Proximity allows for association which begets new combinations and creations. I realize it is the middle of winter and fresh tarragon should not be available, in abundance, and incredibly pungent and fresh. Still, when I was at the supermarket I saw beautiful bunches of aromatic tarragon and was captivated. The sweet anise cleared my mind and seemed to transform the cloudy day into one bright with ideas and promise.
After purchasing the tarragon plus the ingredients I was actually shopping for, I returned home anxious to use the herb and still undecided as to how to best utilize it. As the idea of tarragon did cart wheels in my head, I started thinking about: other ingredients, counter points, accents, high and lowlights, supports and platforms for expressing the bright clean flavor of tarragon. I stopped when my mental inventory came across screwpine leaves. We have a stash of them left in our freezer, the spoils of shopping after our purple yam expedition.
The aroma and sweet richness of the screwpine leaves has continued to pique my interest, especially because we have not yet integrated them into our repertoire. I had plans of chicken poached in a screwpine infused bouillon and was further intrigued by Heston Blumenthal's use of the leaves in making the perfect risotto in Further Adventures in Search of Perfection. Then the luminous tarragon presented itself and I felt the two would form a harmonious union, the screwpine giving backbone and support to the lighter, cleaner flavors of the tarragon.
I took five parts tarragon and one part screwpine leaves, blanched and shocked them. I then pureed the leaves in the blender with ice. In blending the herbs with ice I was able to truly pulverize them while preserving the brilliant green color. After ten minutes of blending the ice melted and I had a bright emerald puree. I seasoned it with a touch of salt and then strained it. I have to say that the union of the tarragon and screwpine is amazing.
Once the green elixir was strained I was faced with another issue. Where to begin? I wanted to make a puree to serve with our lamb neck, I wanted to make ice cream and pudding, a financier, white chocolate chantilly, oatmeal and risotto, noodles and gnocchi. I want to warm it gently and serve it with fish or make an incredible tarragon mustard or use it to poach that chicken. My head was reeling from all of the possibilities. Pictured here is the finished elixir from which we will build all of our creations. I could use this same approach with ice cold oil and the herbs. Imagine what a vinaigrette we could make with that.