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Friday, June 1, 2012

Tarragon Cream Sauce

So, I'm sure you've heard me say this before, but I'm not exactly the biggest fan of tarragon.

I like the flavour, and the texture isn't bad... but it's one of those flavours which I think has a specific amount of venues, and in my opinion is represented a little too often in some dishes it should not be.

Tarragon potatoes, for example.  A lot of people like that combo... just not me.

A subtle tarragon cream sauce, however?  Lovely!

So, as with most of my cream sauces, I begin by sauteing some garlic and onion in olive oil, on medium-low heat.

Then, as this type of sauce doesn't really require a lot of simmering or diffusing, I'll start my pasta water boiling too.

After about 4 minutes of sauteing, I'll add about a cup of milk.  Again, cream is best for flavour, worst for health, so I often will opt for a good compromise in homogenized (~3%) milk.

Give that all a good whisking, until the oil and cream start to mix.

Stir in a good chunk of cheese, and let it melt.

If you ever are finding it difficult to pick good pasta sauce cheeses, remember to look for cheeses that has a high milk fat content (m.f.%) on the label.  The higher this number, the easier time you'll have of melting the cheese into anything like oil, cream, butter, or milk.
Once the cheese has fully incorporated, add some flavouring in the way of some tarragon, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  The cheese that I used was actually a tarragon-flavoured cheese, but you can certainly add your own tarragon - in fact, I added some extra tarragon for good measure anyways.

After a couple of minutes, the sauce gets nice and thick and bubbly.  


If you want it thicker, feel free to add some corn starch or other thickening agent (mixed cold, of course, before added).  Because I was planning on mixing the noodles right in and baking it for a few minutes, I left the cream sauce as-is (without thickening agents).

So, I drained my pasta noodles (some whole-grain rotini) and then just dumped them in the sauce pan.

This is ready to eat, if you like, but the wife wasn't going to be home quite yet, and I wanted to keep it warm, so I put it in the oven for a few minutes.

Of course, don't let slip, the opportunity to put some fresh Parmigiana Reggiano on there before baking!!!


So, put some tin-foil on top, and pop this in the oven (say 350 or so only) for about 5 or 10 minutes.

That's what it is SUPPOSED to be only.  However, the wife was kind of late this day... and as always, it is the poor pasta which suffers for it.


Even with turning the oven heat down to minimum, the cream sauce got completely incorporated by the time we were ready to eat, about 35 minutes later.

5 or 10 minutes is enough to do everything from crisping the tops and sides of the noodles, melting the cheese, and thickening the cream a little bit.

30 or more minutes is enough to completely absorb all the sauce, leaving an oily pasta bake.

Of course - flavour wise - it was still delicious.  But I had intended this to be creamy after all.  More like this:

Oh well... it was still quite good, and we ate the whole thing, so it was obviously OK.