Le Pigeon: Chicken with Leek Carbonara, Peas, and Tarragon

Le PigeonLe Pigeon is a tiny Portland bistro, with a short menu, mismatched serving pieces and a flare for eclectic, regional ingredients.  Everything on their carefully edited menu sounded delicious. It was tricky but I finally decided to go with the beef cheek bourguignon which spent hours braising in pinot noir and was served on a bed of gruyere mashed potatoes. Reed had the chicken, leek carbonara, peas, and tarragon.Le Pigeon, Portland

Le Pigeon MenuBeef bourguignon isn’t the kind of dish that I’m usually inclined to order in the middle of August but we’d just finish a tour of the the Williamette Valley wineries and pinot noir is their specialty. So the pinot braised beef sounded like the appropriate dish to try based on the wines we’d been tasting earlier.  The bourguignon tasted like big hug from the French grandmother I never had. Soooooooo comforting, rich, and wonderful.

Originally, I planned to make it for Spoons to Sporks.

Le Pigeon's Beef Cheek Bourguigon over Gruyere Mashed Potatoes

Le Pigeon’s Beef Cheek Bourguigon over Gruyere Mashed Potatoes

Now that I’m back at my apartment in the middle of New York’s hottest summer in memory I can’t image braising anything for 12 hours no matter how good it was. The cheeky beef bourguignon with pinot noir will have to wait until fall.Ingredients for Chicken over leeks with tarragon

Leeks cut lenght-wise

Leeks cut lenght-wise

Reed and I have developed a wonderful system at restaurants. We switch plates half way through so then we get to try both dishes.  It makes ordering more of a negotiation but I like trying more dishes.  This way every restaurant becomes a tapas restaurant. Generally, I don’t get very excited about chicken at restaurants but Le Pigeon’s addition of tarragon in their chicken dish got me. Everyone should have more tarragon in their lives.

Adding cream and tarragon to braised leeks

Adding cream and tarragon to braised leeks

Finishing the chicken

Finishing the chicken

After our appetizers (octopus, nectarine, porcini with palm hearts and rabbit spanakopita, peach, prosciutto with black truffle) I had started with the beef and then we swapped and I tried the chicken. The combination of peas, cream, tarragon and leeks tasted like summer.  Where the beef bourguignon had been heavy this was light and bright (an achievement if you consider the pools of butter floating in the cream sauce in the first picture); prefect for a summer evening. Also it was quick and easy to cook so it wouldn’t turn my apartment into an oven like 12 hours of braising beef.Chicken over leeks with tarragon and peas

I loved how this dish used leeks as noodles by chopping them lenght-wise. Its a good way to add more vegetables and cut out the carbs. I cut back on the butter and added more peas than Le Pigeon because I like peas. Vary the amount of peas depending on your fondness for them.

Chicken over Leeks with Peas and Tarragon (serves 4)

(Active/total time: 45 minutes )

  •  1.5 pounds chicken parts with skin on (breast, leg or thigh pick your favorite. I used two enormous chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced length-wise into ribbons 1/2 wide
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped (I didn’t have shallots, so I skipped them)
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I didn’t have any white open so I threw in a splash of red and it still tasted great)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, pulse extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • parmesan for garnish

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.

Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chicken, skin side down first, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from skillet, then cook leeks, garlic, shallots and bay leaf over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil and reduce by half. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream, broth, and 1 tablespoon of the tarragon, then add chicken, skin side up, and simmer, covered, until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken back to a plate and keep warm, loosely covered. If necessary, simmer the sauce until thickened slightly.

Stir in lemon juice, peas, remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf. Divide the leak mixture evenly between two plates, arrange chicken on top of the leaks. Garnish with parmesan and extra tarragon.

-Adapted from Epicurious’s Tarragon Chicken Fricassée and inspired by Le Pigeon.