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Tarragon & The Dinner for Eight


* Saturday Dinner Club *

It is my turn to host a wonderful group of friends for dinner.  We each take a turn at making a scratch dinner served along with lots of wine.  On Friday morning, I still did not know what I was going to make. But that is typical for me as I need to mash around ideas in my head for several days to then give me direction.  Then I peruse my recipes to see what is close to what I have been pondering.  I decided the main course to be Deconstructed Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie with Risotto, thus no pie crust.  You will see, it is so good.


The Menu

Avocado Butter with Sliced Freshly Baked Baguette

Platter with Local and Regional Cheeses

Deconstructed Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie with Risotto

Piña Colada Pie

Note:  I intended to serve a Mixed Greens Salad w/ a light Dijon Vinaigrette, but I forgot to put it together, and the gang said it was not needed, so I didn’t.

The Wines

Paraduxx Napa Valley Rosé 2016 – to be reviewed

Proprieta Sperino Rosa del Rosa Rosato 2015 – reviewed

Domaine de Bellevue * La Galoche Beaujolais Blanc 2016 – reviewed

Château Pilet White Bordeaux 2015 – reviewed

Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir 2014 -to be reviewed

Avocado Butter

This appetizer comes from an Italian restaurant that I used to frequent when I lived in Chicago.  This spread was served with the bread and after having it several times decided I had to make it myself.  So I asked the server for the primary ingredients and went home and figured it out.  It is simple to make and super tasty.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, and it is no longer in business.  Sure glad I figured this out because it is always a big hit!


2 ripe avocados

1 8-ounce packet of cream cheese (room temp)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped

4 tablespoons lemon juice


Make two to four hours before serving so flavors can meld.

Peel and rough chop onion and garlic.  Place in food processor.  Slice avocados in half, remove the pit and dig out avocado flesh and put into food processor.  Pulse in food processor until creamy. 

Add in cream cheese and process until smooth and creamy.  Add three tablespoons of lemon juice.

Transfer spread into a serving bowl and use the last tablespoon of lemon juice to coat the top.  Use plastic wrap to lay onto of the buttered press out all air pockets to prevent discoloration.  Then add another layer of the plastic wrap over the bowl to further limit the amount of air that could come in contact with the avocado butter.  Place in refrigerator until time to serve.  Serve with sliced baguettes.  And yes, the baguettes came from Root Baking Co. purchased at the Johns Island Farmers Market.

Download Recipe Here: Avocado Butter

Platter of Regional and Local Cheeses

The three cheeses I chose to serve included two from Charleston and one from North Carolina.  Fron Charleston is the Charleston White Cheddar and the Farm Fresh Cheese Curds which I marinated in olive oil and fresh rosemary.  I purchased them at the Johns Island Farmer’s Market from Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse.  The ashy wheel of cheese is a goat cheese called Hunkadora.  This cheese was also purchased at the Johns Island Farmer’s Market from Counter Cheese Caves.  The Caves sourced this cheese from Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, North Carolina.

The cheese curds I drizzled in premium olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary.  I allowed it to marinate for about two hours before service. But you could do so a day ahead of time.

Deconstructed Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie

Do not think that tarragon on the chicken and in cream sauce is too much of one note.  It actually is a perfect balance and pulls it all together as a deconstructed dish.

Marinate the Chicken – Done ahead

I use skin on, bone in chicken.  It is moist, and you get much more flavor.  With the breasts, I cut off the back rib portion of the bone because it takes up valuable real estate in the pan with limited additional benefit.  By doing so, the chicken meat comes off the bone much easier once cooked.


  • 8  chicken breasts with skin & bone with back rib trimmed off
  • 4 chicken thighs with skin & bone
  • 2 – .75 ounce packets of fresh tarragon, hard stems removed and chopped
  • 1 – .75 ounce packet fresh thyme, leaves removed from hard stems
  • Juice & zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup premium (baking quality) olive oil


In a large bowl that will hold all that chicken whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped tarragon.  Add in the chicken pieces and toss so that all the chicken pieces are coated in the marinade. In a 2-gallon plastic bag place the chicken and then squeeze out as much air you possibly can and seal.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to 24 hours. Find the post about herb scissors here.

Make the Vegetables in Tarragon Cream Sauce – Can be done ahead



  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6  large carrots, chop into bite-sized pieces
  • 1  entire celery heart, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced leeks, just white portion and the tender, light green portion
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 container Bella mushrooms, cleaned and cut the larger mushrooms into bite-sized pieces (Bella’s are small portabella mushrooms)
  • 1  .75 ounce packet of fresh tarragon, leaves removed from stems, rough chopped
  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed under warm water and drained
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • teaspoon salt



The Vegetables

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a large cast iron skillet.  Toss in the chopped carrots and sauté until about half way done. (pull one out of the pan and bite into it.)  At this point add chopped celery and continue cooking until they begin to soften.


Add in leeks and shallots and continue cooking until translucent, then add in mushrooms and continue cooking until carrots are cooked (I like mine with an al dente bite).  You may cover with lid or foil if desired.  Do not let vegetables brown or burn.  When the vegetables are cooked, add in peas and fresh tarragon. Remove from heat and set aside.

The Cream Sauce

In a Dutch oven melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking, until the mixture bubbles and smells cooked. Do not let it brown. Whisk in 2 can of broth, and cook, whisking, 1-2 minutes until it begins to thicken. Whisk in cream one cup at a time and allow to thicken before you add the next cup.  Once all three cups have been added, and it is thickened. Stir in salt. It is better if this sauce is a tad thick because the water in the vegetables will thin it a bit.


Using a slotted spoon, carefully fold in the vegetable medley into the sauce.  If that this point the sauce is too thick, whisk in additional cream or broth whichever you prefer.  Keep warm on the stove top.  If you made the vegetables and sauce much earlier which you certain can, then just reheat prior to service.


One hour before guests arrive – Make the Risotto



  • 3 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves (Spice Islands are the most flavorful)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-1/4 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Bring broth and bay leaves to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, so the broth remains steaming but is not simmering.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Toss in chopped onion and cook, occasionally stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and salt and stir to coat.  Do not brown the rice, but it should start to crackle and take on a nutty aroma. 

Stir a scant full ladle of the hot broth and a splash of wine into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to cook on medium-low, adding broth in 1 scant full ladle at a time followed by a splash of wine, and stir after each addition, until most of the liquid is absorbed. The risotto is done when you’ve used all the broth and wine, and the rice is creamy and just tender, 25 to 35 minutes total.

Remove from the heat. 


About the Risotto

The rice will continue to absorb liquid as it sits.  There is no way that I could make this and have it ready at the time of service, so it sat on the stove until dinner was to be served.  Just before service, I stirred in some warm heavy cream (you could use more broth) to give it that creamy and silky texture that you want in a risotto.

When the Guests Arrive – Bake the Chicken

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken pieces in a roasting pan or cast iron skillet, skin side up. Continue to roast until the skin is crisp and golden. This will take approximately 45 minutes to an hour. (internal temp at thickest part of breast and thigh is 165 degrees)  You may wish to cook the thighs separate from the breasts because they do cook faster by about 15 minutes.  If you do this check the thighs at 35 minutes.  If they are done before the breasts, cover and set aside.

The chicken roasted while we enjoyed some wine and the appetizers for about 45 minutes to an hour.



Now Pull it All Together

Be sure to check risotto and make sure it did not dry out (see above).  Make sure the Vegetables in Tarragon Cream Sauce is warmed up. Once the chicken was properly cooked, I created a service station on the kitchen counter so each guest could make their own plate.


Download the recipe Here: Deconstructed Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie

Dessert – Piña Colada Pie

I am temping you with just a picture of this incredible dessert.  The recipe will follow later this week.





PS. There was supposed to be a picture of the dinner party guests at the end of the post, but let’s just say that the picture did not come out and leave it at that.  Thus not embarrassing the photographer for his ability late in the evening after much wine nor the guests for any possible funny faces.



  1. carol

    wow…I want to eat at your house!
    This is off blog topic but….
    I’m coming to Charleston (for the eclipse!)
    What two restaurants should I not miss? Where would be a good place for outdoor drink in the early afternoon to watch the eclipse?

    • Wow you will see the eclipse! Lucky You. I will miss it. As far as watching it on a rooftop you do not have many choices. Both are hotels and they may be limiting who gets on the roof so you may want to check with them. The Vendue Inn and Market Pavilion both have rooftop bars. As far as restaurants… email me so I can get more info from you. Honestly, we are such a food town that there are more than two you do not want to miss so let’s wean down some styles, price point, etc.

  2. Tina Shontz

    Wow!! This looks AMAZING!!! xoxoxo

  3. Steven E. Clem

    As one who was privileged enough to participate in this wonderful evening, all I can say is: As good as everything looked, it tasted even better! Definitely some keepers for the recipe box!

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