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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Off the Shelf
Tarragon's strong, distinctive flavor requires judicious use

By Wanda Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

When it's available, fresh tarragon is preferred over the dried leaves, whose texture can mar a silky sauce.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Tarragon, like cilantro, is a love-hate sort of herb. Those who enjoy its anise-like flavor use it liberally; those who do not barely tolerate it.

However, it's essential in at least one classic: Sauce Béarnaise.

Tarragon (estragon to the French) is perennial herb with narrow, pointed, dark-green leaves.

It is best used fresh. If the dried form is used — in a sauce, for example — the herb should be strained out before serving as the leaf veins harden when dried and do not soften again, an unpleasant texture in an otherwise silky-textured dish.

Tarragon grows more pungent and bitter when it's cooked for very long, so is most often used in quicker preparations.

A traditional way to preserve fresh tarragon is in vinegar — 3 tablespoons of fresh leaves to 1 quart vinegar, according to "Joy of Cooking."

The leaves can be filtered out and used, as can the vinegar.

Béarnaise sauce, an accompaniment for broiled red meats, is made by reducing wine and tarragon vinegars, shallots and herbs, straining this concentrate, and then, in a double boiler over low heat, whisking in egg yolks and melted butter.