If you’re into gardening, your yard is probably burgeoning with fresh herbs. And, if you don’t garden, supermarkets make fresh herbs available pre-cut and packaged, or packed in soil-filled pots. There’s hardly a dish that can’t be enhanced with fresh herbs, whether the herb is placed on, in, or literally alongside food as nothing more than garnish. The herbs, or combinations of herbs, that add excitement and complex flavor to our foods is endless, and each of us has a preference. It can, however, be challenging to include fresh herbs on dishes that are roasted unless they are in some way protected from high cooking temperatures. And, in other instances, delicate herbs are best enjoyed in their raw state. The recipes today address both those issues, with a roasted chicken dish that is prepared with herbs that have been placed beneath the skin of chicken and for herb butter, created for use on grilled fresh corn. In addition, there’s a recipe for salad dressing here, using fresh tarragon. Fresh herbs rock, but if you must substitute some of the fresh herbs with dried, the ratio is three parts fresh to one part dried. I’m often asked by people who dry their own herbs how long they will keep. The good news is that if herbs are kept completely dry and stored in a cool place, they won’t spoil – but they will definitely lose their vibrant color and strength after a year, or so. To test if dried herbs are still good to use, crumble some in your hand. If they are pungent enough to flavor your foods, your will nose will tell you; faint odor, means weak flavor.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roasted herbed chicken breast with caramelized onions
The chicken and onions take approximately the same amount of time to cook, so while the chicken is roasting, you can prepare the onions.
For the chicken
6 chicken breasts, with skin and bone, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Assorted fresh herbs (see following suggestions) for cooking, more for garnish (optional)
Suggested herb blends for tucking under the skin of chicken
Complementing chicken well, the leaves of the following fresh herbs are good choices for tucking whole under chicken skin before roasting: basil, cilantro, marjoram, oregano, sage and tarragon. If desired, these herbs may also be minced with other ingredients such as garlic, ginger, chilis or dried chili flakes, for stuffing under chicken skin, as well.
For the caramelized onions
3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Salt and pepper
To cook the chicken
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a shallow roasting pan.
With chicken breasts positioned skin-side, up, insert your thumb gently between the skin and flesh, lifting up the skin to form a “pocket.” Fill pocket with desired herbs or herb mixture. Place chicken, skin side up, in prepared pan, brushing with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered about 40 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink. (Adjust roasting time according to the thickness of your chicken.) While chicken is roasting, prepare onions.
To cook the onions
Heat butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When butter foams, swirl pan to combine. Add brown sugar and cook until sugar melts, about 1 minute. Add the onions, stirring to coat onions with sugar mixture, sautéing for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until a golden brown color. (Do not allow onions to burn. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pan.) Season to taste with salt and peppers. Makes enough to top 6 chicken breasts.
Remove roasted chicken to a serving platter, topping with caramelized chickens. Garnish platter with additional fresh herbs, if desired. Serve with mixed green salad tossed with Tarragon French Dressing (recipe follows). Makes 6 servings.
Tarragon French Dressing
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch white pepper, or to taste
½ cup light tasting olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
In a small mixing bowl, combine vinegar with salt, pepper and Dijon mustard, to taste. Stream in olive oil and tarragon, whisking to blend. Makes about ¾ cup.
Grilled corn with herb butter
You don’t need an outdoor grill to make grilled corn. It can be successfully prepared using a stove-top grilling skillet.
6 ears sweet corn, organic if possible
Herb Butter (recipe follows)
Paprika, for garnish
Carefully pull back corn husks, removing silk. Reposition husks. Place corn in a large pot filled with ice water and soak for 30 minutes; drain. Grill corn over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, until corn is tender and husks are lightly charred. Serve corn with herb butter and garnish with paprika, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
To spice things up, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to your herb butter, if desired
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, basil, sage and tarragon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
Blend well the butter, herbs and lemon or lime juice. Season with salt, as desired. Makes about ½ cup.