such a delicious combination of flavors and it celebrates tarragon, which in my mind is always a good thing. This dish works well throughout the year, although citrus always brings the sun to cold days.–Emily Scott
☞ Table of Contents
Chicken with Orange, Cream, and Tarragon
- 4 (2 lbs) boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 1/2-inch (37-mm) strips
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt plus more if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more if needed
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 ounce fresh tarragon leaves* roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- Scant 2/3 cup store-bought or homemade chicken stock plus more if needed
- Scant 1 cup fresh orange juice plus more if needed
- 2 navel oranges peeled and segmented, juices reserved
- Scant 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pat the chicken strips dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper, mix well. Add the chicken strips to the bowl and toss to coat in the seasoned flour.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the butter and oil until the butter melts and begins to sizzle. Working in batches, add the chicken strips and fry until brown on all sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Stir in most of the tarragon, reserving a little for garnish.
- Pour in the stock and orange juice, adding more, if needed, to cover the chicken. Simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), about 10 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, lift the chicken out of the skillet, arrange in a shallow serving dish along with the orange segments. Keep warm.
- Continue to simmer the stock until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and reduce again until you have a thick sauce, about 5 minutes more. Taste, season, and add some of the reserved juices from the orange segments if it needs to be sharpened.
- Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the reserved tarragon.
*What is tarragon?Tarragon, a leafy green herb, can be quite divisive among eaters. It has a flavor that’s reminiscent of licorice or anise, and a lot of diners find that they either love it or hate it. Is there a substitute for tarragon? If you like the licorice flavor that tarragon provides, you can use chervil or fennel fronds. If you’re looking for a sub because you’re in the anti-tarragon party, try basil or marjoram.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
As a youngster, the sound of the Good Humor Ice Cream truck in the neighborhood had me salivating for an orange Creamsicle, so this recipe for chicken with orange, cream, and tarragon triggered those memories for me. That noted, it's more reminiscent of the chicken goujons I would get in pubs in the UK, as the wonderful licorice hint from the tarragon brings forth that savory element.
I used about 7 tablespoons of fresh chopped tarragon in my sauce and saved 1 tablespoon for the garnish, however, I did find I needed to add another 1/3 cup each of stock and OJ to cover the chicken in my skillet. I used a 12” skillet, and anything smaller will be difficult to simmer all the strips at the same time for the final cook.
One ends up with very tender and juicy chicken goujons, and the cream sauce is a wonderful pairing, with a subtle orange note that lingers behind the tarragon. My better half gave this a 10 out of 10! I paired it with a vegan chickpea and orzo salad, as the fresh onion and the acid from the lemon sauce paired quite nicely with the cream sauce.
This recipe for chicken with orange, cream, and tarragon results in soft flavors--not the sharp flavors of a Chinese orange chicken dish that my testers expected when I announced we were having orange chicken. The result was an inviting summer evening meal that is unique enough to qualify for a splendid weekend dinner.
I sliced the chicken breasts in half cross-wise to create even thickness for cooking. I was conservative with the amount of tarragon as I don't use that herb very often so I minced up 2 tablespoons but added just 1- 1/2 tsp in the sauce and then sprinkled another 1- 1/2 tsp on the finished dish. The fresh leaves added complexity with a hint of anise flavor in the background but didn't dominate the flavor. I'd add the full amount noted in the recipe next time as the cream seems to mellow the flavor. It seemed a shame not to use the orange zest so I adjusted the flavor of the finished sauce with the zest of one orange instead of adding the reserved orange juice.
I served the chicken with jasmine rice pilaf and steamed green beans seasoned simply with olive oil and lemon pepper. My testers voted this a "make again" dish but requested double the sauce next time so overall it was a hit!
Originally published August 18, 2021